Hands down, the most magical experience of my life took place on May 10, 2014. (Keep in mind as you read this that I am married but have no kids.) My husband and I were at Epcot in Disney World, celebrating a delayed honeymoon. As we walked through the American pavilion at the World Showcase, while my husband was off looking at a stand of souvenirs, an older gentleman who worked at the park approached me.
“Mrs….” he trailed off.
“Eaton,” I helpfully supplied.
“Yes, Mrs. Eaton. Is your husband nearby? I need the two of you to come with me right away. We have a very important phone call for you to take in the office,” he said sternly. I grabbed my husband, stuttering that something had happened and we needed to go with this guy. Nervously we followed him into a door in the nearby store, marked “Cast Members Only”. He sat down at a cluttered desk, picked up a phone, dialed an extension, said “Yes, I have them here” into the handset, and handed the phone to my husband and me to listen.
And out chirped a message from Mickey and Minnie Mouse, congratulating us on our recent wedding, and waxing poetic about love, marriage, and the best part of any wedding: the cake. I was blown away — what I had been so scared to hear was actually an amazing surprise! Once the message was over, he took us to the restaurant next door, let us choose the dessert we wanted, and led the entire restaurant in cheering for us with a loud “HIP HIP HOORAY!”
This experience made an incredible impression on me. Never mind that he never actually said my name or knew who I was at the beginning — my Disney-issued Happily Ever After pin that hotels offer to newlyweds who let them know they’re celebrating a honeymoon gave him enough information to make a hot May afternoon into the biggest WOW of my life to date. It cost Disney mere pennies in the scheme of things — a piece of apple cobbler and five minutes of time — but I will forever cherish those moments.
Maybe it doesn’t come in the form of baked goods, but YOU have the opportunity to make a magical moment for your customers, and it doesn’t have to cost you much of anything! Here are four easy, cheap things to keep on hand to turn everyday interactions with your customers into WOW moments they’ll tell their friends and neighbors about for years.
1. Sympathy cards
It’s amazing how many people will seem to overshare some of the details of their lives when they’re going through a rough time and asking you to come to their home to fix something. When the voice on the other end of the phone shares that they’re having to put down their precious Yorkie, or she recently lost her husband who used to take care of these things, the most important thing you can do is be a good listener. Sometimes people just need to talk. And outside of any sales benefit it may yield, a nice card in the mail is just the kind thing to do. So pick up a few inexpensive sympathy cards to keep at your receptionist’s desk to send when those calls come in. Showing a little kindness in someone’s hard time is not only inserting a little humanity into the marketplace, it’s just the right thing to do.
2. Small gift cards
Similar to the stash of sympathy cards, having a supply of small (like $5) gift cards for coffee, tea, or ice cream can be a great way to make someone’s day — or smooth over a rough patch. Did you accidentally wake someone’s baby when you stopped by to inspect the roof? Did the family’s kid love watching your crew work? Did the widow break down crying again because this is such unfamiliar territory? A handwritten note with a small gift card tucked inside makes for a simple, meaningful, but really inexpensive way to show you care. Take $50 out of your advertising budget and spend it on gift cards — it’ll go a lot further in word-of-mouth when the customer tells their friends about how kind you were or how you went out of your way to make it right when something went unexpectedly wrong.
3. Balloons, balls, or bubbles
Speaking of little eyes watching, you can get a whole lot of these little trinkets at the dollar store, and have your salesmen or crews keep a couple of them in their trucks for the little kids whose houses you work on. Even as a hired contractor, you’re still a guest in their home, and bringing along a little treat for the kids who sometimes love to watch you work will go a loooooong way with their parents. Just avoid things that are messy or loud, or that require outdoor play if their yards will be off-limits while you work.
4. Dog treats
While we’re at it, let’s not forget furbabies! When we get calls from customers who have us come out to inspect something on their houses, often dog owners will ask for a heads up so they know to put the dog inside or in a pen. If a pet is mentioned on those calls, it can be a nice nod to include a little individually-wrapped treat. It doesn’t need to be something big or fancy (although an ingredient list on the package is wise), but what a nice way to say thank you to Rover or Fido for letting you share the yard for the time you’re working. It’s an inexpensive, thoughtful way to acknowledge the furry friends in customers’ lives.
None of these items will set you back much cash — but they’re sure to bring a touch of humanity to your business, and create some memorable moments that will keep your customers talking about you and the incredible service you provided. So set aside a small budget, get creative about what you distribute (and how), and have some fun making some magic with your customers!