Workplace blogs
Workplace blogs

Are Your Surprising Your Customers?

It’s great being back at the old office after attending the International Group for Humor Studies conference in Utrecht, Netherlands, followed by hiking, caving, wining and dining in Slovenia, Croatia and Venice. There was always something surprising to discover around every corner, which got me thinking about some of the fun ways we were surprised by businesses throughout our travels: Europe 2014 322

  • The Hotel Villa Dobra in beautiful Bovec, Slovenia, surprised us with their odd room numbering system. The eleven rooms in this charming boutique hotel went from number 136 to 007 to 50 etc. – there was no rhyme or reason to the numbers until we discovered that each room contained a poster explaining how the room number related to a local feature of interest. 007 referred to a connection James Bond had to the area. Room 50 referenced the 50 switchbacks on the highway over the Julian Alps. And our own number 136 was the length (in kilometers) of the river flowing through the valley. Each of the 11 rooms had a number that conveyed an interesting story about the region.
  • A waiter in a quaint Italian restaurant in Venice surprised me by flipping over the bill and challenging me to a game of tic-tac-toe for the bill. (And before you ask, sadly, I lost before it had barely started.)
  • The B & B Casa Del Sal in Piran, Slovenia, surprised us with a bottle of Slovenian wine and bowl of locally grown olives and figs from their own orchard as a welcome gift.
  • A professor at the humor conference surprised me when he informed me, in a rather conspiratorial tone, that it was “very controversial here to use humor in presentations on humor.” (This one reminded me that not every surprise is a welcome one!)
  • Finally, although this didn’t happen to us in Europe, I learned about it while on the trip: TD Bank surprised some customers by turning a banking machine into a “thanking machine”.

So take some time in your workplace travels this summer to think about some simple and fun ways that you can surprise your customers, colleagues, or employees with something unexpected that will get them talking about you.

Michael Kerr is an international business speaker and the author of five books, including Putting Humor to Work, The Humor Advantage and Inspiring Workplaces.  Find out how Michael can help your business succeed by contacting his office at


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