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Sometimes It’s Not About the WOW! It’s About the Un-WOW!

eliminate-the-un-wowQUICK REMINDER: Don’t forget about National Customer Service Week, October 3-7, 2016. For more information about the week check out these resources.

Everyone wants to WOW their customers. They think that customer delight comes from going above-and-beyond or delivering an over-the-top customer service experience. I’ve always preached that the most amazing companies will occasionally deliver the above-and-beyond customer experience. But it is usually isolated incidents when a customer’s expectations are exceeded, when an employee properly handles a problem or complaint. So, what about the rest of the time? Those amazing companies aren’t amazing because of the way they handle problems. They are amazing because day-in and day-out they are consistently and predictably above average. Just a little above average, all-of-the time, and that is why their customers say, “That company is amazing!”

Well, I’m not here to preach about WOWing your customers or being consistently above average. This is about the un-WOW. More accurately, it is about avoiding the un-WOW, which may actually be one of the biggest contributors to a positive customer experience.

I recently spent some time in a special program at High Point University. Part of our time at HPU was spent outside of the classroom, touring the campus and talking with employees. We met a number of amazing people, and one of them was Troy Thompson. I asked Troy what he did and he said, “I manage the un-WOW.”

Upon further discussion he explained that his job was to eliminate anything that would take away from the extraordinary experience that the students have at HPU. He shared several examples. In the cafeteria and restaurants he would make sure that tables were quickly cleaned after students ate, so that other students wouldn’t have to wait for a clean table or be forced to sit at a dirty table. Or, maybe it’s just picking up a piece of trash off of the ground, so it doesn’t detract from the beauty of the campus. And my favorite example is the one he mentioned about how the plates at the salad bar should never be warm. Warm plates that are just taken out of the dishwasher don’t need be used at the salad bar. Find room temperature or, even better, chilled plates to use at the salad bar. As Troy Thompson said, he was in charge of managing – or should I say eliminating – the un-WOW.

Ask yourself an important question: Is there anything that your customers might notice that would negatively impact their experience with you or your organization?

It could be a small detail, such as trash on the ground or dirty restrooms. Or it can be something of greater importance, such as putting customers on hold for too long or having slow response times. Metaphorically speaking, what is your version of the warm salad plate?

So, a good way to describe what managing the un-Wow is would be to say… Avoid anything that would take away from the usual, hopefully positive, experience that your customers expect from you.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVI, Shep Hyken)




  1. Great thoughts as usual, Shep. We made great improvements in our long-term business when we concentrated (much) less on the wow and concentrated on making our casinos clean, safe, friendly and fun. Some said this was (pardon the pun) table stakes, but when you don’t focus on these elements, you often let them slide. Then no amount of “wow” can help.

    • Great to hear from you Julia! You are correct. Sometimes table-stakes are the details. Speaking of details… the next installment of my WOW concept will be in the newsletter this Wednesday. It’s all about the details – not the big “stuff.” Thanks for staying in touch!

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