Surprise EffectOpen Access

Surprise Effect

We respond well to positive, unexpected, personal gestures

Unscripted, personal acts are powerful in fostering positive brand experiences. But, unless explained, they’ll also raise future customer expectations…

Gyung Kim & Mattila (2013). Does a surprise strategy need words? The effect of explanations …on delight & expectations. Journal of Services Marketing.

The study

Setup

435 people were asked to go to a restaurant and split into four groups. They were then either given a surprise free dessert or not, and then finally either given an explanation of the reason for the surprise or not. All were then asked to rate their level of delight.

Results

Those given the explanation rated the surprise as more delightful than those who weren’t.

Study graph

Key Takeaways

Surprise sparingly.  The more frequent the surprise, the less positive it will make customers feel. Give your staff creative autonomy to make small, personal & unexpected gestures that strike deep. 

Takeaway image

Provide an explanation for the surprise to suppress future unrealistic customer expectations, avoid mistake misconceptions and heighten the sense of personalization. 

Takeaway image

Reframe problems into surprises. During a busy Christmas, Lush (a UK soap store) had a long queue, which an elderly lady holding one item had joined. A shop assistant noticed, pointing out the queue length and that she didn’t need to pay. After he insisted she accept, she hugged him and left the shop with the free item. Another customer then told him that witnessing his kindness  had made her day. Both will recall compassion, positive surprise and stress relief in future perceptions of the Lush brand.

Takeaway image
Takeaway image
Surprise Effect

Surprise Effect

We respond well to positive, unexpected, personal gestures

Unscripted, personal acts are powerful in fostering positive brand experiences. But, unless explained, they’ll also raise future customer expectations…

The study

Setup

435 people were asked to go to a restaurant and split into four groups. They were then either given a surprise free dessert or not, and then finally either given an explanation of the reason for the surprise or not. All were then asked to rate their level of delight.

Results

Those given the explanation rated the surprise as more delightful than those who weren’t.

study graph
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In detail

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