Satisfying vs. Delighting

Thanks to a minor flood (that I caused) in my kitchen a few months ago, I had to have my hardwood kitchen floor replaced.  It was a big, expensive job (for which Allstate paid me a few hundred dollars out of the few thousand dollars the repair actually cost, but that’s another story.)

The contractor I hired did a great job.  The floors are beautiful, the work was done while we were out of the house for a week, and they left the place clean.  The price was fair, but it cost a lot of money.

How did I feel afterwards?  Happy.  But being a human being, I couldn’t help but focus on the small stuff – the missing baseboard, the paint that was nicked, the four or five tiny things that were left undone.

Fast forward to last week: I had a leak in my kitchen ceiling.  Same contractor, tiny job.  They came twice, and the second day, without anyone asking, they not only closed up the 1 x 1 foot hole in my ceiling, but whoever did the work took the initiative to go down to the basement, find the matching paint, patch up the drywall…and when I came hope the ceiling looked like new.  No evidence at all of the work that was done.  And no hounding at all on my (or my wife’s) part to make sure the job was done right.

It’s human nature: being delighted is about the gap between what we expect to happen and what actually happens.

Here’s the recap:

Job #1: A big job, the contractor made a good deal of money.  I was satisfied.

Job #2: Tiny job, the (same) contractor probably made no money.  I was totally thrilled.

Which job do you think sealed the deal on who I’m calling for Jobs #3, 4 and 5 in my (very old) home?  Of course it’s job #2.

The lesson?  If you deal with people (customers, donors, partners, family, you name it), you’re missing an opportunity if you just do the big, important jobs.  You also have to look for opportunities to blow expectations out of the water.  That’s your real chance to do something memorable (the assumption is that you’re always getting the basics right).

Some examples: handwritten notes; good customer service by phone; incredibly responsive, personal emails; buying just the right gift when it’s least expected; an impromptu date on a Tuesday night.

Without surprises, you’re just doing what’s expected.  That makes you nice but forgettable.

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