One day, a small family crisis erupted when a little boy realized that he’d forgotten his stuffed giraffe (Joshie) at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. The father quickly contacted the hotel staff and requested they send the giraffe as soon as possible and he also asked whether, in the meantime, they could send a photo of Joshie so that his son could be comforted with the knowledge that the giraffe was safe.
Well, the Ritz-Carlton did far more than send the boy a simple photograph of Joshie; in fact, they sent a binder full of photos – Joshie lounging on a chair next to the pool, Joshie riding a golf cart, Joshie getting a spa treatment, hanging out with the hotel parrot and other fun activities at the hotel. By going above and beyond expectations, the Ritz-Carlton created a memorable experience that the boy and his family won’t forget soon. Psychologists Roger Schank and Robert Abelson describe this as breaking the script, and it’s a useful way for businesses to create lasting bonds with customers and, more importantly, for families to learn with one another.
For any given situation, there’s a typical script of how events unfold. Let’s say a customer orders a burger and it’s delivered cold, following the standard script, the waiter apologizes and the customer leaves a smaller tip than usual. But if the restaurant wanted to break the script, it could apologize, offer to cover the customer’s meal and give him a free dessert as well. This unexpected offer happened to me last week at Wolf and lamb in New York and that is why I am giving them a mention here and will go back there again.
The bakery chain Pret A Manger implements a non-traditional strategy by incorporating the element of surprise into consumer elations. They allow their employees to give away a certain number of products to customers each week. So, if a customer comes in who looks like she’s had a bad day, the staff behind the counter can cheer her up by giving her a free cinnamon roll. I too like to empower my colleagues with the opportunity to break the script in their day to day encounters and I always learn of great results!
The unpredictability of this random act of kindness makes it a win-win situation: the customer is happy and, thus, the business increases its chances of seeing them again.