The Customer Experience Series: Expect the Unexpected


Any real fan of Road House (1989) knows that when Dalton gives his famous “Three Simple Rules” speech, he actually combines two rules into the first rule, giving his bouncer team four rules:

“All you have to do is follow three simple rubies. One: never underestimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Two: take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. And three: be nice.”

Expect the Unexpected

Number two on my list of 5 Simple Strategies to create a great customer experience, Expect the Unexpected, is best translated this way: “If you want your customers to feel welcome, you should actually expect them.” Contrary to the popular belief of many frontline employees, a customer visit is not an inconvenience, and it should never be a surprise. This means taking the modest steps of noticing them immediately and acknowledging them as soon as you notice them.

Let’s examine how this should look in real life:

You’re the front desk manager at a hotel and you’re on the phone. You happen to be the only one on duty at the moment, and a customer walks up to your desk. You should look at them immediately, smile and acknowledge them by covering the receiver and whispering something like “I’ll be right with you.”

As we’ll learn in a later lesson, this simple acknowledgement by you resets the customer’s clock. This gives you a bit of extra time to finish the call and then assist the customer in front of you.

Your customers expect to be expected. They assume that you actually want customers. So, when your team acts surprised to see them; or, more importantly, doesn’t notice or acknowledge them; you’re immediately creating a negative experience that you must now work to overcome.

If you’re on the frontlines at your company, it’s important to come to grips with the fact that without those pesky customers, we don’t need you. So expect them, notice them, acknowledge them, and assume that they’re where they are supposed to be. Moreover, if they’re arriving for a pre-scheduled appointment or if you otherwise already know who they are, greet them by name and don’t make them repeat anything you already know about their visit today.

Knowing My Name Builds Confidence

Studies have proven that if you can greet people by name, they immediately assume you are more competent. It doesn’t matter if you’re a barista, a dentist or a dealership service advisor; when you use your customer’s name (and especially if you already know why they’re here), their feelings toward your business and their confidence in your abilities grows.

Why should you care if the customer has confidence in you from the beginning? Well, for the barista, it means better tips. For the dentist, it means patients who follow their advice and return more often. And, for the dealership service advisor, confidence in their abilities greatly improves their chances of upselling additional services.

Next up in the series: Convenience Store.

(If you’re catching this series for the first time, you may want to begin with the first post in the series: Why Does Good Customer Service Matter?)

About TheManager:

Steve Stauning, creator of The Appointment Culture and an expert in The Customer Experience. He is also an extremely popular keynote speaker, writer, and industry consultant. Learn more about Steve at