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Creating Peak Customer Moments

Strategic Storytelling 12/11/18

Written By Anna Sullins

During this Christmas season, I’ve been thinking about ways that businesses can create exceptional customer experiences in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. I wanted to share a recent customer experience from Biltmore that was featured by Chip and Dan Heath in their “Collection of Peak Moments,” a compilation of unique customer moments that highlight the power of brief experiences and their long-term impact on our memory. As the Heath brothers put it; when people assess an experience they seem to rate the experience based on two key moments: (1) the best or worst moment, known as the “peak”; and (2) the ending. Psychologists call it the “peak-end rule.”

Businesses that create defining moments for their customers out of the unique opportunities presented to them can build brand loyalty and customers for life during the Christmas season and all year long. Here’s the Biltmore story.

The Story

A couple from Austin, Texas (Mary Ellen and Randy) came to Biltmore Estate, nestled in the beautiful mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, to celebrate a special occasion with some friends. Little did Mary Ellen know, but Randy was planning to propose to her during their visit to the Estate. Biltmore has breathtaking natural beauty throughout the 8,000 acre property, and Randy decided that the bridge over the Bass Pond would be the most picturesque place of all.

As they were strolling across the bridge, he began his nervous speech. He dropped to one knee, drew a small box from his pocket, and asked Mary Ellen to marry him. She said yes!  He then clumsily fidgeted with the box, and opened the top to reveal the stunning ring; unfortunately, a spring in the box malfunctioned, sending the beautiful diamond ring (not yet insured) flying through the air and into the pond at the bottom of the waterfall many feet below. The couple rushed into the water, and frantically searched for the ring to no avail.

Tired, wet, and desperate, Mary Ellen approached a Biltmore gardener to explain what happened. For the next several days, Biltmore’s gardening team, along with members of many other departments, served as a support system for the despairing couple, while utilizing clever approaches to locate the ring (one example was dropping dimes off the bridge from the spot the ring was dropped, then returning to the water to see where the coins landed). Ultimately, Biltmore worked with Randy to bring a scuba diver to the estate, who located the ring with an underwater metal detector with a platinum setting. What could have been a depressing memory, turned into a peak moment for Mary Ellen and Randy, as well as a fantastic story that will be shared for generations to come!

Where does your organization have opportunities to create peak moments for your customers? One way is through the use of strategic storytelling, which cements concepts in our customers minds. To learn more about how you can use Strategic Storytelling for measurable results in your company, check out our upcoming workshop dates and register by March 15, 2019 to save 15%!


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Anna Sullins is the Training & Development Manager for Biltmore, overseeing the learning and professional development programs for Biltmore’s 2,500 employees.

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