Shock & Awe – Real-World Examples of Outstanding Customer Service

In  The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuk lays out a compelling case for why businesses need to adapt to the new reality that one-way push communications are no longer as effective as building a real, sustainable relationship with your customers. Throughout the book, he gives a few outstanding examples of small businesses that have found creative ways to use social media to engage with their base. The results, by and large, reflect the time and energy the business owners put into developing and cultivating this channel, but also a commitment to something that’s not new-media-driven: Good old-fashioned service.

I happened to be finishing The Thank You Economy while taking a long weekend in Fort Lauderdale. Coincidentally, while there I experienced a few examples of precisely what Gary Vee talks about in the book.

Alhambra Beach Resort

Alhambra Beach Resort - Fort Lauderdale

Alhambra Beach Resort – Fort Lauderdale

The  Alhambra Beach Resortis a small apartment-style motel just a short block from the beautiful beach in Fort Lauderdale. It’s nice; homey but not extravagant, well-priced and very conveniently located.

It also has the best (legitimate) reviews of nearly any business I’ve ever seen. Check Alhambra’s Google Places listing and its Tripadvisor ratings and the Yahoo Travel profile for just a few examples. Consistent 5-star ratings for what’s essentially a mom-and-pop business is pretty impressive, so I was curious to see what the experience would really be like.

And here’s what I found: Matt, the owner, really understands just how much difference personal service can make.

Beyond the basics (rooms are clean, free wi-fi, Continental breakfast), the Alhambra has a great pool area, and provides beach towels, chairs and umbrellas if you’re heading down to the ocean. Guests have free access to an Internet-enabled computer, and there’s a nice grill for a little barbecue if you so desire.

All very nice, but the amenities aren’t what gets this place those stellar reviews. It’s the owner and the staff. Matt makes an effort to introduce himself to each guest personally, is on-site much of the time, and has a manager (Ernesto) and a small staff who also get appreciative reviews online for going above and beyond – like providing champagne (gratis) for an anniversary or a cake for a child’s birthday.

In our case, Matt & Company didn’t disappoint. On our second evening there, we had a great conversation with Matt, and his passion for providing the best possible experience for his guests was clearly evident. Then, Matt did something surprising; he offered to take our group of four for a drink at the restaurant two doors down the street.

We accepted his gracious offer and got the opportunity to learn more about Matt, the Alhambra, and the area.

Matt’s gesture that evening turned fans into raving fans. He probably couldn’t treat every guest so extravagantly, but I can honestly say that I don’t think any of my small group would ever stay elsewhere in Fort Lauderdale now that we’ve had had the pleasure of staying with Matt.

Shock and Awe, Indeed
In The Thank You Economy, Gary Vee talks about ‘shock and awe,’ a tactic of doing something so unexpected, so far above and beyond, that your customers can’t help but notice.

Matt taking us for a drink is a great example of shock and awe. Clearly, that’s not something we would have expected, nor is it something we’re likely to forget the next time we’re looking for lodging when in town. And – importantly – it’s something we’re likely to share with others, as I am here.

Casablanca Cafe - Fort Lauderdale Restaurant

Casablanca Cafe – Fort Lauderdale

Somewhat surprisingly, we also experienced another shock and awe moment (moments, actually) from the manager of The Casablanca Cafe, the restaurant Matt took us to for drinks. After being introduced, David, Casablanca’s manager, matched Matt’s generosity by also buying us a few drinks. This was a restaurant we’d already frequented twice in the two days we’d been there. We were clearly already fans, but David too made us raving fans with his great personality and his generosity.

Interestingly, when we mentioned to David that we were Tweeting/Facebooking/Foursquaring our enthusiasm for the restaurant, it was clear that he was very aware of the potential word-of-mouth and social-media value of greatly exceeding his customers’ expectations. (That’s not to say that his intent was anything less than altruistic because he clearly enjoyed giving his guests an outstanding experience; just that as a savvy businessperson he most definitely understands the value of word-of-mouth sharing online.)

The next day our little group went back again (three times in three days, now) despite initially intending to go elsewhere, and this time we were treated to some delicious complimentary appetizers and an after-dinner cocktail, again courtesy of David.

How Can You Shock and Awe YOUR Customers?
Clearly, Matt can’t afford to take all his guests out for drinks (at least not at the affordable prices he charges at the hotel), nor can David’s restaurant continue to thrive if they treated everyone so generously.

But the key – and an important point that Gary Vee makes – is that this kind of promotion is still more affordable and more effective than many other forms of advertising a business might do. Even if it’s only occasionally – or even if it’s just a reward for your most loyal customers – think about ways you might do a little shock and awe of your own.

There are some great ideas in The Thank You Economy to get you started, so I’d highly encourage you to pick up a copy. Then do some creative thinking about what would really get your customers talking about you.

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