When you’re merely meeting expectations, you’ll never rock the reviews. You need to start at “good” and aim for “mind-blowing.” The good news is data from Yelp shows it’s easier than you think.

Today’s customers are a little entitled. And it’s not just the younger generation. Companies are using data to personalize their offerings and the customer experience to the point of appearing to be mind readers. This sets a precedent and expectation of something way beyond good customer service. You can’t expect your business to be successful in word of mouth marketing by providing a good experience. That’s the bare minimum of what you should be doing. Start at good and accelerate to amazing.

If you don’t have a Fortune 500 budget you want to concentrate on the experience that builds around feeling known and valued.

An Amazing Experience Needn’t Be Costly
Have you ever spent quality time with someone that cost absolutely nothing? Perhaps you stayed in and watched a movie with a loved one. Maybe you took the time to reconnect with an old friend over the phone. Whatever the example you have in mind right now you know that to have a memorable experience with someone doesn’t necessarily require money. The same is true in business. You can surprise and delight your customers without the budget of a Fortune 500 company. You can do this in several ways by:

? Providing something new and different, something they’ve never seen before
? Anticipating their needs before they voice them
? Surprising them with something that is inherently shareable (on social media)
? Making them feel valued

Think back to that example of quality time from a moment ago. What did that person do that made you feel valued in that moment? What was so special about the situation? It wasn’t an exchange of money. It wasn’t sleek and shiny advertising. It was something real.

But to give you that “something real” that person likely had to know you pretty well.

That’s the challenge here. If you want your business to get talked about on social media, to get more referrals, and more five-star reviews, you need to make people feel like you know what they need, you care about what they need, and you deliver on what that is.

Good Is the New Adequate
Good is a starting point. Good is your baseline. If your customer service isn’t yet at “good” get it there first. Do the necessary things to ensure your staff is providing good customer service and meeting expectations. You can’t do anything until you get there. But you can’t stop there once you attain it.

There are hundreds, maybe even thousands, of three-star reviews with adequate customer service but you don’t want three-star reviews. You want someone to help you carry the marketing load by singing your praises on social media and review sites. That type of feeling doesn’t spring from good. That comes from extraordinary.

6 Ways You’re Stuck in Ordinary
Before we get into ideas on how you can surprise and delight customers and potential customers, it’s important to address what may be keeping you from those five-star ratings.

1. Staff that doesn’t feel empowered to make decisions for the customer. Every time a member of your team says an automatic “no” or suggests that the customer or potential customer has to “take that up with a manager,” you are subtracting from the customer experience. Make sure every member of your staff feels empowered to create an amazing customer experience. If there are some limits that need to be established, make sure you’re clear what those limits are. If there’s something you don’t want them doing make sure they know what that is and then give them the tools to go through that process. For instance, if there’s a certain level of discount that requires a manager sign-off don’t advise your front line to say I’m going to have to check with my manager on that. Instead, devise a code word or use instant messaging to get a much quicker answer or natural-looking interaction with the manager.

2. Company culture isn’t a priority. Disengaged employees do more to sabotage your customer service efforts than a lack of knowledge. Company culture does not come about organically. It’s something you want to think about and cultivate. What kind of business do you want to be? What kind of tone do you want to set? What kind of customers do you want to attract? Create a company culture that people want to be apart of and you’ll have a happier team, which in turn will provide a better customer experience. Disgruntled employees aren’t capable of creating good experiences for the customer.

3. There’s no clearly defined (or communicated) goal. Is customer service important to you? Does your staff know this? Ensure your team is clear about your dedication to providing an amazing experience.

4. You’re not leading by example. This may be a painful one to admit but consider your actions toward customers, both direct and indirect. If you don’t value the customers your staff won’t value the customers either. You need to view the problem each one of your customers faces as unique. Making jokes about dumb frequently asked questions in front of your staff or in staff meetings, being sarcastic and argumentative with customers, or simply cost-cutting to the point that it is negatively impacting customer experience are ways that your team will assume you don’t feel the customer is important. If you want your team to provide excellent customer service you have to show the value of your customers. As David Ogilvy said in Confessions of an Advertising Man, the consumer isn’t a moron. She is your wife. Don’t compartmentalize to the point that your customers become an inhuman data point. If you do, your team will mirror your lead.

5. You’re not inviting reviews. While you never have to invite someone to write a bad review, bad service has a very loud voice, you should be inviting people to write reviews in general. Ideally, the service you provide will be so stellar that they will be compelled to talk about it. However, people are busy and removing the friction in writing a review will mean you’ll receive more of them. Most people want to be helpful and want to think of themselves as helpful so make it clear how they can help. A carpet cleaning business I worked with made it a point to not only ask for the review but express why it was so important to them by saying “we are a small family-owned business and these reviews help us get new customers. If you appreciate the work we did, won’t you please write a quick review of our service?” There is no denying the importance of reviews to that company. They make it clear to their customers so their customers are more apt to write the review for them.

6. You’re content with good. Good used to be the goal. “Good” was the sign of a successful business. Today, good is merely adequate because it is the expectation of all customers. Customers expect food to be good; the ambiance to be good, the customer service to be good. Those things are not remarkable so they’re not fodder for reviews. Good doesn’t drive action. People are very busy and they’re interacting with multiple businesses every day. Every business is asking for reviews and surveys to be completed on their behalf. If you don’t provide an extraordinary experience they won’t have an opinion about you. If they don’t have an opinion about you they won’t want to write a review or fill out your survey. You need to cause them to feel something about your business.

Wow Your Customers
Marketing expert and author Jay Baer refers to the “minimum viable delivery.” This is what people expect from your business. If you own a restaurant, for instance, the minimum viable delivery is good food, good service, and (most likely) expedient delivery. These things do not equate to an awesome review of you perform them. You need to move beyond this if you want to improve your word of mouth marketing. Yelp, the business review site, took a look at its data recently and analyzed several thousand reviews to find the key to five-star reviews. It found:

? Unexpectedly good service yielded reviews more frequently then bad service. The key here is “unexpected,” something above and beyond.
? 75% of reviews that cited “good customer service” were five-star reviews. There appears to be a high correlation between feeling taken care of aka being “served well” and feeling very positive about the business. Also, reviews that mentioned “good service” were 15 times more likely to be five stars than one stars. Keep in mind, this is not “adequate good” but “surprising and delighting” good, “unexpectedly” good. In their data, the designation of (unexpectedly) “good service” rarely equated to a bad review . It appears good service is very important to the favorable customer experience.

Look for ways to do something extraordinary. Anticipate needs and rewarding loyalty are great examples of this. For example, Lulu’s, an online women’s clothing retailer, offers a discount for joining their email subscriber list. This is pretty standard. It’s unlikely that alone would warrant a favorable review.

What is unexpected is that with every order they provide their customers with an additional 15% off their next order. This is not random or a discount given for a mistake. This is every time. They are cultivating loyalty.

Some businesses include handwritten thank-you cards in all of their deliveries. Others print off an inspirational quote or fortune. Look for ways to surprise your customers and build loyalty because
good is no longer enough. Good should be your starting point, your neutral. What you need for a loyal following and awesome reviews is not good but extraordinary. You can create those experiences by looking for ways to surprise your customers.