All Good Things Are Wild and Free

share_03 (2)Henry David Thoreau wrote those words many moons ago. Wild and free are two vital features of innovative service.

Good service is like meat and potatoes…core sustenance is its driving force. It is your hotel room being clean and comfortable. Great service is like dessert…extra is its spearhead. It is the front desk clerk remembering your name and special requests. But, innovative service is like sprinkles…surprise is its mainspring. It is a lottery ticket or foreign coin left on your hotel pillow during turndown service instead of the proverbial chocolate.

So, how do you get from the meat and potatoes of service to the sprinkles of service? Get wild and free! Sprinkles should be added with the abandon and flamboyance of a princess with a wand. It works best when it feels spontaneous and unexpected even if the choreography is crafted in advance. When my wife traded in her old car for a new model, the service tech could have told her that he had programmed her radio stations from her trade-in. It would have been like the front desk clerk remembering stuff. By letting her discover it a week or so later, he elevated a nice gesture to the sprinkles level of surprise.

Organizations famous for adding sprinkles to their customers’ experience place great emphasis on employee freedom. The mother of a Zappo’s customer had a medical treatment that left her feet sensitive to pressure. The daughter ordered her mother six pairs of shoes, hoping one would work. After receiving the shoes, her mother called Zappos to get instructions on how to return the shoes that didn’t work, explaining why she was returning so many shoes. Two days later, she received a large bouquet of flowers from Zappos, with a note hoping her mother recovered from her treatments soon. A core focus of Zappo’s: “Delivering happiness” and employees are encouraged to “create fun and a little weirdness.”

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