How to Deliver Wow Experiences

A few years ago, Gail, my daughter Marissa, and I spent three weeks in Italy. It was our first visit. I had high expectations, but I still wasn’t prepared for the warmth of the people or the richness and variety of wine and food. I felt like every day was a new and even better experience than the day before.

The highlight of the trip was our stay in Castello Banfi in Tuscany. 

Everything about Banfi was amazing. Our rooms were luxurious—spacious with exquisite finishes, fine linens, plush towels, and windows opening to Banfi’s vast vineyards. We toured the world-renowned winery, one of Europe’s largest. We sampled several of their wines, including my favorite, the Banfi Brunello di Montalcino.

The highlight of our visit was a cooking class. (I can’t believe I am writing this—a cooking class!) When the girls said they wanted to do it, I rolled my eyes. While I consider myself a foodie, I’ve never really enjoyed cooking—at least not before my experience at Banfi.

We met Chef Domenico Francone at a rustic but beautiful farmhouse next to one of the vineyards. It looked like a picture out of a magazine. We were surprised—and delighted—to discover that he was the head pastry chef at the hotel’s main restaurant. (After our visit, he was promoted to Executive Chef of that same restaurant.)

He was warm, funny, and patient. His English was excellent. He assured us that we were going to have a great time together—and we did.

We cooked a sumptuous four-course meal, including pappa pomodoro with maremma bufalo burrata, tagliatelle with chianina ragout, veal filet with porcini mushrooms, Banfi plums and potatoes, and a chocolate lava cake.

When we finished cooking, we ate our meal together on the shaded porch, while the chef waited on us. He paired each course with a different wine. The entire experience took four-and-a-half hours, and I savored every moment of it. It was truly a wow experience—probably one of my top three of all time.

What Is Wow?

In my book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, I spent the first section of the book talking about wow experiences. It’s something that has always fascinated me. I shared about the importance of creating them and how to engineer them for your prospects and customers. This has become so important to us at Michael Hyatt & Company that Relentless Wow is now one of our eight core values.

Here’s how we define it:

We create interactions, products, services, and experiences that exceed our fans’ and customers’ expectations.

That last word (expectations) is the key. Creating wow is all about exceeding the expectations of your target audience. Let me explain. 

When people encounter you, your company, or your products, they come with a set of expectations. These expectations are informed by their past experiences and, perhaps, their hopes for the future. They are largely unconscious. Nevertheless, they are real and shape their perception of what you have to offer.

  • If you don’t meet their expectations, they’ll be disappointed. If you fall really short, they might even be angry. This is the main reason we fail to close the sale or retain our customers. People will not do business with companies that disappoint them.
  • If you meet their expectations, they’ll be satisfied. At one time, customer satisfaction was enough. In fact, that was the goal. But today, that’s not sufficient. According to Microsoft, consumers worldwide had 54 percent higher customer service expectations in a recent year than they did just one year prior. The stakes are getting higher all the time. You must offer more.
  • Now, if you exceed their expectations, they’ll be wowed. This is the realm of surprise and delight. This is also the kind of experience that creates customer loyalty and referrals. When people experience wow, they can’t help talking about it. 

Relentless wow is why I’ve been a loyal Apple customer for fifteen years. It’s why I’m on my third BMW and intend to buy another one next year. It’s why Gail and I spend a couple of weeks a year vacationing at Blackberry Farm in East Tennessee and will definitely return to Banfi.

Now you might be tempted to argue with my specific product choices. After all, there are less expensive alternatives. Other products may even have more features. But so far, none have created the kind of overall customer experience that these have for me. 

Wow is also great for the bottom line. Current research indicates that 55 percent of customers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience. And 86 percent will pay more for an upgraded experience. And they’ll talk about it. Seventy-two percent of consumers will share their positive experience with six or more people.

If you want more customers and hope to retain the ones you have, you have to get really great at creating wow experiences.

So, How Do You Create Wow?

It is not that difficult to create wow if you have a process for doing so. Here’s my five-step process. By the way, I’m going to use the word product to keep it simple, but this could also be a service.

Step 1. Pick a product: What is the product or service for which you want to create a wow experience?

Step 2: Clarify the outcome: What do you want your customers or prospects to feel as a result of their experience with your product or service?

Step 3: List customer expectations: What specific expectations does your typical prospect or customer have for this product before they encounter you?

Step 4: Understand failure to meet those expectations: What does failing to meet your prospects’ or customers’ expectations look like?

Step 5: Plan to exceed their expectations: What does exceeding your prospects’ or customers’ expectations look like?

Recently, Pete Vargas had me on his podcast, Inside the Green Room. It’s a podcast for speakers and event planners. He had just attended our Focused Leader event in Nashville and, in his own words, was “blown away at the level of excellence” he experienced. He asked, “how do you produce an event like that?”

I started by quoting Oprah, who once said, “Love is in the details”—and it is. When it comes to wow, every detail matters. I then explained how we applied my five-step process to this experience.

Step 1. Pick a product. In this case, it was our Focused Leader conference. (In my book Platform, I give the example of reengineering our office lobby.)

Step 2: Clarify the outcome. We always aim for transformation. Our goal is not merely transferring information. It’s not even facilitating application. No, we want people to experience transformation. Specially, we want people to leave the conference feeling certain they can lead with greater confidence, executing against their most important goals and doing so by actually spending less time working.

Step 3: List customer expectations. At this point, we wrote out a list of the specific expectations people have when they come to a conference like ours. For example:

  • They expect to be jammed together in seats that are too close together.
  • They expect to take notes on their laps, probably in their own planner or on a legal pad.
  • They expect infrequent breaks and bad coffee.
  • They expect poorly merchandised products at the back of the room.
  • They expect good, but not great presentations and mediocre slides.
  • They expect to have to figure out how to apply what they learn on their own.

Step 4: Understand failure. If we met those expectations, no one would have been disappointed. But they certainly wouldn’t have been wowed either. And worse, the likelihood of them going deeper with us in the customer journey would be unlikely.

Step 5: Plan to exceed their expectations. This was the fun part. We considered each of the customer expectations and brainstormed ways to exceed them. For example:

  • Instead of jamming together the seats, we made sure we had comfortable chairs and gave people plenty of space.
  • Instead of forcing people to take notes on their laps, we provided classroom style tables. We also provided a beautifully typeset, full-color conference notebook. It was designed to guide them through the learning experience, helping them apply what they learned, and facilitating the transformation we were after.
  • Instead of infrequent breaks, we provided plenty of “white space,” with breaks every hour. We also mixed up the learning modalities, including lectures, personal exercises, small group discussions, and open Q&A. We also brought in a specialty coffee vendor who provided excellent coffee and a variety of snacks.
  • Instead of poorly merchandised products at the back of the room, we created a Full Focus Store, which was like a high-end bookstore that was well-lit and well-staffed with people who know our products inside and out.
  • Instead of good presentations and mediocre slides, we did our best to provide great presentations and professionally designed slides.
  • Instead of letting our attendees try to figure out how to apply the content, we worked hard to create frameworks, models, exercises, and tools to enable them to internalize what they learned.

Again, this is just one example, I have used this exact same framework to write my books, plan our annual employee retreats, develop our courses, and even design our office. I’ve used it in my personal life too, especially for creating extraordinary experiences for my family.

How Can You Apply It?

So where could you create more wow in your business? How could you take a product or service to the next level and exceed your customers’ expectations? Where could wow make the biggest difference?

And by the way, this framework works for nonprofit organizations too. This includes churches, synagogues, healthcare organizations, and even educational institutions. Each has members, donors, or sponsors. In fact, in some ways, it can be easier in these industries because people often come with very low expectations. If you want to stand out, bake in the wow!

If you’re serious about creating wow, I suggest you schedule a couple of hours with your team and brainstorm the possibilities. Identify one product or service and purpose to take it to the next level. It’s worth the effort, especially if you want to ramp up the growth of your business and leave the competition in the dust.