The Power of Surprise and Delight

Following the polite knock on my hotel room door, I was stunned. “Just a little something to welcome you to our hotel,” said the smiling and well-appointed young man as he placed it down on the desk in my room.

The beautiful display included a chocolate guitar, hand-dipped strawberries, and a few other candies. Along with some musical notes, the chocolate letters spelled out the word “welcome.” Inside the high quality envelope on which my name was neatly printed was a beautiful card reading, “Dear Mr. Linkner. Welcome to the Four Seasons Hotel Denver. In honor of your passion for jazz, we hope you enjoy your amenity!” The jazzy font stood out on the background of a jazz guitar card. I didn’t even know jazz guitar cards existed!

How remarkable. I didn’t speak to anyone at the hotel in advance of my arrival. To discover my 40+ year love of jazz guitar, the staff must have searched online to learn more in advance of my visit. Now, I didn’t even book the room – I was in town to deliver a keynote and my client set up the reservation. The initiative and effort the hotel staff deployed in order to dazzle a guest was simply extraordinary.

What made it exceptional was that it was unexpected. Surprise and delight. If they sent me a form in advance asking about my hobbies so they could deliver a matching amenity, it would be nice but not even in the same stratosphere of what happened in Denver. The combination of surprise and delight made me feel like their most important guest. And it completely shifted my relationship with the hotel brand. Let’s examine the results of their extraordinary gesture:

• Broke free from the competitive pack. They dramatically stood out in a competitive, commoditized field. The next time I go to Denver, there are only two categories: a) the Four Seasons, and b) other.
• Elevated our relationship dramatically. Now I feel like they truly care about my business, and it makes me want to return the favor.
• Made a big deposit in the “relationship bank.” If something is amiss on my next visit, it won’t kill the relationship since they’ve paid it forward with me.
• Forged massive loyalty. I have a strong desire to return, and not just for the chocolate goodies. They made me feel cared for, important, and appreciated.
• Created a “share-worthy” experience. I doubt I’d be writing this piece if they just did what was expected, even at a high level of quality.

In your own business, whether you sell medical supplies, manufacture furniture, or write computer code, explore what a breathtaking surprise-and-delight might be for your customers. Or team members. Or business partners. While there’s a cost involved, I can’t imagine a better return on investment when working to build customer loyalty, elevate your business, and drive sustainable success.

Surprise and delight. Win and Soar.

Read More

New Thinking for the New Era of Business

Albert Einstein famously noted, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking that we used when we created them.” In our post-COVID world of ...

When an Astronaut Needs a Pen

Ever get stuck on a problem, only to realize you're solving for the wrong thing? That's exactly what happened when the rocket scientists at NASA ...

How Shake Shack Drives Innovation

Do you prefer the crispy mozzarella, tempura watercress, and black garlic mayonnaise cheeseburger or the pumpkin mustard, bacon, cranberries, and sage hot dog? For something ...

Lady Gaga’s Secret to Creativity

Just before she won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, I watched Lady Gaga dazzle the live audience with a pitch perfect performance of ...

Creativity: Does Size Matter?

For some reason, we’ve been taught that for creativity and innovation to count they need to have a magnitude the size of the 1989 San ...

The Lexicon of Creativity

There’s more confusion around the meaning of the word innovation than the chaos at the airline ticket counter after a cancelled flight. Is there a difference between ...

The Brain Science of Becoming More Creative

When we hear stories about iconic leaders like’s founder Marc Benioff, or widely celebrated virtuosos like Lin-Manuel Miranda for that matter, we immediately think ...

Correct the Overcorrect

When the misguided leaders at Enron, Tyco and Worldcom committed fraud and marred their shareholders with huge losses, the Securities and Exchange Commission rightfully swooped ...

Learning to Color

Fact: Creativity has become the most needed skill in business. It’s gone from a nice-to-have to becoming mission-critical. Fact: Creativity is a learnable skill. All humans have ...