Creating extraordinary experiences should be an important focus for any organization. The ability to create experiences is something universal to any organization. The question is, does the organization aim to create ordinary or extraordinary experiences?
My working career began at the age of 17 at Media Play. The company is no longer in business. It featured four major offerings: toys, CD’s, computers, and books.
If you know me or have followed this blog for any period of time, it would not surprise you that I landed in the book section. But, if you knew me then, it would have been a shocker. I can honestly say that by the time I obtained my master’s degree from Kennesaw State University, that I had probably read two books cover to cover in my life.
I would not have considered myself a high performer by any stretch of the imagination. My passion for books was lacking and my purpose was to make enough money for gas and fun with my friends on the weekends. Other than Media Play working around my high school sports schedule, the greatest benefit was my employee discount.
Ordinary vs Extraordinary
Let’s take a pause in the story for a minute and go to Webster’s Dictionary (we sold copies of these then). Ordinary is defined as, “Of a kind to be expected in the normal order of events.” Key phrase there, “to be expected.” Extraordinary is defined as, “going beyond what is usual, regular, or expected.” So extraordinary is not what is “expected.”
A Lesson in Extraordinary Customer Experience
While their business model didn’t hold up, I did learn one valuable lesson while there. It was a key detail in going beyond what is expected.
As sales associates, we were taught that whenever someone came into the store and was looking for a book we didn’t have in stock, we were to call our competitors to see if they had it. If they had it in stock, we asked them to hold the book for the customer so they could come purchase it.
Here are four quick lessons I learned early in my working career from this one extraordinary concept:
As a seventeen-year-old I couldn’t quite grasp the concept when they trained me on it. It didn’t make sense. Why would we drive business to a competitor. But, time and time again I watched customers completely surprised with our extraordinary effort on their behalf. They expected ordinary and got extraordinary.
Bring Them Back
At first, I thought that it would drive them to our competitors in the future. But, the more I have reflected on it, it probably brought them back. They had confidence that if we didn’t have the book, we would take care of them anyways. We were a one stop shop, whether we had the book or not.
Make it Spreadable
Too often we hear the horror stories of peoples’ less than ordinary experience. I am quite confident that those customers who expected ordinary and got extraordinary, spread the word. They told their friends, family, and neighbors.
Ordinary experiences are not memorable. Less than ordinary and extraordinary are memorable. Not only was it memorable for the customer, it was memorable for me. That extraordinary concept carried far into my career. So much so, that I am writing about it twenty-five years later.
I’m sure you are thinking that if Media Play was on the cutting edge of creating extraordinary experiences, then why didn’t they make it? Good question. I would lean towards a changing market. They were followed by the decline of Hifi Buys, Circuit City, and the introduction of this startup called Amazon entering the market!
If we look deep into our organizations, are we creating extraordinary experiences? Are customers expecting less than ordinary, ordinary, or extraordinary from us? Do they walk away surprised at our level of service? Are they inclined to return? Do they share their experience? Was the experience memorable?
Customers do not want less than ordinary. They expect ordinary. It should be every leader’s desire that all those who come in contact with our organizations, receive extraordinary experiences.