To WOW Customers, Listen and Care

To WOW Customers, Listen and Care

Back in 2012, I wrote about the concept of 5-Second WOWs — small, simple actions that allow organizations to create memorable moments for customers without a lot of investment or time.

My wife and I recently experienced one of these WOW moments while traveling, and the experience perfectly demonstrated how easily you can WOW customers by simply listening and caring.

A Quick Getaway

Back in January, we took a quick weekend trip to Costa D’Este Beach Resort and Spa in Vero Beach, Florida.

To WOW Customers, Listen and CareOne of the features that attracts us to Costa D’Este is that it is a dog-friendly hotel. Since Vero Beach is driving distance for us, Costa is the perfect place to go for a quick weekend getaway with our Chief Happiness Officer, Dalton.

Now, when I say Costa is dog friendly; I should more aptly say dog-awesome!

They love dogs (well, at least our dog), and every staff member we have encountered on our numerous stays has gone out of their way to remember his name.

We never met a staff member that was standoffish or who gave us the “oh great, they have a dog” look.

Dalton is 65 pounds and eager to meet new people (as was our previous Golden Retriever). While we don’t travel with dogs often, we’ve done so enough times to know that not every employee at a “dog-friendly” hotel is a friend of dogs.

At Costa D’Este, everyone was.


We’ve always had great service at Costa, but on this occasion, the team at Costa went above and beyond to make an impression.

In fact, the Costa team began customizing our customer experience when we were booking the reservation. Once they learned that we were bringing a dog, they offered us a ground floor suite with walking access to make it convenient to take the dog out.

Dalton’s a champion elevator rider, so we took an upper floor for the view, but the staff’s attention to detail made an impression.

When we arrived on Thursday evening, we were greeted by the excellent valet staff. The valet took my wife to check in with our baggage, while I went to walk Dalton.

As my wife was checking in, the desk staff noticed the notes on the reservation and asked how old Dalton was. My wife replied, “He’ll be three on Saturday.”

It was just a passing comment, nothing more.


On Saturday morning, my wife graciously volunteered to take Dalton downstairs for his first walk of the day.

Imagine her surprise when they returned to the hotel from his walk and were handed a homemade birthday present by the staff at Costa!

Costa D'Este Dog Birthday Gift

Dalton’s birthday gift, with a cookie missing!

My wife and I were truly touched by the gesture and thoughtfulness, not to mention appreciative of the execution on a professional level.

The gift was a perfect example of a quick WOW that cost little in hard dollars but was the result of listening and caring.


Notice the pictures of the deconstructed cup below. Very creative!

The hard costs of this gift were a handful of dog biscuits, some peanut butter, and a few paper products, but what the gift really took was ingenuity, time, and thoughtfulness.

Costa D'Este Dog Birthday Gift

More than that, the whole team was involved on some level. In addition to the 12 signatures on the birthday card, on numerous occasions that day we ran into staff members who asked, “Hey, is that the birthday boy?” or simply wished him a happy birthday.

To say that this made an impression would be an understatement.


WOWing customers doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Simple, thoughtful gestures that make a customer feel special are all you need.

Here are few takeaways from this story that show how you can execute WOW moments for customers.

  • Have systems in place. Using either the reservation system or a side CRM, the staff knew when we arrived that we were traveling with a dog, and his name. The team was able to record the offhand birthday comment my wife made when checking in so that action could be taken on it two days later. A similar thing happened to us at the Hotel Indigo in Asheville.
  • Be prepared to quickly personalize. Obviously, Costa has preprinted, customizable cards at the ready for dog birthdays, human birthdays, and other special occasions. Based on a comment from one of the staff, we think this cookie bouquet might have been a first; nonetheless, they obviously had cards, bows, and dog biscuits at the ready to be used as needed.
  • Train teams to listen. None of this would have occurred if the desk team had not been friendly and asked about Dalton’s age (a standard small talk question with dog owners) and then noted that his birthday occurred during our stay. Many times customers will tell you how to WOW them, even if that is not their intention. Make sure team members are attuned to look for these opportunities.
  • Create a culture of caring. Execution can be designed, but caring is cultural. Information means nothing if team members do not care enough to act. This requires a management team that fosters a customer-centric culture.
  • Empower teams to WOW. An integral part of any customer-centric culture is empowering employees to take action on behalf of the customers. If the team at Costa had to fill out a requisition form in triplicate for dog biscuits, this moment would have never occurred.

Whether you call it delight, amazement, or being the customer’s hero, making an impression on a customer often starts with listening and ends with caring. Use the ideas above to prepare your organization to deliver WOW moments.


By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.

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