Engineering "Amazing"

Closing in on my fourth hour of driving on my way to make a flight at Newark Airport to get to the National Arts Marketing Project conference in Louisville, Kentucky, I began to sweat. I hit some bad early afternoon traffic in New Jersey. The GPS showed that I would arrive at the Hertz rental return at 2:45 PM for my 4 PM flight–a little too close for comfort.

And then the Hertz “NeverLost” GPS had me take a right turn going right into downtown Newark. I hit every red light known to man. Now my heart was pounding. I knew this had been a mistake, but I couldn’t turn around. And, I knew there were no more flights to Louisville that day and that if I missed the flight it would cost me hundreds in change fees and I’d have to pay for overnight hotel at the airport.

I finally pulled into Hertz rental return at 3:05 PM and I was clearly frustrated. Had it not been for the GPS, I would certainly have arrived at least 15 minutes earlier. As I opened the car door, the friendly Hertz agent said as he printed out my final bill, “How are you doing today?” I muttered something like, “Not so good, you should really fix that GPS because it just took so far out of my way that I’m likely to miss my flight.”

Here’s where the amazing part comes in.

Without missing a beat, the agent said, “I can see you’re in a rush, jump into the passenger seat, and I’ll drive you to the terminal.” Less than 30 seconds later, I was being driven to the terminal, and was on time to check in. I replayed this scene a few times in my mind and realized I’m a Hertz Gold customer and that the agent could clearly see that on my receipt. Now, how good do I feel about Hertz and keeping my Gold status right now?

At the NAMP conference yesterday morning, Scott Stratten (author of UnMarketing) gave an hysterical keynote all about creating “amazing.” He reminded us that you have no neutral brand interactions. Every contact with a customer either improves or diminishes your brand’s reputation. He posited that even if you mess up, the successful resolution of a customer service problem can do more good for your brand than if the problem had never happened in the first place. He offered his version of amazing – the story of a chef at a Hilton Hotel restaurant who went out of his way to apologize to him for a lousy breakfast.

So is this something that can be institutionalized in the arts? I think so. How many amazing moments does your organization create at each event? Is your culture (from the front office to the box office to the coat-check) designed so that your staff has the reflex to make amazing things happen? How much better would your relationship with your patrons be if you did?

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