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When good things happen at bad times


“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget
what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

~ Maya Angelou

We said goodbye to our best friend three weeks ago.

Like most Labrador retrievers, Charlie was happy 24/7, so it didn’t look like it was his time. But the old guy (he was eleven) had slowed down. The perpetual smile and wagging tail were still there, but the energy was gone. Arthritis had set in, and his legs were failing. In his final weeks, I was carrying 100 pounds of Charlie up the stairs to my office every morning, because some habits never die. He was an office dog until the end.

But this post is more about Dr. Shannon Moffatt, and how she and the staff at her veterinary practice somehow turned a horrible evening into something special. (And why that’s good for Shannon’s business).

The buzz word for this is ’customer experience,’ and it’s everywhere these days. You’ll probably see it defined as “the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company.” While that’s technically correct, it’s mostly BS, and misses the real opportunity.

The customer experience is really about how we make people feel any time they interact with us.   

Disney calls these “magic moments.” They’re the times when we’re reminded of – and feel – everything the brand stands for. For our daughters, Julia and Ally, it was meeting the Disney princesses, hugging Mickey, and watching the three o’clock parade. Each was a moment in which they felt Disney to the core.

These moments come in all shapes and sizes.

The opening of the Apple white box. (Elegant usability.)
The aroma each time you walk into a Starbuck’s. (Relaxation and comfort.)
The roar of a Harley-Davidson engine coming to life. (Energy and rebellion.)

Magic moments even happen when the chips are down.

They’re not limited to just the joyful and the exhilarating.

Think of it. Any pain for our customers (whether we’re the cause or not) is a potential magic moment – an opportunity for us to turn something bad into good. Disney’s mantra even states that, while no one owns the guest, someone always “owns the moment.”

And that’s what Shannon (and Nicole) did that night.

Saying goodbye was hard for them, too. They knew Charlie well. They’d given him (and us) the “fat talk” years ago, prompting Charlie’s diet regimen; they were the ones that removed that ugly stick he’d once caught in his mouth; and they also gave him the weekly laser treatments at the end to ease his aches and pains.

When it came to saying goodbye, they owned the moment in a number of deliberate ways:

  • They came to our home instead of us having to go to the clinic.
  • They arrived punctually, even calling 15 minutes in advance to tell us they were on their way and to manage our expectations.
  • Once here, they explained carefully how the procedure would go – a little sedation to ensure Charlie was calm; followed by an injection that would send him off to sleep quickly and peacefully.
  • They were patient with us as (diet be damned…) Charlie wolfed down six large chocolate chip cookies at the end.
  • They let us spend as much time as we wanted with Charlie before they quietly took him away.
  • Three days later they gave us a ceramic memento of Charlie’s paw print that sits on our coffee table.

Above all, Shannon and Nicole listened and ensured we felt heard. Everything was about what we wanted. In the end, nothing was going to stop our tears. But how special is it that our emotional connection with Oakridge Animal Clinic was never stronger than that night, at the worst possible time? Our saddest experience was the best, if that makes sense.

Here’s the learning.

We humans are emotional beings. The endorphins that run through our bodies trigger feelings and memories. We capture these memories and share them. We tell others about our best experiences, like I’m doing here. We spread stories. It’s wired into our DNA.

It’s why the experience we create is the best form of marketing. Far better than traditional tactics like advertising and promotion.

Whether you’re revolutionizing healthcare, changing the way we travel, providing financial advice, selling software (or burritos), teaching kids to learn, anything at all – remember that the best brands (big and small, in any category) are endearing.

We remember them for how they make us feel.

  1. Are you creating magic moments?
  2. Are you able to turn something bad into good?
  3. How do you make people feel?


P.S. Some brief words on Charlie, if you’re interested.