New York City subway stations in and of themselves aren't remarkable. But when you find a cool replica a continent away in the middle of Buenos Aires, it becomes an experience worth talking about. And that's why I haven't been able to shut up about Uptown Bar ever since visiting it a few weeks ago.

My friends and I almost didn't get in either. We were initially turned away because we weren't on the "list." But one of my companions pulled some strings and a few minutes later we were into the exclusive venue.

We were wowed by the entire experience from the beginning. It was clear the owners took great care to make us feel like we'd been transported to New York.

As soon as we descended into the "station" entrance, we walked through the graffiti-laden subway tiled walls, passed through the turn styles, and boarded the waiting subway car. After pausing to take group photos, we stepped into the main site where all the action was happening.

You can't afford to ignore customer experience.

The remarkable experience at Uptown compelled me to share it with others. The same thing happened when I visited the cupcake ATM for the first time. And it is what happened when a friend posted about a great customer service experience he recently had with a company.

Increasingly, great products and services aren't enough to earn loyal customers. Especially in crowded and noisy markets where there are constant pulls for your customers' attention. Thus unremarkable experiences, even when customers are satisfied, are soon forgotten. No bueno.

Customers are craving experiences that shock them from the intoxicating lull of the status quo and make them take notice.

Thus, it is no surprise that one research report showed 86 percent of buyers will pay more for a customer experience. That same study found that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.

Here are three ways you can equip your organization to be ready to consistently deliver remarkable experiences your customers will not only want more of but will be compelled to tell their friends about it too.

1. Be intentional.

Rarely are extraordinary moments in business the result of serendipity. In most instances, they happen by design. 

That's why companies like Zappos, The Ritz Carlton, Nordstrom, and Disney consistently top lists of businesses that "wow" their customers. There are an abundance of stories and examples of them going the extra mile to delight their customers because they've made doing so a part of their culture. It is an extension of their product offering.

Zappos and Disney have even gone so far as to include their intention in this regard in their  mission statements. 

Zappos declares "Our purpose is to live and deliver wow" And Disney proclaims their aim this way "we seek to develop the most creative, innovative and profitable entertainment experiences and related products in the world."

2. Go all in.

The are plenty of businesses that have a desire to create remarkable experiences, but they lack the courage to do it in a meaningful way. So they water down their ideas and their efforts so they don't deviate too much from what people expect.

But you have to be bold to deliver an experience that tattoos a fond memory in your customers' minds.

In their book The Power of Moments, authors Chip and Dan Heath give more insight into what is required to deliver these types of experiences, defining moments, as they describe them:

Defining moments rise above the everyday. They provide not just transient happiness, like laughing at a friend's joke, but memorable delight...To construct elevated moments, we must boost sensory pleasures...and, if appropriate, add an element of surprise.

The owners of Uptown Bar went all in to create an experience that authentically felt like New York. By raising the stakes and pushing the boundaries beyond what felt safe, they created a series of defining moments that are a source of competitive advantage for them.

3. Empower your team to look for and seize opportunities.

A common misconception is that delivering moments that wow your customers has to cost a lot of money. Sometimes the most meaningful and memorable moments are the result of someone taking the initiative to brighten someone's day.

That's what happened when an employee at Target was patient and kind with an elderly woman who was paying for her order in coins back in 2016. Another customer in line watched the exchange and wrote about the impact it had on her and her family in a Facebook post that has since gone viral.

Empower your team to look for ways to delight your customers. Encourage them to go the extra mile to make your customers feel like they belong with you.

Published on: Feb 13, 2018