There’s always something to howl about

Surprise and Delight Us

“Surprise and Delight” is a mantra that has been engrained in my consciousness from my pre-mortgage education in the world homebuilder marketing and customer experience modeling. “Surprise and Delight” is a very straightforward concept; however, the astounding lack of implementation in the marketplace (especially the mortgage and real estate market) makes this strategy an untapped powerhouse waiting to be used to your advantage. “Surprise and Delight” strategy is just what it sounds like — surprise your customer with a small delight when they least expect it; taking their experience with you from acceptable to exceptional. Propelling past acceptable to exceptional gives you the ultimate power in marketing — the power of remarkable service.

Surprise and delight can be traced from concepts well outlined in Seth Godin’s Free Prize Inside, and Harry Beckwith’s Selling the Invisible (both must reads). The basic tenet is excellent service is no longer enough, superior knowledge is not enough, a “great deal” is certainly not enough. None are enough to make your service remarkable. There has to be something more – something worth remarking on. It’s important to define remarkable service as service that is so extraordinary it makes your customer share the experience with people they know. And not just share, advocate on your behalf because of it. Anything less than their advocacy means you’ve failed to render a service to the degree of remarkability.

An example. There is a little flower shop in Laguna Beach, California named The Black Iris. They are not just another flower shop – they are flower artists that create imaginative works of art with flowers and other flora. The first time I saw one of their bouquets I was blown away. I inquired about it from the person who had purchased it and they raved about this little shop. I had to order one for my wife’s birthday. $150 later, my wife had an exquisite arrangement that actually made her weep with happiness. $150 is a lot for flowers; it’s a piddling price to be a hero to your loved one. I immediately told my brother-in-law about them and many other people as well. My wife and I were both surprised and delighted with the craftsmanship and care with which these arrangements were constructed. It was remarkable.

I am not the type to spend $150 on flowers very often, but just today my phone rang. It was The Black Iris. Their opener was “Mr. Brown, we were calling to see if you’d like to order Summer (my wife) an arrangement for her birthday again. (its about a week away) Last year you ordered a cheery spring bouquet; would you like to do something similar this year?” I was floored — better — I was surprised and delighted. They went on to confirm my credit card number from the file, scheduled delivery on her birthday — beore noon, no less – and asked if I’d like to change my same card. I will be a hero again this year, and it took less than 3 minutes.

The Black Iris gets a new sale, an ecstatic customer (I told everyone in the office about the call and am regaling you all) and a remarkable story that compelled their customer enough to talk about it. A+ to The Black Iris.

After the excitement died down I began to think, “How many of our customers feel that way after working with us?” We have a high referral rate and plenty of repeat business, which is great; but how many of our customers feel as passionate about us as I feel about The Black Iris? I had a sinking feeling that the number is not that high. Why? Because we do a great job at delivering honest service, expert advice and a good deal. Those elements are no longer enough! They are merely tickets to the game of business, they guarantee you nothing else. If you can’t deliver on those, you’re dead on arrival. Customers are smart, and the good customers won’t even give you the time of day with out those core elements, let alone give you their business. You must deliver more. You must deliver remarkable service.

If being great at what you do is not enough, what are you supposed to do? First, stop the thought that says “it’s not fair” that you do a better job than 99% of your competition, that you’re honest, expert and dependable, and its not enough to guarantee success. Success requires remarkability. It requires you to add surprises and delights to the process — on top of the core qualities that got you in to the game. Little something extras that take the process from adequate (or even good, exceptional, etc.) to the rarefied air of remarkability.

Here are a few examples of surprises and delights that we built in to our system to try to be more remarkable to our customers. Hopefully these can springboard you to think of ways that you can add remarkable elements to your venture. We’ve heard great feedback on all of the examples below from customers who chose us over the competition — and more importantly, from referrals who called us at the recommendation of their friends.

  • Each mortgage application we send comes complete with the following items: a welcome letter from our CEO, 10-point service pledge, FAQ, illustrated view of the major milestones in the mortgage process.
  • Each new customer is assigned a “Client Concierge,” (not the loan originator) who reports directly to the CEO. During an introductory call the concierge provides the borrower with their contact information in case the borrower is not receiving exceptional service from their originator. The concierge also provides the contact information for their originator, their processor, the operations manager, AND the CEO (email address, business phone, cell phone for all) in a welcome email.
  • Our CEO speaks personally with about 80% of our customers, thanks them for their business and answers any questions they may have. Our goal is 100%.
  • At the conclusion of the loan we deliver to the borrower’s place of business a thank you package that includes a nice, healthy plant, a postage-paid survey to return and a thank you card personalized from the loan originator.

We think it’s a good start. We know there is a lot more that we can be doing.

There are opportunities everywhere in your business right now, easy ones, which can elevate you from good, to great, to remarkable. In 5-minutes you’ll be able to think of 3 or 4 surprise and delights that can elevate your customer experience. The hard part is implementing them in to your process in a way that is repeatable, consistent with your service offering, and most importantly powerful enough to get people talking about you.

I challenge everyone here to share with us your best surprise and delights in the comments. I am sure that with this amazing group there are some phenomenal surprises and delights out there that we can all learn from to better our businesses and most important, create customer experiences that are worth talking about.

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  • Hold on tight for the rider of your life…


    6 Comments so far

    1. Jeff Brown March 30th, 2007 9:02 am

      One of my favorite clients had just finished closing a challenging but very profitable tax deferred exchange. Two states, several properties, and a listing agent from hell. Still, we persevered and it closed. My clients were champs.

      They had been very loyal clients for quite awhile. We decided to underwrite their annual houseboat trip to their favorite lake. They were excited and dumbfounded. I think I was as excited giving it as they were receiving it.

    2. Brian Brady March 30th, 2007 9:27 am

      Outstanding customer service suggestions, Morgan. I have no doubt that customers are surprised when they receive that letter from the CEO and delighted when they receive that closing package.

      Excellent advice!

    3. Sean Ghaemi March 30th, 2007 9:43 am

      Hi Morgan, Excellent post, How wonderful to take that extra step and provide this extra bit of service to clients.
      Very professional,
      I’m trying to come up with a few related ideas as well, will definately let you know when something good comes up,

      Best Regards,
      Sean Ghaemi

    4. Jason Kaminski March 30th, 2007 10:48 am

      This is a solid and free advice for people with bad credit. If you need to fix your bad credit or if you are looking for a loan you may be interested in this…visit

    5. Mike Thoman March 30th, 2007 10:58 am


      I’m liking your contributions to the BHB already. Good advice and good on ya!


    6. Morgan March 30th, 2007 7:55 pm

      Thanks for the positive feedback everyone! Jeff that is an amazing example! That is something I aspire to – to provide a totally remarkable experience. They will be talking about that for the rest of their lives and I am sure you have a customer for just as long.