The Power of Surprise and Delight

Those who know me well know that I have two major food groups in my life: Mike & Ikes and Panera. Really, those are the only two things needed to sustain life on this planet. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration…’cuz one can always use a little Kansas City BBQ now and then!

I have already waxed eloquently about Mike & Ikes in the very first blog post on Moments of Clarity. Not just about how delicious these oblong, fruit-flavored, chewy gelatin filled candies are…but on the devastating social impact of their recent split. I still get a little verklempt just thinking about it.

Now it’s time to expound on all of the important virtues of Panera. And oh, there are so many!!

First of all, to me, Panera is the perfect restaurant for my current lifestyle. I can get a healthy meal (You Pick 2 – are you kidding me?!? I want to pick everything!), free WiFi and the opportunity to mix the perfect combination of Diet Pepsi and Cherry Pepsi for a tasty carbonated treat.

But the one thing that has intrigued me most about Panera of late is the launch of their MyPanera loyalty program. There’s not much to tell you about the program because it’s an “unpublished loyalty program” that is based solely on the age-old element of Surprise and Delight.

You don’t know how and when you will earn your rewards with My Panera. They magically appear after you exhibit some behaviors that Panera warrants as worthy. You just give them your phone number (or swipe your card) at each visit and occasionally, some pleasant employee will either surprise you or delight you with a reward that you have earned.

I have enjoyed free drinks, $5 off a You Pick 2, free pastries and even a free soufflé, one of our favorite items on the menu. So many surprises…so many delights!!

To me, there are a number of cool and simple benefits of this program:

  • Fun, surprise rewards at unexpected times
  • No points to track
  • No coupons to print or remember
  • No membership fee
  • Track your rewards online to know what you’re getting before you go to eat (although I don’t do that – I want to be surprised!!)

Sure, there are a few downsides, too – like:

  • You never know what you’re getting or when…and you are especially disappointed when there are NO surprises on a visit (although that’s a surprise in and of itself!)
  • You have no idea what behaviors they want – are they tracking my spending or my visits or the number of times I blog about them?!?!
  • Rewards expire if you don’t use them within 60 days. That has even happened to me during the dark period I now simply refer to as, “The Summer without Panera.”

The merits of the MyPanera program have already been reviewed, debated, discussed and dissected by loyalty experts all around, including this article from our smart friends and partners at rDialogue.

My feelings are very simple – I like the program. Probably because I like Panera. Now, truth be told, I am going to dine there whether or not they have this loyalty program. My visits have not increased, my orders have not gotten larger – but my experience has changed. MyPanera has made the experience that much more enjoyable, exciting and delicious (the food just tastes better when you are surprised and delighted!). No other loyalty program has really created that emotion for me.

The theory behind MyPanera offers some practical lessons for nonprofits:

  • Surprise and delight your constituents. You saw that one coming, didn’t you? But c’mon. It’s not that hard and creates an enhanced experience for any donor, volunteer or advocate. Be creative. Be fun. You can even be spontaneous. But make it an integral part of how you build relationships with your constituents.
  • Realize that not all of your programs are designed to create new champions. If you love Panera, you likely love this program. But guess what? If you don’t like Panera, chances are real good that MyPanera will have exactly zero impact on your decision to dine with them. The program is not for you. But too many nonprofits try to build the perfect program that will help acquire, grow and retain relationships all at once. Be more focused with the objective of your program and realize that NOT every program is for everyone.
  • Figure out who really loves you – and love them back. I really love Panera (I think I have already said that!). And now they know it. Do you know who really loves your organization? They may not be giving you the most money or time or advocacy…yet. There’s a big difference between a supporter and an advocate or champion. Find them, love them and cherish them.
  • Think about creating a loyalty program for your organization. Sure, nonprofits reward loyal donors and volunteers. They usually do that with a special event or a thank you note or an ad in a newspaper. But what if you took one step forward and actually built a loyalty program and rewarded constituents for their loyalty? I know, I know – the topic is taboo as the traditional theory is that folks should want to give their time and treasure for altruistic reasons and not for rewards. But until nonprofits start breaking out of the traditional box, we may not see the transformations that we all desire…and this country so desperately needs. But I’ll leave that to another blog post – or let Dan Pallotta tackle the topic! (He’s so good at challenging the industry.)

Food for thought (pun intended!). Feel free to do any of the four things noted above…or in honor of Panera, maybe You Pick 2!

About Craig Wood

Husband. Father. CEO. Working with those who make the world a better place. Trying my best to help.
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