How to Include Surprise and Delight for Clients In Your Customer Experience

Want clients for life? Give your client an experience that goes beyond their expectations.

Think about booking lodgings for a vacation. It’s one thing to book a room for your stay with all the expected accommodations. But you remember the place that goes beyond: the chocolate on the pillow to greet you as a new guest, warm and freshly laundered towels in the bathroom daily, a minifridge already full of goodies you didn’t even have to buy, etc. And the next time you’re ready for a vacation in the area, you want to stay there again.

Now, it’s really easy to think that translating that type of experience into your service-based business is as simple as surprising and delighting with little gifts, like that chocolate on the pillow. But there’s so much more to it, and today I’m excited to have Amber Kinney back on the podcast to talk about it.

In this final episode of our customer experience series on Promote Yourself to CEO, you’ll learn about how you can translate surprising and delighting clients into your business as part of your customer experience plan. We’ll teach you how to put a little more intention and thoughtfulness into the ways you choose to surprise and delight clients so that they’ll trust and connect with you and your company.

On this episode of Promote Yourself to CEO:

6:44 – What’s one of Amber’s favorite ways to surprise and delight clients in her agency?

8:45 – I talk about a recent surprise I received when I started working with someone new. This kind of delight can motivate your clients even more!

13:01 – You can vote with your dollars when delighting your clients, too. Here’s how we do it every year.

16:22 – How do you and your team build connection with your clients in ways that will surprise and delight them?

24:25 – I discuss another way I try to delight all the time. This one goes above and beyond, and it can stick for your clients for years!

Mentioned in How to Include Delight and Surprise for Clients In Your Customer Experience Plan

We all hear that we should surprise and delight our clients and that learning how to surprise and delight is the key to getting clients who continue to work with us, who give us rave reviews, who return again and again, who refer clients to us, but what does that mean? Is it just about the gifts? We're here to tell you there is so much more that goes into creating an incredible experience. So listen in on another conversation with my director of operations, Amber Kinney, and we're going to dive deep into how you can go above and beyond to surprise and delight your clients.

Are you ready to grow from stressed-out solopreneur to competent CEO? You're in the right place. I'm your host, Racheal Cook, and I've spent more than 15 years helping women entrepreneurs sustainably scale their businesses. If you're serious about building a sustainable business, it's time to put the strategy, systems, and support in place to make it happen. Join me each week for candid conversations about stepping into your role as CEO, the hard lessons learned along the way, and practical profitable strategies to grow a sustainable business without the hustle and burnout.

Not too long ago, I rented an incredible townhouse right off of Monument Avenue here in Richmond, Virginia. I rented this townhouse even though I live 15 minutes away because my team was flying in to support me in facilitating the CEO Retreat for our clients. Now this is totally normal for us. My team is spread all around the country and we bring the team together to work with our clients when the clients come together for our quarterly CEO Retreat.

It is so much fun because when you're running a business like mine where your team is spread out, your clients are spread out, there's something magical that happens when you bring everybody together. But let me come back to this townhouse we rented. Over the years, we have had a lot of hits and misses when it comes to finding a great space that will host our team and allow us to also have a great experience while we're all here.

It's been one of those things where yes, we've put people into hotel rooms before and I live close by so I would stay at home, but we found that there is really something magical about getting us all under one roof where we could share meals, where we could decompress after the CEO Retreat and a whole day of working with our clients, we could bond and connect with each other and have conversation, and also we could plan and dream about what the next things are going to be that we're going after inside of the business.

This particular townhouse that we found was a hit. It was an absolute win. In fact, I knew that I wanted to rent this townhouse when I saw that it had a beautiful clawfoot soaking tub and I am a sucker for a great soaking tub and bath because in my old house, I don't have that, I only have a tub in the kids' bathroom so I thought this will be a great time, a great place for everyone to have their own room, their own space, and get a little bit of that self-care in while we are together.

But I have to say, it was such a great example of experience, of a customer experience that truly was designed to not just meet our expectations but exceed our expectations and surprise and delight us each step of the way. The person who owns the home and has it listed on Airbnb did an incredible job designing this home, making sure that it was incredibly comfortable, that we had everything that we needed, that the bedrooms were beautiful, the linens were so, so great.

She made sure that the coffee bar was stocked so that we had coffee. She made sure that it was easy to get on the internet and that we knew exactly where everything was. She even had this beautifully printed guide of all of the things that they recommend in that area of Richmond, which was fantastic to know that we had a list here of coffee shops, bars, and cafes that we could walk to from this little townhouse.

Of course, we're going back and it really got me thinking about experience and customer experience because in the hospitality industry, if you go to a hotel or you get a vacation rental, experience is pretty important and that is what differentiates something like a Ritz-Carlton from a Holiday Inn. You have different expectations of the level of experience you're going to have.

But translating that into our businesses, into a more service-based business where you're working directly with clients, you're coaching them, teaching them, training them, or walking them through some transformational process is a little bit different. This is where it's really, really easy to think that all that matters in experience and elevating the experience is the surprise and delight, the little gifts, the little things that we think are what people are really looking at, but there's so much more.

Today, I'm so excited to have Amber Kinney back. We're going to talk all things surprise, delight, and customer experience again, and especially how you can translate this into your business because while it's nice to send little gifts and we love, love, love to send things in the mail, there is so much more.

Hey there, CEOs. Okay, Amber is back for round two talking about experience. For this episode, we want to talk about surprise and delight. Yes, this is the final episode in this five-part series. It is not what we led with because I think a lot of people mistakenly believe that delighting your customers is what customer experience is, that it's just about the perks and the fun stuff. We're trying to share with you that there's a whole lot more to it than that, but yes, we like gifts.

Let's get into surprise and delight because these are the fun things, these are the things that I know both of us love being able to do. Give me one of your favorite ways to surprise and delight the clients that you work with on the agency side.

Amber Kinney: I think there are a few different things, but I think one of my favorite things is I love to send people things in the mail. This is one of the just traditional surprise and delight. I actually send it from me, they do get the handwritten card piece, and people are shocked.

It's not anything big. Right now I have candles that they get. It doesn't have to be huge but the fact that there's a handwritten card in there just welcoming them is one of the favorite things we always get feedback from and it definitely is a surprise piece that people are not expecting.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. I think this is something that is so simple to forget. We're in such a digital world that people love getting something unexpected in the mail. If there is one thing I think any business owner can take away, like when you send your client something, it doesn't have to be very expensive at all. It could just be the card but it's the thoughtfulness that is unexpected.

It just reinforces that relationship. It just shows a level of care and a level of humanity that you're not going to get if you're just not giving any indication that you're excited they're a client. What has been one of your favorite gifts to get when you start working with someone?

Amber Kinney: I do love just the handwritten card that acknowledges who I am as a person. I like to feel like a person and not part of the big--

Racheal Cook: Not a cog in their business.

Amber Kinney: Not a cog in the wheel. I do love the welcome card. I really think that's the biggest thing for me of all the things that happen. When I work with someone or when I go work with a different business, that is the piece that sets the tone for the rest of the engagement I think really. Usually, the note has something that isn't just the generic message but the two minutes it takes to do that is huge.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. I love that and I love when I get little surprise things in the mail so much. I can tell everyone, I have a lot of examples because when I get stuff, I remember it and I note it down as examples to share.

One gift that I got recently, I started working with a functional nutritionist about a year ago, and what I loved is she included as this amazing bonus, she lives here in Richmond so she dropped it off at my front door, but she had this amazing bonus box that helped me to get into the program she had because I had to do this huge elimination diet trying to figure out some autoimmune stuff.

In this little box that she dropped off at my house, it included a food scale, it included sample seasonings that didn't have any of the normal triggers that are in common seasonings, it included some supplements that she recommends so I already had the supplements, I didn't have to figure out where to get them or wait for them to show up.

She even included these coffee replacements like the mushroom coffee that didn’t have a regular coffee because I was supposed to try to not have caffeine, and also this thing called HeartMath, which is like a stress management tool.

This amazing little bundle shows up and it was delight because I didn't expect it, but I think the most important part of it for me is the fact that it made it easier to do the program I just purchased.

Amber Kinney: Yes, 100%. Talk about being set up for success.

Racheal Cook: That's what she did. This is something anybody who's doing transformational work where you're trying to help people change their habits or do things in a different way, the more you can set them up for success, the better. They're now going to be so excited about it. It increases the motivation to follow through. It's like you've removed a lot of the barriers to starting.

I think that's a great example of a bonus gift that is functional and tied into the program that you are offering or to the service that you are offering. I think in the health world, there are so many little things you can offer. I think in so many different places, you can get creative and come up with what's actually going to enhance kicking off this experience together, make them feel excited, and make them feel motivated to actually take action on what we're doing together.

Amber Kinney: I know we keep using The CEO Collective as our example but obviously, that's us putting into place everything that we're talking about and sharing in the series, but when we send the boxes that you get when you join, you don't know, but they're full of things to really make it easier to get into the program, whether it's the planner or the 90-day workbook, or it's books that we often reference.

It's all of those things that really do help them get into the program as well. I think that's amazing when you can have a bonus that helps them jumpstart their work with you.

Racheal Cook: I think the combination here of things being tactile, things being things you can hold, this is what elevates it and helps you be even more memorable. Again, digital everything, I think it works against relationship building in some way. People don't feel like it's as real. It's easier for them to ignore your program, not log into it, and not follow through when it's all hidden in the cloud somewhere.

But if they have something that you sent, the planner you sent or the seasonings you sent, the thing in front of them, it is a reminder that they have invested and they need to get into whatever the offer is.

I love it. There's a way to do the delight that helps enhance your offer. We're not saying that you absolutely have to do that scale but it's just an amazing thing to think about and this is one way you can elevate yourself and really make yourself stand out.

Amber Kinney: Completely.

Racheal Cook: Aside from gifts, which we are to tell y'all how many things we send out in the mail, we just like sending things in the mail.

Amber Kinney: I was like, “But we really love it. It's very fun for us.”

Racheal Cook: It is very fun for us. Every year around the holidays, we're like, “Hmm, what small business do we want to give a couple of thousand dollars to?” and we'll pick a local small business, because again, we always are also thinking about gifts that are aligned with our values, so every year, we find a local small business and we will go buy presents for our team, our clients, literally thousands of dollars into a small business.

Y'all, that is the difference for that small business between having a great holiday month and being like, “I'm not getting enough orders,” and people love it. People absolutely love it.

Amber Kinney: They love it. Then honestly just from our side, being able to build up that small business and then they get repeat business, it's really just an extension of the values to support other small businesses, and women in business is usually where we go.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. I think that's something when it comes to gifting or offering things, we all have to remember we vote with our dollars. Every time we spend money in our business, we have so much more power than we think we have. So if you get intentional about where you're getting gifts, how you're getting them to people, all those things and you let your clients know, “Hey, this year we're supporting this small woman-owned business,” “Hey, this year we're supporting this LGBTQ+ business,” leverage them, build them up. It's amazing because I think one thing that's a fun thing for me is when I find something I really love, I get to share it with everybody.

Amber Kinney: I love it. It works for all of us.

Racheal Cook: Yeah. The Maven Made facial oil, I'll give them a shout-out right now because again, same thing, they have been a go-to gifting place for me, a local woman-owned business, and every time I introduce people to this brand, they're like, “Oh, my God, I'm obsessed.”

Think about that when you're thinking about these things. You can work with local businesses, work with small businesses, vote with your dollars, and it doesn't have to be super complicated. You'll be surprised how many of those places will work with you if you come to them and say, “Hey, I need to do this,” they'll handle the shipping or they'll help you customize it in some way. So many people are willing to work with you to make these things awesome.

Amber Kinney: Completely. Honestly, it's delightful for you, it's delightful for the recipient but it's also delightful for the other business owner so it's a ripple of delights.

Racheal Cook: Yes, absolutely. Aside from gifting, the other thing I think is important is just surprise and delight connection. Let's talk about this because I feel like too often, again, in a hyper-digital world, it can very easily feel like you spend money to work with a company and you are just a dollar amount to them, not an actual human being who they care about. Let's talk about that. How do you build connection with your clients or have your team build connection with your clients?

Amber Kinney: I think that the biggest piece here, and we touched on it even in the gift giving, is what are our values as a business and how do I want to make sure we show up? One of ours is that our clients are people. Because we work mostly digitally, I think it's important for us to have that as a reminder in here that we're all human.

That's pretty much the top of our list. We want to remember that. We want to respect that. Also, even when we're doing the work if they're not on a call with us, that's something we want to keep in mind. Knowing that allows us to make the connection with them, whether we're sending them email, whether we're sending them Loom, or whether we're offering to just hop on a call.

I think that delight comes in when we can be consistent but they don't often expect it to be like, “Okay, here's a video. I'm going to give you extra information and I'm going to walk you through exactly what's happening.” It's taking the time to really give them everything they need or maybe more than you might think they need to know but maybe it just makes them feel like they're part of the process. Even in a business like ours, they know exactly what's happening.

Then I think the other piece for us is there's never a hesitancy really for us to be like, “Hey, let's just hop on for a 15-minute call so we can talk this through.” Just being willing to do that saves everybody multiple emails back and forth so much frustration because there are things that are just so much faster to communicate in a 15-minute chat versus multiple emails that I'll start to scan over days with people going back and forth. Just being willing to say that is often shocking for people but it makes the connection better and it makes the work easier and smoother for people for sure.

Racheal Cook: I have to say this is something that I have loved about working with you and your team because you all do so much stuff behind the scenes and half the time, I don't really even know who's working on different things because your team is awesome and I can just trust that whatever they're doing, they're doing it well.

But whenever I've had a moment where I'm stuck, overwhelmed, or need to come up with Plan B, I can message you and within a day, we're able to just jump on a quick chat. I want to say I think people are afraid of doing that because they're afraid, “Well, I won't have boundaries if I do that.”

That's not what we're saying. Give a container around it saying, “Hey, let's jump on for 15 minutes and chat about this one thing.” A container around it and giving expectation around it, but the willingness to say, “Hey, let's just talk about it,” I think solve so many problems before they escalate.

Amber Kinney: Completely. I think giving people a chance, it comes back to everybody is people, and we want to be seen and heard with the people we're working with. No matter what transformation or what work people are doing, they want to feel like they're seen and heard. Sometimes that 15 minutes does that and it brings them into the process so they know what we're doing and it just escalates the trust factor exponentially.

Honestly, on our side, it's a lot harder for me to say, “Well, I have to create boundaries that make it harder for me so then I'm making it hard for me, I'm making it hard for them, and I'm making it hard for my team.” Saying “I have this time this day and we can talk for 15 minutes, let's just work through this” becomes actually an easy solution and a huge source of delight for people.

Amber Kinney: I want to add on here another thing that your team just does exceptionally well. Coming back to your clients are human, we're all going to have human moments, we're going to have human things happen, something that you do really well and we do really well I think is knowing what's going on for people.

Just knowing what's going on in their lives or in their business because I came to you as soon as I knew there was a likelihood I was going to have to step in and handle stuff for my parents, I knew instantly, I was like, “Amber, I think I'm going to have to take over some stuff from my parents. I don't know how long this is going to take but let's proactively get on this.”

Because you have that insight into what I'm doing or what was going on for me, you were then able to so show up for me during a really hard time where I had to pull back a lot of what I could do in the business and because you knew exactly what was going on and we had that clear communication happening, one, I trusted that you had everything handled, and you did absolutely, and two, you made sure that it was seamless for our clients. They never stressed about me needing to take time off or not being as present.

Amber Kinney: Right. We can only do that because of open, clear communication, right?

Racheal Cook: Yeah, and sometimes that's what it is, it's being willing to recognize that the people you're working with are human and they're going to go through human things, and being okay with jumping on the call or making some adjustments to whatever the plan was in order to support people.

Because here's the thing, I am so loyal to Amber that one day, we're going to have our little old lady village with tiny homes and live right next door. I'm pretty sure the loyalty I have built with this woman, the only other relationship like that is my husband. It's something that was built because of how much you care and because of recognizing that we're human and needing to ebb and flow with that.

I think we can do that with our clients when we care about what is going on in their lives, things that we think about all the time. I tell our clients when they join the Collective, “Be prepared to see my name show up all over the place because I'm going to follow you on social, I'm going to join your email list. I'm going to watch what's going on.”

For me, one, I can keep an eye on what's going on in your marketing and sales, how are you implementing what we're teaching you, and I can also often see an insight into what's going on into your world because a lot of people use their social as a way to share what's going on in their life.

It's been a great way for us when we see, “Oh, somebody's getting married, somebody's pregnant, somebody's going through this,” even somebody lost their dad, somebody's going through a really rough time, somebody had a scary diagnosis. We can now proactively, without the client telling us these things are happening, we can send something or we can reach out and acknowledge them. That is really meaningful.

Amber Kinney: It's so meaningful. Even just this morning, we have a member of the CEO Collective that's been with us for a really long time. I was finalizing a newsletter, totally randomly somewhere else and she has this whole mention in here, and the two in my mind are not even close to being connected, but seeing that, I could send her a message, she's like, “You know what, this just made my day that you saw me in another place and took the time to let me know.”

That took me maybe two seconds, two minutes to send a quick note but she knows that we know she's in the Collective, we're seeing her in other places, and we're acknowledging that as encouraging her. I think the little things that take just a few minutes are sometimes the things that can be the most impactful.

Racheal Cook: Yes. Simple things. Sometimes somebody will write an amazing email to their email list and I'll just reply, “This was great. I love this.” Those little things make such a difference.

Also, another way that I feel like I try to delight all the time, and I know multiple people who have gotten so good at this, is when I can use my platform to raise up others. That is I think our philosophy, a rising tide lifts all ships. I'm constantly working on growing my platform, growing my audience, growing my reach and my visibility for the business and there are all these amazing women I want to bring right alongside me.

I think this is another big differentiator, in general, the way people think about this, I always think of my business being shoulder to shoulder with all the women I'm supporting. When I see they're doing something really cool, I'm going to share it. I'm going to re-share it on social media. I'm going to DM people and say, “I think you need to connect with this person.”

I just made connections yesterday for one of our clients who's looking for a certain person to collaborate with and I was like, “Oh, I know three people.” I have no problem saying, “Let me open those doors for you. Let me connect you. Let me share this thing you're working on because I think it's amazing.” That is the going above and beyond that delights people to no end because you're not gatekeeping anymore.

You're not saying, “No, I'm up here and you're down here,” it's saying, “We're all here to elevate women in business. If I can introduce you to this person, connect you to this person, or share your event, heck yeah, I'm going to do it. I'm going to be your biggest evangelist.” I feel like that's part of my job.

Amber Kinney: I know you see it as part of your job and I think it's definitely part of delight but it is one of the things that I think people find very surprising sometimes when you do it. But it's always something that has been something you've done consistently and it's so appreciated by clients.

It's not even clients really, to be honest, some of them have been clients or clients years ago but if you're still watching and you see something, the willingness to share that and shout that out to help elevate others has been amazing. That's a definite delight and it's one of those delights that stick with people that are in our community for years.

Racheal Cook: It builds a lot of goodwill. It builds a lot of goodwill when you go beyond just the checklist of “Here's how we deliver the thing we're offering,” to say, “I see you as a human and I not only want you to have a great experience with us but I now want to be part of your success team. I want to be there with you, for you shouting your name from the rooftops, really seeing what you're doing.”

I tell my clients all the time, “When you're coaching with us, you're not just getting coached on the calls, you're getting coached all the time. We're really here to support you in so many different ways.” It's just a very different mindset than I see in a lot of other businesses.

Amber Kinney: Yeah. It’s a very different way to approach all of it but I think it also is the way that elevates the most and is right in alignment with the values for your business and you can just see those values in action.

Racheal Cook: So good.

Amber Kinney: Yeah.

Racheal Cook: Oh, well, I hope anybody listening to this, I hope you really take away what we're trying to share with you which boils down to your clients are human, be human. Business grows at the speed of relationships and the more you're willing to invest in the relationship, the more you're willing to go beyond, the bar is on the floor in most industries, most places have terrible relationship building and they don't take time to truly delight their clients, but when you even increase what you're doing a little bit, put a little more intention, a little more thoughtfulness to surprise and delight, that builds that trust with people so much, that goodwill, and that connection.

This is how you create clients for life. It really is, which is why I've been with you forever and we’re going to retire in our little tiny home village.

Amber Kinney: We're on the beach, tiny homes on the beach.

Racheal Cook: Tiny homes on the beach. We have a plan, y'all. We have a plan. You gotta have your plan. This is so fun. I hope everybody gets a lot out of it. Thank you, Amber.

Amber Kinney: No, thank you.

Racheal Cook: I hope you loved this conversation as much as I did. This is one of the reasons that Amber and I have been together working together for such a very long time and why I can't imagine not running a business with this woman as my right hand. Because we both believe that business grows at the speed of relationships and truly, experience is about bringing the humanity back, it's about bringing the humanity, bringing the connections, honoring the relationships that you're building.

This is how you build loyalty between your community and your clients, your customers, your team. You can apply these same principles to your team. It's all about the culture and the experience that you are creating and that you're standing for in your business.

I would love to hear your ahas and insights. Make sure you connect with me over on Instagram @racheal.cook. If you loved this conversation, please make sure you have subscribed, to make sure you have reviewed Promote Yourself to CEO. It helps us get these important conversations out to other women entrepreneurs who also want to have sustainable success and really stand out in their field. I can't wait to share the next series with you, but until then, I hope you have a great one.