A Master of Surprise!

This article was published more than 1 year ago. Some information may no longer be current.

Truly outstanding businesses seek to consistently delight their clients. They do this by exceeding expectations. Of course to exceed expectations you first have to set them. So the art of delighting customers with (pleasant) surprises means setting acceptable expectations then working like heck to over-achieve.

The importance of surprise to business success was driven home for me recently during the launch of BlackBerry’s new smartphone. BlackBerry had spent months responding to naysayers and managing market expectations for their new device. At their global launch event, as one announcement followed another, it was clear that they had pretty much done everything they said they were going to do: two innovative smartphones, an entirely new mobile operating system, widespread market distribution and an app store with over 70,000 apps at launch. Yet their stock price plummeted 12% on the day of these announcements.

By any measure their achievement was monumental yet investors were not impressed. Why? More than one analyst shrugged, “there were no surprises”.

So BlackBerry did everything they said they were going to do yet an important portion of their audience was disappointed. This was as much a marketing miss as it was a delivery shortfall. How frustrating for the people who had worked so hard to bring this new mobile eco-system to life but failed to pull off a surprise or two on the big day.

There’s a lesson here that extends beyond business. Over my long and wonderful marriage, I’ve learned that if I promise to be home at a certain time, I had better be there. I’m a busy and easily distracted guy so I have to really work hard to meet this commitment. For me, it’s a big achievement but for my family it is, quite frankly, not that impressive. Only the dog is particularly excited when I step through the door.

On the other hand, if I arrive on time with a bouquet in my hand, I’m greeted with delight. “You’re home! And what a surprise, you’ve brought flowers!” I’ve exceeded expectations and strengthened my relationship.

Want to get more out of your business and personal relationships? Make it your mission to intentionally set and exceed expectations. Become a master of surprise. You’ll create delight through surprise and you’ll be surprised and delighted with the results!