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Find Your Duck! E = G + SS

What does a duck have to do with your business? Quite simply, when you find your duck, you’ve found something special for your customers that will transform a routine transactional relationship into a memorable one.

Finding My Duck 

For most of my career, I’ve been a traveler. In fact, I love to travel both on the job and off. At one of my previous positions, I frequently found myself on the road for weeks at a time. As a result, I stayed in countless hotel rooms in cities of all shapes and sizes.  

For the most part, each of these establishments was good. What does that mean for a business traveler looking for a place to rest? It’s pretty simple. If I have all the basics covered, I’m generally pretty content: 

  • A helpful desk attendant 
  • A key that works 
  • A bed 
  • A shower 
  • A television
  • And nowadays, fast WiFi 

And that’s essentially what I get with every hotel out there; it doesn’t matter if I’m in New York, California, or anywhere in between. So why do I still, many years later, remember the Holiday Inn in Guntersville, AL, so fondly and still share this story. 

I had checked into the hotel late in the evening and everything had been fine. A nice front desk attendant, a key that worked the first time, a bed, TV, and a bathroom. I got up and went to take my shower, and that’s when it changed. I looked down at the towel, and there it was. Something completely unexpected … 


A small, yellow, rubber duck.  

It immediately made me smile. Why? Because to me, it was something special, a touch of humor and warmth that differentiated that hotel from every other one I stayed at that year. 

And I’ve remembered it ever since. That’s the power of “something special” when it comes to customer experiences. 

Excellence = Good + Something Special 

I have had the privilege of working with teams large and small to transform their interactions with customers into truly memorable experiences, and I applied this lesson from the Guntersville duck to this work. 

When it comes to customer experience, there’s what we call the “good” experience. It’s what happens when what you get as a customer is basically what you wanted. You can’t complain because you reasonably couldn’t have asked for more, and there’s no real deficiency. 

But what is an “excellent” experience? I contend that it’s the addition of the “something special” that transforms the baseline “good” into excellence. An easy way to remember this is to make it into a quasi-mathematical equation:  

E = G + SS  
(Excellence = Good + Something Special) 

For the Holiday Inn, it was the yellow duck that made the difference, but for you, it could be anything your customers don’t expect but would surely appreciate or find fun. Some examples might be: 

  • An office supply company that sends a stapler with the customer’s name on it when they order a large amount of paper. 
  • A bookstore that allows you to wish list books online and sends you one for free on your birthday.
  • A hotel restaurant that gives you a free dessert because the front desk attendant noticed it was your birthday when he checked your ID. 

You can likely add your own “something special” moments. 

The possibilities are truly limitless! I suggest holding several brainstorming sessions with your team to think creatively about what your “something special” will beYou want your customers to be pleasantly surprised by what you provide and not to expect it. 

Want to Learn More About Customer Expectations, Outcomes, and Experiences? 

If you found this blog helpful, I invite you to watch the webinar I gave on this topic on-demand. In it, I cover the topic of E = G + SS as well as other valuable data on customer experiences (did I mention I love data?). 

Watch the Webinar Now

If you have any other questions, I’m more than happy to discuss more with you. I wish you the best as you “find your duck” and create memorable experiences for your customers.  

Mary Malone

Mary Malone

Mary Malone, MS, JD, is a Customer Success Manager at Innovia Consulting. She is a well-rounded strategist, hard-wired for execution. She has experience in a range of roles, including operations, customer service, marketing, sales, and strategy, including senior leadership positions in two start-up survey data companies. Mary describes herself as "a data-geek and culture-freak," with a customer-centric ethos and bias for action. An experienced mentor, she passionately strives to develop the talents of her team members and to be a servant-leader.

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