Recently, my wife and I took two of our grandchildren, ages 4 and 3, off on a short getaway to enjoy some time together. As we arose in our hotel room before 8 on our final morning and started to get ready to head down for our complementary breakfasts, the lights in part of our room went out. When I stepped into the hallway, the emergency lights were on and my wife could smell smoke. Shortly thereafter, fire alarms were blaring and we were exiting down the back stairway.

By the time all the firemen had thoroughly inspected the building, finding only a burned-out motor from an electrical surge, it was time to check out. No breakfasts, no morning swim, just time to pack our things and clear out. It wasn’t the hotel’s fault – the surge came from an electrical malfunction in the area – but as I approached the checkout counter, I wondered how the staff would address the disruption to the morning. “Sorry for the confusion this morning” was the response.

It’s one of those responses you can live with. After all, it really wasn’t their fault, but I couldn’t help but feel like they missed the opportunity to be extraordinary.

Some businesses enjoy the advantage of having an extraordinary new product or service to deliver for a time until a competitor copies it. Others are very good at adding something unexpected, that extra special touch, when delivering their product or service to make the experience exceptional. For many, the opportunity to be extraordinary comes when the unexpected just happens and takes us and our customers on a challenging tangent. What we do in those moments makes the difference between our being satisfactory and ordinary and being truly extraordinary.

To seize such opportunities, you have to:

  • be sensitive to what your customer is experiencing, and
  • respond appropriately and creatively to improve their experience.

“Sorry for the confusion this morning, for not being able to enjoy breakfast, for sitting outside all morning and for having your plans disrupted – please take your family to lunch on us” would have been one of many possible extraordinary responses.

The next time the unexpected happens, seize the opportunity to be extraordinary.

This kind of extraordinary doesn’t typically come from a defined process because when the unexpected happens, we usually find ourselves in a place without prescribed action steps. Even if we have procedural steps defined to address all kinds of scenarios, how can we be sure our people will follow those steps – especially when we are not looking over their shoulder?

In these situations, extraordinary comes from who we are – what we care about – our core values. Sensitivity is an attribute of someone who cares about what someone else is experiencing. Creative responsiveness is an attribute of someone who is driven to make a positive difference.

When every single person in our company possesses these core values, we create a culture that displays extraordinary behavior consistently when unexpected opportunities arise. The person at the front desk acts with the same passion and resolve as the owner or manager.

To consistently seize the opportunities to be extraordinary, create the right company culture first and your behavior will simply display what you all care about.

Do all of your leaders and employees share your core values? It doesn’t happen by chance. To learn how to develop a consistent, healthy culture throughout your company, talk with a Professional EOS Implementer today. You can change your business and your life.

Written by Don Tinney on June 15, 2010

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