The following post was shared by one of our ILS team members, Jim Kocher

On rare occasions, when traveling by plane, I get bumped up to first class. On a recent trip, the “oshibori” – or hot towel – that was delivered before lunch is a refreshing touch. And surprising! The airline doesn’t have to do it, but it sure is nice.

It took me back to my childhood.

As kids, when my siblings and I were getting tucked in for bed my dad would sometimes bring us a warm washcloth and announce, “Oshibori to refresh ya!” And while we were wiping our face and hands we appreciated what a fun, refreshing and comforting surprise it was.

Companies can easily add touches like this to their service and provide a personal, surprising moment.

At the Hampton Inn, for example, complimentary fresh-baked cookies are available in the lobby when you arrive back in the hotel around “quittin’ time.”

At a Sushi restaurant my wife and I visited recently, the owner stopped by our table, introduced himself and offered us a complimentary sushi roll. Surprise!

The local car rental company noticed I’d traveled 20 miles over my allotted mileage – but they waived the additional cost. “You’re a good customer,” the manager told me. Boom! Surprise.

And in this recent campaign for Buick, magician Michael Carbonaro poses as a Service Representative and he has a special surprise for customers.

In the business of customer service, it’s little surprises that can make a big difference. One of the challenges we see at many health care systems is how to improve the standard lobby approach. You’re probably familiar with it: a care team member stands at the door and shouts the name of the next patient.

What if they were able to replace that process with a more elegant one? What if that same care team member was able to identify the patient using written or verbal cues from the front desk check-in person (tall, bearded man wearing a red shirt, etc.) and then walk up to the patient and calmly ask, “Mr. Bowman? Hi, my name is Megan and I’d be happy to take you back to the exam room now.”

Imagine the sense of surprise and comfort a patient might feel with that type of human, personal touch. It could provide a warm welcome that could reach all the way into the exam room and the physician’s visit.

It could even make the patient want to come back.

Maybe it’s not as warm and fuzzy as Dad’s refreshing Oshibori.

Or getting a free puppy at the Buick Service Center.

But if it makes a patient feel cared for, isn’t it worth it?


Are there unexpected surprises that you’ve received from businesses that really turned your experience into a memorable one? We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below or tweet us at @jakepoore.