Innovative Service

What Time Zone is Your Customer In?

Time zones have always been a thinker’s game to me. I still do not really get Greenwich time or how time measurement is really all made up. I do know the birds and squirrels in my backyard get up and start foraging for food at the same time every day all year long without benefit of the clock, calendar, or whether to fall back or spring forward.Time litters our language big time. We mark it, buy it, kill it, make it, tell it, and do it. There is downtime, hard time, bad time, big time, and high time. We worry about a nick of time, a stitch of time, and my how time flies. We want to buy time so we have more spare time. We avoid crunch time so ....read more

The Meticulous Creation of Great Service

Every famous beverage—from Dom Perignon to Coors beer—is laced with great stories. Champagne lovers know that a Benedictine monk and cellar master named Dom Perignon was the “father of champagne” and invited his friends over to “taste the stars!” Coors lovers enjoy the story of people from the East coast importing purchased beer in their luggage when the beer was only available West of the Colorado-New Mexico border.I am a fan of Jack Daniels Single Barrel Sour Mash Charcoal filtered whiskey. There are many stories about founder Jack Daniel. I want to focus on the present-day story of how the whiskey is made. Fast-forward from the i ....read more

Does Your Service Make Customers “Purr?”

A two-week four-thousand-mile road journey over the winter holidays gave our cat a trip to “camp,” as we call the nearby facility where she is occasionally boarded. It is a very nice place that gives her a daily brush-out, lots of TLC, and her favorite activity—tree time. Tree time is an hour of play on a giant climbing toy with many tunnels and holes. But, being at camp is not the same as being at home where she can do her professional work—20 hours of sleep a day plus keeping the elephants out of our yard! She does a good job as we have yet to have a single elephant intrusion!When we picked her up after New Year’s Day, we got the lo ....read more

What Chair is Your Service?

It started with a discussion over the duties of a particular committee chair at my church.  After twenty minutes of esoteric ballyhoo ranging from “the chair provides order” (not a big worry in my conservative church), and “the chair brings leadership” (we are all leaders), the person who was voted into the role stopped the fluffy debate by finally saying, “We are here for service and the chair is the chief service provider.” Her great answer got me thinking about the other meanings of chair, especially when applied to the world of service. he most obvious meani ....read more

So, What’s Santa Bringing You?

My wife and I are in the middle of brainstorming cool presents for our three granddaughters. We asked them for suggestions. The 11 and 13 year olds took a clipboard and made a list, complete with brand names and model numbers. But, the 9 year old took a completely different approach. On the clipboard under her name she wrote, “Just surprise me!”Customer service for many years had more than its share of surprises. My hometown grocer would give my brother, sister and me a free fireball when my parents were there to buy groceries. Fireballs were a super popular hard candy. It was not that long ago the mechanic would repair something he spotted ....read more

Do You Deliver Knockout Service?

It is December and two beautiful flowers are blooming at my house. A Christmas cactus that only shows its gorgeous red flowers in December, and a large collection of Knock Out roses that bloom red roses all year long. It is like customer service. Sometimes, we deliver great service right after something went wrong, or during Customer Service Week in early October, or when we know the snoopervisor is within earshot. But, great customer service is like the Knock Out ro ....read more

Getting Your Customers To Paint

“My right hand shakes a bit as you can see,” he said, as he was serving his plate next to me at the giant salad bar. “But, when I stand at the easel and paint, it does not shake at all.”The author of these powerful words came from a high school classmate at our recent class reunion. Phil Lavely is a renowned painter of wildlife in the Savannah area. His fascinating lines caused me to research if this phenomenon was unique to Dr. Phil, or more of a universal one. I learned an important fact: when people focus on the process and not just the result, their stress level drops significantly. You can read more about it in Painting Your Way Ou ....read more

Take Your Customers on a Camping Trip

I am an avid fan of camping. Not the KOA type with too many loud TV’s, barking dogs and kids with no governor on their decibel level. I prefer primitive camping in a tent and sleeping bag in a remote area with no amenities but the ones you bring or create. You are surrounded by pure serenity and raw nature. Cooking breakfast is a creation done slowly and all by hand. Ba ....read more

Service Without an Upcharge

It was a small gesture. But, it was one that carried a giant meaning. Plus, it was a detail that played out in many ways from start to finish.My wife and I had an early morning breakfast at the Huddle House in Clarkesville, GA, a few miles from our river home. Their colorful menu had a favorite of mine—a fluffy western omelet with ham, cheese, bell peppers, and onions. But, I also spotted jalapenos as a 99-cent side item at the bottom of the menu. Being a Texas transplant, my bias is to put jalapenos on just about everything I eat. When the super friendly waitress took our order, I requested the special omelet but without onions and with jala ....read more

My Tree Guy Goes Barefooted!

Brand loyalty starts and ends with the physical investment of its caretakers. When Ford turnaround CEO, Alan McNally, was CEO of Boeing, he drove a high-end Lexus. But, once his business address changed from Seattle to Detroit, his car preference changed to a Ford. Even Ford Chairman Bill Ford, whose great-grandfather started the company, selected a Mustang over a pricier Ford-owned brand like Aston Martin or Jaguar.

Brand loyalty, however, is not just about the actions of the residents of mahogany row. It includes the behaviors and attitudes of every person who fronts that brand. Custo ....read more

Rocky Horror Service

I love Halloween. It comes with permission to dress up as something or someone else giving you the license behind the mask to be very silly and extreme. The accouterments that accompany this special day are also super cool—pumpkins with scary faces and candles inside, witches on broomsticks, spiders in webs, ghosts, and the best part---extra candy! When I was growing up, we made Halloween over-the-top. But, my best memory of Halloween was going to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show at midnight.

The Rocky Horro ....read more

Hurricane-Force Service

Jerry’s Bait and Tackle is a watering hole near my lakefront home. It is an old-fashioned, all-purpose grocery store that sells everything from gasoline to fish bait to lottery tickets. Jerry’s know where the fish are biting, the latest community gossip, and where to buy anything your heart desires. They have been an institution at Lake Oconee for many, many years. Practically everyone within fifty miles of the lake knows Jerry’s. So, it is not surprising they would be customer-centric in challenging times.Hurricane Irma came ashore in South Florida, barreled across the state into Florida and Georgia with Lake Oconee in its crosshairs. It ....read more

Insuring Great Service

“Would you like the extended warranty with that?”

That's what clerk asked me, as I was checking out of a local retail store. Earlier that day I had attempted to pick up a chair I was having reupholstered. “It’s not quite ready,” said the man.  “We need to Scotchguard® the fabric, especially since you have grandkids.”   L.L. Bean will take back my fly-fishing boots and refund my money if I am not satisfied, even I have worn the boots a very long time.

Customers value the Good Housekeeping feeling they get from the guarantee that comes ....read more

Are Your Customers ‘Leaf’-ing?

Fall leaves are a lot like customers. They typically don’t depart simply due to the lure of a competitor like gravity invites a leaf to the ground. They are pushed out by the negative force of poor or indifferent service.All my life I thought that Fall leaves departed the tree because they got too old to hang onto the branch and gravity bested their grasp. It does not work that way. Peter Raven, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden and a renowned botanist, reports that trees literally throw their leaves off of the limb. It is much like a customer throws a service provider off their preferred list.Here is how leaves become the prey o ....read more

Customer Service Week – Friday Hero

How would you feel if the grand opening of your new upscale steakhouse restaurant was in the fall of 2008? As your doors were opening, the Dow was falling 3600 points. Discretionary income was suddenly zero. And, your patronage was only 10% of what normal time would have produced.  That was the situation faced by Mark and Terri Stark, owners of Stark Steakhouse in Santa Rosa, CA.  This is their story:“We were having to throw out pricey food since the shelf life of a fresh quality steak is limited.  So, we said let’s just give it away so to speak! A Happy hour saved us!  We focused on a fun experience and over-the-top generosity!  We to ....read more

Customer Service Week – Thursday Hero

Neighborhood Cleaners on Lake Oconee has been my dry cleaners for a few years. Like all great dry cleaners, they pick up and deliver if you prefer. They are as ecologically sensitive as they are interpersonally friendly. They’ll do off-the-beaten-path requests like fixing a tear, hem a skirt, or scotch guard your sofa pillow covers. They also do great recovery if there is a service hiccup.One time one of their cleaning machines got rebellious and ripped a hole in my pricey dress pants. They reimbursed me the original cost of the pants along with providing world-class mea culpa. But, they went beyond the call of duty by sending my pants to an ....read more

Customer Service Week – Wednesday Hero

Georganne Mires at Colwick Travel in Dallas has been my travel agent for over twenty years. When my friends chide me about why I don’t have tons of money by booking my flights and hotels on Tripadvisor, Orbitz or Expedia, I just tell them a Georganne story.“Assume you landed late at midnight in Columbus and your flight connection to Chicago has long gone. All the following morning flights have already been booked by passengers whose flights were canceled before you arrived. Can your travel agent find you a charter plane to get you to O’Hare in time for your 8 am keynote?”“It is 10 pm and all flights from Newark to Atlanta are canc ....read more

Customer Service Week – Tuesday Hero

I walked into the restaurant at the Park Inn west of Harrisburg, PA. From the back of the restaurant I heard, “Good morning, how would you like your coffee?” When I said black, the voice warmly responded, “Take any table you like and I’ll have your coffee there before you can sit down!”My day was off like a colorful merry-go-round!“I’m Sandy. Do I get the pleasure of serving you today?” she asked as she served my coffee and handed me the menu. The breakfast was perfect and served quickly. Periodically Sandy checked to make sure all was well. There was no chit-chat, just attentiveness...and, lots of smiles aimed at my table. ....read more

Customer Service Week—Monday Hero

Today is October 2. National Customer Service Week will be this week--October 2-6. Over the next five days, I will celebrate heroes who deliver over-the-top innovative service. And, I start with a master shoe repair person—David Cooper!

I took my beloved Lucchese boots to McMillan’s shoe repair store for new soles and heels. Leaving them in the hands of a stranger was no doubt like leaving your hand built, perfectly restored sports car with a new mechanic. When I returned a few days later, they were perfectly restored and out of the emergency room.

....read more

Plain Vanilla Service Sucks!

Plain Vanilla Service Sucks!

I have a true confession; I almost always go for the “off the beaten path” choice.  Tried and true is typically trumped by “I’ve never had that before.”  So you can imagine my reaction when the waiter seated us and handed us the breakfast menu with the announcement: “The buffet is a much better value than a-la-carte.”  But when he observed my nonplused reception he added, “...but, none of the local flavors are on the buffet.”So, what did his announcement really mean?  He meant that very good food could be found on their standard buffet—eggs (any style), bacon, sausage, pancakes, toast, pastries, fruit, yogurt, and cereal ....read more

Special Delivery Service

I pulled into the parking lot of a nearby Home Depot and what to my wondering eyes should appear?  The sign you see above.  Two special parking spots reserved for “Veteran Parking Only—Thank You for Your Service.”  Since I am a proud veteran, I pulled my SUV into the parking space and smiled. But, here is the best part.  My wife, who is not a veteran, commented, “Sure makes me want to come back!”Gandhi said, “The greatness of a n ....read more

Insuring Swimming Pools Against Theft

I recently had my car served. When I looked at the bill, it showed a charge for a front end alignment.  It just so happened that the week prior to this routine oil change, I accidentally ran over a curb and took the car into the same car service business for a front-end alignment.  When I asked for an explanation of the charge, the service person said, “We always do a front-end alignment when we do a routine oil change.” When I mentioned they had done an alignment just the we ....read more

Signing Your Customers

I live on a large lake known for great fishing and boating.  My neighbor put a large sign on the lake side of his boathouse that read: “Put Bimini Top Down.” The sign does more than warn the driver of the boat to lower the aluminum frame supported canvas cover before entering the boat house, it tells a story. Someone at some time forgot to lower it and the entire top got ripped off. Or, Scott feared that might happen.All signs can potentially tell a story to you ....read more

Innovative Service as a Summer Camp

We are in the season of summer camp! My three granddaughters all went to camp in July...for two weeks and in another state. Two went to camp in a neighboring state.  But, Kaylee, the oldest, flew cross country to California to an exclusively outdoor camp without knowing a soul. Before she went, if you talked with her about the California camp, you could hear a bit of apprehension in her voice.  But, when she was packing her large backpack and looking at the camp website, she was super ....read more

What’s In Your Customer Rolodex?

It had been over two years since I had stayed at the downtown Chicago Marriott. I hardly recognized the lobby interior given their renovation since my last stay. But, the desk clerk assumed I had the memory of an elephant and said, “You stayed on the 31st floor on the West side last time you were here. Would you like a similar room on that same floor again?” ....read more

How is Your Service Egress?

My mountain river house has a really cool feature. About 50 feet from the back porch there is a platform that sits right on the river bank. It is a romantic spot to sit and watch/hear/feel the river rushing by, especially on a clear starry night. Between the porch and the platform is a set of long steps leading down to the platform, and then on down a few more feet to the riverbank.Now, here is the best part. There is a two-way light that enables you to turn on the lights at the po ....read more

United Airlines Should’ve Followed JetBlue’s lesson

Actions speak louder than words. We know a company is telling the truth by their history of promise keeping.The focus should be less about immediate damage control and more about building a deep reservoir of trust. There will always be hiccups. Customer service is all about relationships, and to err is human. Customers do not expect a company to be perfect; they do, however, expect the company to care—especially when service fails to deliver what was promised.With that deep reserv ....read more

Does Your Service Have a Busy Stage Door?

The stage door. It is the thespian demarcation line between fact and fiction; between fantasy and reality. It is the place adoring fans await to see performers after a play or concert. It is a setting for autographs, selfies, and intimate relationship-building. It is the groundwater of late night conversations and golly gee whiz memories. St ....read more

Is Your Customer Service Accessible?

Customer-Centricity by Chip Bell: Is Your Customer Service Accessible?What if you were required to fill out an online form if wanted the phone number or address of an enterprise with whom you wanted to do business? Let’s say you were driving to a meeting at their location and you needed to contact someone to let them know you were unavoidably detained. You would have to pull over on the side of the road, fill out the online form, wait for a response, making you even later. Sound lu ....read more

Unleashing the Power of Small Batch Service

The news announces that Sears is closing stores. Last week Macy’s and JC Penney made similar announcements. What’s happening to big box merchandising? Some can be blamed on the change in buyer demographics—“shop ‘til you drop” baby boomers are buying less as they approach their later years; millennials are more frugal than were their parents. Some can be chalked up to the increase in e-tailers—the speed and simplicity of buying online. But, there is another reason—the ....read more

Bill Treasurer is a Kaleidoscope Leader

leadership kick in the assKaleidoscopes are really cool toys. Turn them or shake them and they surprise you with their ever changing cavalcade of sparkles! But, the stones inside (granddaughters call them jewels) never change. You don’t open up a kaleidoscope and change the cut glass that creates the visual magic. Great leaders are like that—their influence is ever changing as they help others grow and achieve. But that influence reflects core values inside that never ....read more

Service Like a Candle

candle “Is this a happy day for you?” I cheerfully asked the sales clerk as I was checking out of a large retail store.  Ironically, “Joy to the World” was playing in the background and twinkling holiday lights were everywhere.  To be honest, my query had an ulterior motive.  I was trying to lift up the outer corners of her despondent countenance.But, she was not taking my obvious cheer-you-up bait.  Without looking up from her toil she said, “I am paid to correctly ring ....read more

Hardwire Learning into Customer Contact Performance

Call centerA reputable B2B company recently received feedback indicating widespread customer concern they were not helping their customers remain on the cutting edge of their own industries. The company was so focused on trying to sell they lost sight of helping their customers stay informed on their new applications, new techniques for product use, and more. In an effort to resolve the issue, the company then implemented a “hardwire learning” initiative that inclu ....read more

Why Not Add Elegance?

Hotel lobby with service bell and doors

We checked into the Lake Lure Inn. Built in 1927, the antique North Carolina hotel served as command central for the making of the movie Dirty Dancing. You now can stay in the Patrick Swayze Suite or the Jennifer Gray Suite. Furnished with exquisite period furniture with meticulous attention to detail, guests feel elevated, enchanted and enriched.

We had dinner in their Ve ....read more

Olympic Service with Abundance

765474The antique pipe under the bathroom sink at my weekend river house finally busted, streaming water all over the floor.  Fortunately, I was there when it happened and could quickly stop the hemorrhaging.  But, it was 9 o’clock at night and I needed a part I did not have in order to repair the pipe.  I called the hardware store in the little mountain town nearby hop ....read more

A Ring for Your Customer’s Horses

 Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 8.40.56 AMThe Medici family was the richest family in Italy in the 15th and 16th centuries. Based in Florence, their banks (one of the first branch banking systems in history) loaned money to kings and rulers throughout Europe. They were to Europe what John Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie or J.P. Morgan was to the U.S. The Medici family was as powerful as it was generous. The powerful family (especially Loren ....read more

Star Spangled Service

Screen Shot 2016-07-01 at 3.22.02 PMWalk into the lobby of a Westin Hotel and your nose knows the scent suddenly shifts from the “smell of the street” to a signature fragrance called “White Tea.” Reach the checkout counter of Dallas garden center Nicholson-Hardie and you can pet a big calico cat sprawled across the counter complete with business ....read more

Lighting Up Customers With Sprinkles

  15223336584_3bcf3d1d81_zToday was my semi-annual dental cleaning. My dentist, Dr. Norm Lee, is a big fan of “only cleaning the teeth you plan to keep!” I got more than clean teeth; I got service with sprinkles. But, I am getting way ahead of myself. My teeth cleaning started with a text two weeks ago reminding me of the date and time.

The day before my appointment, I got another text with another rem ....read more

Service with a Magic Touch

magic wand and hatThe Platters were a favorite singing group of mine. They had forty songs that made the Top 100; four that were #1 hits. One of their top songs opens with the lyrics: “You've got the magic touch; it makes me glow so much. It casts a spell, it rings a bell, the magic touch.” Now, assume your customers were singing a song about their experience when dealing with you and your organization. What ....read more

The EASY Way to Customer Loyalty

Guest Post by Joseph Michelli, Ph.D38987Ok, the title is a smidge misleading. If customer loyalty was something easily achieved, the American Customer Satisfaction Index would not be approaching a 9-year low.  However, “EASE” is a key to driving customer satisfaction, engagement, loyalty and referrals.In this, the age of the consumer, people increasingly want knowledgeable sales people, veritably perfect products, rich sets of product and service offerings, ....read more

Create a Stained Glass Experience

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Leading a Culture of Innovation

slsA CEO met with her senior staff and posed a typical CEO question: “What strategies and tactics would you recommend if we needed to increase our productivity by 10%?” Her executives quickly outlined belt-tightening steps and “do more with less” recommendations. Then she asked, “What if needed to increase our productivity by 100%?” After a long pause, one bold executive answered, “You cannot get there from here; we would have to completely redesign how we get work done.”We are ....read more

Holiday Serving Under-The-Gun

11711894985_5884a091fb_zH ....read more

The Night Before Conference

Christmas red background with fir branches and balls. Vector illustration. 'Twas the night before conference and all through the hall,not a vendor was stirring, no emails no calls. The banners were hung ‘ore the expo hall floor,and signage was out by each breakout room door Attendees were nestled in hotel room beds,while visions of networking danced in their heads. And I with my beeper, my cell phone on mute,had just reached the ....read more

Dont Get Sucker Punched by Competitors

16965730784_df97de1684_z“Sucker punch” is an in ....read more

Who’s ‘Killing’ Your Customers?

1484360775_8391c2ce1a_zJerry Lee Lewis (aka, The Kil ....read more

Outcome after the Outcome

13903383668_c592e7438e_zThe outcome in grocery shopping is to get groceries desired as conveniently as possible, but that’s not the final memory the customer has of the experience. Ever gotten home and discovered two eggs were cracked? Or have a bloody cut of meat soil the birthday card you bought for Aunt Molly? Too often the grocery store is in the mix of negative thoughts associated with the ....read more

Surprise Your Customers with Hidden Treasure

Cracker JackWe had our granddaughters visit one weekend at our lake home. There is absolutely nothing more jarringly creative than a nine-year-old or more innocent than a seven-year old. Grandparents wonder why their grandchildren can’t stay “puppies!!”One morning we decided to stage an elaborate backyard treasure hunt. The girls decorated their treasure boxes while we drew each a detailed map of the y ....read more

It’s Not Easy Being Green

green frogKermit the Frog (a.k.a., Jim Henson) sang an insightful song on both Sesame Street and The Muppet Show“It’s Not Easy Being Green.” It could be about remarkable service. Some of the lyrics (written by Joe Raposo) ....read more

Build Customer Loyalty through Participation

church picnic“Dinner on the ground” was code for participation in small towns in the South when we were growing up. While this event went with all family reunions, its most special form of community occurred after certain church services. “Dinner on the ground” was a super event for little boys to run, holler and pull ponytails pretty much unsupervised since their caretakers were occupied with set-up and cleanup ....read more

Share Your Customer’s Affinity

I votedWelcome to October! It's ....read more

Service Choreography

choreographyMy wife and I grabbed a quick weekend in New ....read more

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Warning: Crude language ahead! ....<a class=read more

Celebrating National Bottom Line Week?

Check out this quick video to find out what I've cooked up for "National Bottom Line Week!"Alright! Now that you know what we're really celebrating here on the blog for the next two weeks let's get on with number 10 in our countdown of National Customer Service Week tips.Give 'em Your BestHow would you feel if the grand opening of your new upscale steakhouse restaurant was in the fall of 2008? As your doors were opening, the Dow was falling 3600 points. Discretionary income was ....read more

The Egress of Service

074197b3Most every bridge in the country has the sign, “Bridge freezes before road.” The reason for the warning is grounded in the fact that every side of the bridge is exposed where only the surface of the road is exposed. And, bridges are often constructed of steel and concrete which are better conductors of heat than road asphalt. But, the sign is also a metaphor for the service journey of customers.The ....read more

Cirque du Service

7684300692_955d221423_zCirque du Soleil performances are like sprinkles…they touch you in an emotional way and with a kind of whimsical flair. They make you want to eat the icing and skip the cake. Analyzing the magic of a Cirque du Soleil ....read more

Sprinkles as Invisible Service

thumbnailThis photo is a powerful symbol of service invisibility. Here’s the back story. Luxury hotels of yesterday were concerned about protecting guests’ privacy. Housekeepers never wanted to disturb. During the wee hours of the morning, housekeepers leaned a broom straw against the bottom of the guest room door. A straw in place signaled the guest was in the room; knocking on the door to clean the room on ....read more

The Egalitarian Delight-Maker

8457736952_f723f38792_zWhen famed anthropologist Margaret Mead first visited Samoa in the South Pacific, it led her to write in the preface of her book Coming of Age in Samoa, "Courtesy, modesty, good manners, conformity to definite ethical standards are universal… It is instructive to know that standards differ in the most unexpected ways.” Her non-judgmental approach to the targ ....read more

The Kaleidoscope World of Innovative Service

11771644286_64b6f385c0_zWe have a coffee table with three antique viewing devices displayed. There is a magnifying glass, a set of opera glasses, and a kaleidoscope. It is always interesting to watch which apparatus our three granddaughters will enjoy when they come for a visit. Let’s just say the kaleidoscope gets the most attention.The kaleidoscope has three features the oth ....read more

Innovative Service is Super Comforting

cat-650420_1280Tabby was a new kitten to the neighborhood. Escaping from her brand new owner’s side porch one afternoon, she climbed to the top of the tallest tree in the area. Neighbors advised the owner to let Tabby come down on her own. But after a night in the tree, the young kitten seemed determined to not go kitty skydiving.The fire department said there would be a $200 fee for a visit fr ....read more

Innovative Service: Making Your Mark

tattoo-artist-556036_1280My nephew came home after his first semester at college sporting a brand new tattoo on his ankle—the Greek letters of his new fraternity! He was very proud of it and eager to show it off. Despite the wintry conditions of the Christmas holidays, he refused to wear socks. His parents were less than amused.We teased him with the question—“How would ....read more

Innovative Service as a “Jack-in-the-box”

3670957644_944cbd5bb9_zThere is something magical about a jack-in-the-box. First, the toy is always colorful. Most make happy music as you wind the crank. But, the coolest part is the fact that you never know exactly when the “jack” is going to pop out of the box. What makes this toy such an alluring novelty is the element of surprise.Innovative service is like a jack-in-the-b ....read more

On The Other Side of Innovative Service Basics

amazon-447033_1280“When USA Today, Temkin Group, and Business Week all picked Amazon.com as the #1 best service company—an on-line fulfillment company—it’s proof good old fashioned service is dead.” The comment sounded like a “kids are going to the dogs” statement someone’s grandfather might make. But, it was coming from a non-computer savvy physician in one of our client focus ....read more

Focusing on Your Customer’s I-Chart

tabasco-616714_1280I love Tabasco pepper sauce…on just about everything. Having lived a while in New Mexico and having working a lot in Mexico and Central America, I have a strong preference for hot spicy food, especially if it has a Hispanic style. A good breakfast is not a perfect breakfast without a few jalapenos on the side and a lot of Tabasco pepper sauce on top.One morning I walk ....read more

Adding a Special Attraction

649397795_e69a42a28e_zBetty ....read more

Disrupting Ahead of Your Customer

photo-1420819453217-57b6badd9e19“If I had asked people what they wanted,” Henry Ford is rumored to have said, “They would have said faster horses.” Now, before you fire the market research department, it is important to remember Henry Ford’s arrogance about customers also lead him to chide, “Customers can have any color car they like as a long as it is bl ....read more

Are Your Customers Getting Ubered?

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetUber is a six-year old transportation company that works like a combination of a car service and a taxi. Now in over 50 countries and 200 cities, Uber is transforming the taxi industry. Uber is also a metaphor of what customers are coming to expect. Not tried Uber? Here is a brief overview. As you read about it, ....read more

Innovative Service as a Calliope

share_04 (2)Make my service engaging and colorful. Make it perfectly fit the situation and setting. Compel me to be a part of it, not just a spectator or bystander. Influence me to want more and more of it. Entice me to smile, even laugh. And, make it as nostalgic as an attic souvenir and as fresh as a first trip to Disney World. Make it like a calliope!Calliopes were a part of the old-fashioned circus tha ....read more

The Taste of Customer Disappointment

share_13 (1)“Because of Winn-Dixie” was a 2005 hit movie based on the best-selling novel by Kate DiCamillo. In one scene the movie’s star, 10-year old Opal (played by AnnaSophia Robb) with her new dog Winn-Dixie, visit the local storytelling librarian, Miss Franny. The storyteller spins a tale about her great grandfather who created a candy factory that baked feelings of sadness into a sweet candy he cal ....read more

What if Service Were a Treasure Hunt?

share_15We had our granddaughters visit one weekend at our lake home. There is absolutely nothing more jarringly creative than a five-year-old or more innocent than a three-year old. Grandparents wonder why their grandchildren can’t stay “puppies!!”One morning we decided to stage an elaborate backyard treasure hunt. The girls decorated their treasure boxes while we drew each a detailed map of the yard. W ....read more

The Voice of Innovative Service

share_02 (2)“What do you think sprinkles would sound like if they could talk?” my always-thinking-out-of-box granddaughter asked me over a mouth full of cookie dough. As any good grandparent would do, I turned the question. “What do you think, Annabeth?”Without a second’s delay she said, “They would tell the cupcake, ‘Happy, Merry, Trick or Surprise!’” It was clear she viewed the expressi ....read more

The Sprinkles Power of a Loaner

share_17 (2)It was not a fancy restaurant. My hotel did not have a restaurant so I walked a block to this simple diner. I was there for a late breakfast before beginning my work with a client in the afternoon. There were only two people in the restaurant…a couple waiting for their check. The happy-go-the waitress poured my coffee and took my order. Moments later she returned with a small flower arrangement i ....read more

Sprinkling Service Surprise

share_08 (1)Imagine you are a cookie. Life begins as a ball of dough someone kneads and rolls flat. Patted into a circle you are placed on greasy cookie sheet and thrust into a hot oven. After a long wait in a dark oven, you are dragged out for cooling. But, then something happens special. Someone dashes colorful sprinkles on you, converting you into a cookie even a bashful diner could not resist.read more

What if Your Service Were an Animal

share_14It was a really cool interview questions in the 80’s—if you could come back as an animal, which would you choose? It was used in team building to help participants peel back the emotional veneer. I recall one hard-nosed manager revealing he would come back as a duck. Those who knew him were quite surprised. “Not just any duck,” he continued. “You know when they fly in formation and one duck is ou ....read more

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 ....read more

Luxury Sprinkles: Turning Customer Experiences Purple

share_18Luxury. The dark side spells opulence, conceit, and gluttony. It can be also be associated with excellence, majesty, and worth. It is the choice of the rich and famous and the aspiration of wannabes. “Luxury is fundamentally a state of mind,” says David Williams, North American director of The Orient Express. It is foremost an expression of excellence—particularly acts that exhibit fine craftsmanship ....read more

Sprinkles Won’t Cover a Bitter Cookie

share_19 (1)I forgot to add baking soda that was called for by the recipe. But, the cookies looked good when they came out of the oven. When my granddaughters added lots of colorful sprinkles, the cookies looked great. We were all excited. Yet, the look on their faces when they bit into their first cookie told the tale—the cookies looked awesome; they tasted bitter. And, we had to dump them out and start ove ....read more

SPRINKLES-The Flowering of Customer Service

I was backstage at a large hotel ballroom getting ready to keynote a large conference. Wondering around in the “employees only” back of the house,” I stumbled onto a small hotel employee meeting. When I heard the meeting leader, obviously a supervisor, ask: “Tell me how we will flower this meeting tonight?” I could not help but eavesdrop. The word flower is not typically used as a verb.Later that day as I was getting ready to leave after my speech, I ran into the supervisor and explained why I was backstage and asked him to explain, “flowering a meeting.” Here was his answer, almost verbatim.“When you walked into our hotel l ....read more

SPRINKLES-Be a Portal to Passion

Portals are cool concepts. They are like doorways or secret passageways into another world. The wall outlet is such a portal. It sits passively on a room wall. But, plug an electric cord into it and the lamp will come on, the hair dryer will blow, or the oven will be set to cook.Innovative service is much like a portal. And, you are the magical source of passion, energy and light in the way the power company is to electricity. You can be the invitation for customers to plug in and experience your special encounter.I was on a Southwest flight to Houston and the flight attendant sang and danced the FFA mandated safety speech. She referenced t ....read more

SPRINKLES-Create a Stained Glass Experience

My son and his fiancé elected to get married in a large antique church in mid-town Atlanta. Their choice of church was driven in part by the magnificent stained glass windows in the sanctuary. Just at the “I do” part of their late afternoon ceremony, the setting sun suddenly showered through one giant stained glass window sending a mosaic of bright colors over the wedding party. It took our breath away!What if customer service was like a stained glass window? It would mean service that is arched, not a plain square or rectangle. It would be distinctive and very colorful. It would be handmade and special, not cookie cutter like an ordinary ....read more

SPRINKLES-Discovering The Spice of Service

We sometimes credit Christopher Columbus with discovering America in 1492. But, frankly America was not lost. If there was a discovery involved, Leif Erikson had taken care of it 500 years earlier. The truth be told, Christopher was not hunting for a new world. He was searching for a trade route to the Far East to locate and import spices. In Chris’s day, spices like cinnamon, clove and pepper were as valuable as gold.On his exploration he encountered Jamaica. On that visit he was introduced to allspice and chili, two brand new spices that would forever alter cooking. Over five hundred year later, all manner of curries, stews, breads cookies ....read more

SPRINKLES-Innovative Service as a Joggling Board

What do you get when you cross a rocker with a long wooden plank that bounces up and down like the rocking motion of a horse carriage? It is a joggling board (Google it!!). It was very popular on the porches of antebellum homes in the Deep South during the pre-civil war era. The ends of the board were mounted on stands with rocker bases at each end. If you sat in the middle of the plank, you could bounce and rock at the same time.Innovative service is service with the ingenuity and gymnastic joy of a joggling board. It is filled with surprise but can touch the child-like exuberance of customers as well as the peace and tranquility of knowing yo ....read more

SPRINKLES-Innovative Service Fits!

Outback Western Wear in Magnolia, Texas, is famous for its wide selection of western gear, especially western boots. Western-wear fans in Texas take their boots very seriously, often spending a considerable amount of time getting a perfect fit, the right heel and toe, and the best-quality material, be it basic steer leather, or alligator, kangaroo, ostrich, or goat. A great fit requires trying on many pairs to find just the right one. At one time, Outback Western Wear customers being fitted for boots were asked “How about a cup of coffee or a soft drink?” The most common customer retort: “No thanks, but I could sure use a cold beer!”The ....read more

SPRINKLES-Has Your Customer Experience Been Sanitized?

I was waiting for an appointment with my insurance agent. In the corner of the reception area was a collection of toys. A woman was also in the reception area and her two young boys were giggling over the toys. It was not loud; it was actually refreshingly comical. As I was finally ushered back to my agent’s office, the receptionist commented, “That’s why our ceiling have acoustical tile…to absorb noise like those kids.”Her prophylactic comment gave me pause. Customers are lovers of sensory stimulation. Most prefer their senses to get a kaleidoscope experience, not a telescope one. Gloomy, dreary, and quiet might be great feature for ....read more

SPRINKLES-Leading a Culture of Innovation

A CEO met with her senior staff and posed a typical CEO question: “What strategies and tactics would you recommend if we needed to increase our productivity by 10%?” Her executives quickly outlined belt-tightening steps and “do more with less” recommendations. Then she asked, “What if needed to increase our productivity by 100%?” After a long pause, one bold executive answered, “You cannot get there from here; we would have to completely redesign how we get work done.”We are living in the 100% world. Global competition, shortening turn times on everything from passenger planes to manufacturing plants, and the dearth of qualified ....read more

SPRINKLES-People Don’t Resist Change

Making change happen in organizations would be a lot easier if there weren’t those pesky resistors. There are the angry types filled with long memories of pain. There are the pessimistic types who would throw a wet blanket on the most carefully planned party. Finally, there are the silent grumps who say everything nonverbally.No matter the form of resistance, people are NOT resisting change. Rather, people resist what they predict or perceive will result in “pain” over which they have no control. Rather than eliminating pests, wise leaders manage change in a way the pests never show up.
 Here are the leader secrets to effective change m ....read more

NPIS-Are Your Customers Getting Another Tie This Holiday?

My grandmother was a wonderful person. And, she was blessed with many grandchildren. It created a bit of challenge for her at Christmas time, especially as we all got older. Then, she hit on a solution--all the girls would get scarves; all the boys would get ties. After a couple of years, the pattern was set. As soon as we spotted the familiar long thin box under the tree, we all knew the giver!Now, I don’t for one second miss the fact that it was the thought that counted. We were always sincerely grateful even if her scarf or tie never donned our necks. Yet, my memory of her predictable generosity makes me think about how innovative service ....read more

Make it a Happy and a New Year For Customers!

4232302720_242066731e_z“Should auld acquaintance be forgot...” has a special meaning every year about this time. As the familiar song ushers in the New Year, I reflect on those service experiences that left me with a sweet aftertaste; the ones that got my emotional motor revved up the highest level. Those were all focused on a happy experience that was also new…not just great. I ....read more

Is Your Customer Experience 4D?

We broke the bank and bought a widescreen, high definition 3D television for our den. The hope was it would attract more visits from our three granddaughters. So we stocked up on the best kids movies available in 3D—Frozen, Brave, Tangled, Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3…the best. It was exciting to watch their first experience. After donning the special glasses, they squealed as the co ....read more

Say ‘Thanks’ with Sprinkles This Year!

customer service keynote speaker image

This is the season we find ways to thank customers for their patronage. We might send customers a note, a card, a 2015 calendar, a ‘thank you’ email or a Starbucks card. If the customer habitually gives loyal patronage to other service providers, your expression of gratitude may look a lot like 12 others they receive. So, what are more innovative ways to thank your customers this year? Forget the hot air balloon with a love banner or any other pricey or creepy gesture. Customers value boldness, not weirdness!Below is a list of twe ....read more

The Quality of Service

3485880708_b1525f9fbb_zMrs. Pope was my fifth grade teacher.  I did not know the word back then, but she was a renaissance teacher.  As her students, we painted, sculpted, created scrapbooks, played classroom games, learned poetry, and staged musicals complete with costumes.  It was the whole-person approach completely uncharacteristic of the structured rote-learning typical teacher of that era.  To Mrs. Pope knowing about Beowulf and Mozart were as important as knowing the names of ....read more

Give Customers What You Are Destined to Give

The Chef is a great, feel-good movie about a (duh!!) chef who is divorced from his wife and estranged from his only child—a bright young boy eager to have a relationship with his dad.  Carl Casper (the chef), despite his foibles in personal relationships, is an amazingly innovative chef.  But, he works for a restaurant owner (played by Dustin Hoffman) who is intent on serving the same good, but unimaginative, menu year after year. The centerpiece of the movie is Carl’s confrontation with courage through a road trip with his son.Now, you know no more than you would learn from the movie trailer.The climax of the movie comes fairl ....read more

Is Your Service Concierge?

conciergeMy wife and I grabbed a quick weekend in New York City. After arri ....read more

Get it Your Way!

fried eggsLet’s start wit ....read more

What if Service Processes Were Customer-Controlled?

When I was in high school, I sang in the high school glee club.  One song I recall was called, “My Grandfather’s Clock.”  Written by Henry Clay Work in 1876, the most dramatic lyrics of the song were found in the second verse,

“It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born

And was always his treasure and pride

But it stopped, short never to go again

When the old man died”

It is popular to talk about being customer-focused or customer-centric.  But, what if ....read more

The Alchemy of Innovative Service

stoneAlchemists of ancient times tried for centuries to cr ....read more

The Hopeful Wait Principle

waitOne of the most well-known verses of scripture in the old testament is the ....read more

Calling Your Customer’s Name

whippoorwillAs a young boy I spent a lot of time with my grandfather. We spent hours together fishing, working in the fields, and telling tall tale stories around a fire. One of my favorite memories was sitting out under the stars in his backyard listening to night birds. In the area where I grew up we got to listen to the coo of doves, the screech of hawks and owls, the bay of a ....read more

Turning Mundane into Magic

The Magic Castle in Beverly Hills, CA is a haven for magicians. You can get in the castle only by invitation from a member, typically a magician. You arrive and enter a door into the library after you have uttered the secret password. There is dinner followed by magic shows in one of three theatres.  My favorite is the close-up theatre that seats only about twenty people. I have been twice, seen the same shows twice, and had the same meal…twice. And, even if I know how the trick is done, I am still enchanted by the presentation and performance.read more

The Cultural Sweet Spot

sweet spotThe sweet spot is that place where a combinati ....read more

The Crossroads Principle: Fairness

crossroadsWhen kids get tall enough to sit on your lap behind the stee ....read more

The Innovation of Creating a Miracle

A Boston family adopted an Asian girl. No sooner had she arrived in the U.S. than the family learned she needed to have major surgery. The nine year old child––who spoke only Chinese and had life experiences limited to a small Chinese village and her trip to the U.S.––was very anxious. As she was about to be discharged following successful surgery she was asked through an interpreter, “What most surprised you about your stay here at Children’s Memorial Hospital of Boston?” The child smiled and proudly responded, “I did not know my doctor would be Chinese!”read more

Innovative Service is Like Western Boots

cowboy bootsI proudly wear Lucchese cowboy boots.  These chocolate brown accessories remain affixed to my feet at work and at leisure.  They have even become an integral part of my brand.  I get a lot of very favorable comments about my boots; ....read more

Being Really Good

customer bestWe needed a large bear proof crate that would hold a garbage can at our river home in the North Georgia mountains.  Black bears are not particularly dangerous, unless protecting a cub, they are just always hungry.  And, in the Spring and Summer they roam the river bank at night behind our house in search of garbage cans with an inviting aroma!  Despite the fact that we chained the larg ....read more

For Innovative Service, Avoid the Buffet

buffetI have a confessi ....read more

Twenty Things Today’s Customers Want

20 Things Customers Want1. Make me smarter…it helps me keep up with my ever-changing world.2. Help me do it myself…I enjoy feeling self-sufficient.3. Make the response fast … but don't sacrifice qua ....read more

A Prescription for Remarkable Service

thermometerTwenty-four hour viruses are mystery bugs.  You typically are totally ....read more

The Magic of “I Have Complete Authority”

magicIt was destined to be an awesome surprise dinner for a newly degreed M.D.  In addition to her friends, her family was flying all the way from India to celebrate their daughter’s graduation from medical school.The surprise was staged at the fine restaurant at the beautiful Ritz-Carlton South Beach on Miami Beach. We watched as the Ritz guest relation’s person, Paul, meticulously placed decorations on ....read more

The Gift of Focus

focus targetAdult learning and child learning are different when it comes to focus. Children are patient with delayed application and the promise that “someday you’ll find this helpful.” Adults question the worth of knowing the ingredients of the pie at the king’s banquet. As adults, we want real-time relevance and immediate application. And, if the tie to usefulness is unclear or absent, our motivation drops and our attention drifts. ....read more

The Magic of Service Pollination

flowerThe flowering of spring can be a wakeup call from the dreariness of winter.  As we watch blossoms emerge from plants and grass turn from brown to green, we are reminded of the miracle of life.  Innovative service is the unexpected wakeup call from the dullness of ordinary and routine service. The brownness of ho-hum is amazingly transformed into a sparkly experience that makes us smile.

The emergence of spring is brought to you by a ....read more

Innovative Service as a Dance Organ

10_Dance_OrganSounds weird, doesn’t it?  But, if you have ever heard a giant dance organ with its happy calliope sounds and its art deco designs while thinking about customer service, you will quickly get the metaphor.Dance organs were popular in the early 1900’s and provided music for dance halls initially throughout Europe.  They were literally full mechanical dance bands using punched paper or cardboard sheets like player pianos.  Just like great service providers, their ....read more

Is Your Service Like a Light or a Candle?

candleIt was the first thing that came to mind when I was asked by a radio host to characterize the difference between great service and innovative service.  Lights are important since they provide us with the capacity to see (or see better).  They help us traverse instead of stumble; read instead of squint; and be productive instead of lethargic.  Candles do the same things but with style.  If you want a romantic dinner, you don’t just turn on the light.Innovative service is candle ....read more

The Cow Hide Chair Experiment

cowchairThe chair was very unique in the pleasant but largely functional reception area.  It was an intricately carved oak straight back chair.  But, what set it apart from all the other chairs and sofa was the fact that the chair’s seat was upholstered in cowhide of a Texas longhorn.  The brown spots on the white background exactly matched the caramel colored wood.  It was the centerpiece of an experiment I talked my dermatologist into trying.  So, here is ....read more

Do Your Employees Love Your Brand?

phoneShwetha loves HP!  No, that’s not a carving on a school ground tree nor is it a Krylon spray painting on a water tower or overpass.  Shwetha is a support tech operator for Hewlett Packard.  And, her style, behavior and words clearly parade her devotion to the HP brand she fronts.My new laptop had been supped up to Windows 8.1 and Office 13.  While I have a new HP color printer; my old, reliable workhorse printer is a monochrome HP LaserJet P2015dn.  Not only is this printer a v ....read more

Innovative Service Scenography

fishThe food at this well-known seafood restaurant franchise was very good and reasonably priced.  There were a few nautical photos on the walls.  Except for those two features—pictures and menu--it could have just as easily been a steakhouse, Mexican or Italian food restaurant.  I left without any thought of seaside on my mind…just the fact that my tummy was full.  But, I could not help but notice the wide array of missed opportunities to turn a pleasant meal into a ....read more

Innovative Service is Tongue and Grooved

barn roofThere was an old tobacco barn in the middle of a field on the farm where I grew up.  My dad needed another barn in which to store hay after a bumper crop year.  But the long abandoned barn had one problem--the roof leaked between the boards.  Getting fresh cut bales of hay wet means it would rot before wintertime when our cows depended on it for food.Luckily, my dad was an excellent carpenter.  With a router and plane he turned the plain boards into ones with a tongue and ....read more

Generosity: The Mother Lode of Innovative Service

miningGem mining is a fun route to a granddaughter’s heart. We had our three granddaughters for the weekend and took them gem mining in the North Georgia Mountains. Granted the buckets of sand are previously salted with semi-precious stones collectively worth less than the $10 you pay for each bucket.  But, that is not a “truth-in-mining” fact a five-year old cares to hear about.The gem-mining place we chose was a mineshaft of innovative service. The exterior was littered with bright colored r ....read more

The Grackle and the Quail

grackleNature offers so many metaphors for innovative service.  I was doing a keynote in Scottsdale and elected to go a couple of days early and stay at The Boulders in Carefree.  Armed with my cell phone and laptop, I sat on the patio next to a gorgeous lawn and duck pond.  I witnessed the territorial contest between the Grackle and the quail.The Grackle is a large black bird that enjoys sitting in trees and being obnoxiously noisy.  Their dissonant cry can be heard a ....read more

The Cream in My Coffee

coffee“You're the cream in my coffee” is the opening line and title of a song written in 1928 by Buddy DeSylva and Lew Brown.  It was a song recorded by many famous musicians like Nat King Cole, Les Brown and the Ray Conniff Singers.  It provides a powerful metaphor for the difference between great customer service and innovative service.Great service is the delivery of all the basics done superbly plus something extra.  Think of the baker’s dozen, upgra ....read more

Delivering Signature Service

signature serviceEddie Taylor was the lead nerd in my hig ....read more

Every Employee an Entrepreneur

PublixPublix gets accolades for being at the top of the heap fo ....read more

Innovative Hosting

chick-fil-aMy busine ....read more

The Tactile Side of Innovative Service

tactile serviceDuring the 1960 ....read more

Value-Unique Trumps Value-Added

surpriseValue-added literally means taking what the customer expects and adding more.  As new value is added, up also go the customer expectations setting up a path to a dead-end street.  At some point, the additions exceed what is cost-effective.  The solution: innovative service (value-unique)! There are unlimited ways to surprise customers.  And, there is far more “bang for the buck” in a simple but unexpected ....read more

Give Your Customers a Back Door

deerI watched three deer come into my backyard this week.  I live on the banks of a large lake.  An inch of snow had made foraging for food more challenging for the deer so they ventured beyond the woods nearby.  They seemed cautious and quickly left without any attempt to find food.  At first I wondered why their short stay on this quiet early morning.  Then, it hit me!  They were positioned between my house and the water with no woods at their back to scurry into sho ....read more

Is Your Customer Experience Like Grape Jelly?

grape jellyread more

Stardust, Shamrocks and Innovative Service

shamrockSaint Patrick’s Day is a day we honor everything Irish, including the country. There is an old Irish song that contains inspiring lyrics for innovative service. It is the romantic story of how Ireland got its name. “A Little Bit of Heaven” was written by Keirn Brennan and Ernest Ball at the turn of the century and contains the following chorus:

read more

The Jewel of Spirit

jouleJoule is a measure of energy. The Joule is a place of happy energy. The luxurious ultra-modern boutique hotel in downtown Dallas has made happy energy (the Chinese call it “chi”) its main attraction physically, emotionally and spiritually. There are many reasons the hotel has earned its five-star distinction!Arrive at the front door of The Joule and an upbeat doorman escorts you to th ....read more

The Customer as a Hummingbird

hummingbirdHummingbirds are unique birds. One came in my yard the other day and went straight for a large purple iris. I watched it hover, advance, back up and quickly move to another flower. It seemed in a hurry...maybe fickle. It was very picky in the flowers it chose to shop for nectar. I did a bit of research. Hummingbirds are the only bird that can fly backward for any distance; few birds can hover. They have the highest metabolism of any animal on the planet. And, they are serious consumers ....read more

The Innovative Customer Mentor

Thompson Rivers University“Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity,” wrote Paul in his letter to the church at Colossae, a city near what is now Eskihisar, Turkey. “Your speech should always be gracious and sprinkled with insight so that you may know how to respond to every person.” The wisdom from Colossians 4: 5-6 (Common English Version) provides great council to a ....read more

The Music Plays Me

Salinas guitarIt was an amazing concert…at a huge, elegant bar in Panama. A banking client had invited my business partner and me to hear the great Salinas perform. The Argentine performer is renowned in the jazz guitar world. It was noisy when he walked onto the stage. But as his classical guitar began, the bar became a musical cathedral. Bartenders stopped making drinks and waitresses halted their mo ....read more

Innovation as the Pursuit of Wholeness

ramenTom Edison’s well-known clever line about how he discovered the incandescent light, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work" tells us a lot about the nature of innovation, especially innovative service. Being correct can be the enemy of being effective. It is captured in the proverb, “to be a great cobbler, you must fall in love with leather.” Innovation is about the pursuit of the wholeness of an idea, product or in the case of customer service, the whole ....read more

Innovative Service: What Great Leaders Actually Do

hole-in-oneTake a look at a short list of renowned service innovators: Despite a Yale professor’s admonition that there was little practical about his theory, Fred Smith put his “C–” paper into operation and founded Federal Express (now FedEx). Michael Dell transformed a computer assembly business he operated out of his University of Texas dorm room into Dell Computer. Wall Street laughed at Jeff Bezos for thinking an on-li ....read more

The Customer as Valentine: Deliver Old-Fashioned Service

old fashioned serviceEvery small town in America has a Buster. Let me tell you about a real Buster I knew. He sold Grit newspapers on Main Street and knew the birthday of everyone in town. He worked part-time as a stocker at the local feed store, the watering hole for the agricultural community, and was famous for his random acts of delight. And, when you met Buster on the street, he greeted you with your whole name, alw ....read more

The Valentine as Customer: Authentic Caring

Lexus ServiceRick McIntire called me last week!  He was the really great sales person who sold me a GMC Jimmy SUV in Dallas about twenty years ago…that was at least four Lexus’s and a fire engine red Mazda Miata ago.  Rick knows I changed brand affinity because the GMC dealership Rick sold vehicles for is owned by the same company (Sewell Automotive) that owns the Lexus dealership that first snagged my vehicle brand loyalty.  Don’t ask about that Miata!  It was a co ....read more

The Customer as Valentine: Include Everyone

valentineSixth grade is an awkward school year for most b ....read more

The Customer as Valentine: All You Need is Love

valentine storyThe origin of Valentine’s Day is very instructive.  It was initially associated with a religious celebration honoring St. Valentinus, a priest from Rome who was martyred about AD 496.  Two stories (call them myths if you want to be completely accurate) frame the sentiment of February 14th…especially when applied to your customers.Valentinus boldly performed marriage ceremonies for a soldier and his bride when it was forbidden that sold ....read more

The Customer as Valentine: Treat Customers Like Snowflakes

Snowflakeread more

The Customer as Valentine: A Generous Heart

customer loveAllowances were not something my dad believed taught kids a strong work ethic.  So, I had to work for all my spending money.  Living in a rural area, there were not a lot of paying chores for kids…except for baby-sitting and lawn mowing.   My sister baby-sat; I mowed yards.  I got a dollar for a regular-sized yard and two dollars for a large yard.  And, my grandmother had a two-dollar yard!One summer we had a drought where I lived.  It did not impact the babys ....read more

The Customer as Valentine: Indirect Gifts

rosemary ....read more

Show Your Customers Some Love

NIPIS_vday (1)Since 496 AD, love has been the centerpiece of Valentine's Day. How can businesses show customers love in today’s economy? The answer is innovative service. It changes a customer's feelings about the organization from pleased to thrilled.Today, I am kicking off a blog series that will provide examples and techniques of innovative service to show your fondness for y ....read more

The Leadership Echo

ritz-carlton buckheadI arrived at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead in Atlanta late in the afternoon at the end of a week on the road.  My dress pants needed pressing for an early morning keynote.  Dialing the hotel housekeeping department, I ....read more

Can I Help?: The Power of Inclusion

betty white cake mixIn the early 1950’s Betty Crocker was on a roll. The company’s twenty-year successful run of Bisquick (“90 seconds from package to oven”) clearly positioned the company as the partner to homemakers eager to make meal preparation quick and easy. The company (owned by General Mills) elected to expand into cake mixes with the introduction of White Cake in 1951. It was a mix that simply required adding water, like Bisquick.However, the product failed to take off. Housewives felt no nee ....read more

The Innovative Customer Experience Appetizer

playbill3-187x300Walk in a theatre for a Broadway play in New York and the appetizer you are given between the ticket counter and your seat is the Playbill. It not only is a tool to tell you about the plot and characters, it sets the mood for what you are about to see and hear. Walk in an upscale restaurant and you are likely to get “compliments of the c ....read more

Service as a Carousel

CarouselSeveral years ago we spent a part of the winter holiday on the beach in North Florida with our family.  It was too cold for the beach one day so we took our granddaughter, Kaylee (then three years old), to Saint Augustine.  As we entered the downtown area, she spotted the colorful carousel you see pictured here.  It was her first time to see such a site.As we later toured the ancient city, she could not wipe the big grin off her face after enjoying the elegantly decorated hor ....read more

Make Service Personalized

personalized serviceHe sat on the right side of the pew a row up from me. Wearing noticeably expensive trousers, alligator shoes without socks and a new dress shirt, he looked like a wealthy man on holiday that, on a Sunday morning impulse, elected to stop by our quaint mountain church. When we stood up for the first hymn, he sang enthusiastically, like he was enjoying an old song he had not sung since his youth.

Then, I noticed the cuff of his neatly pressed light bl ....read more

The Law of Kindness

kindnessMy cousin, Joann Wall, recently passed away in her eighties, She had been in poor health for a long time.  During her eulogy at her funeral the minister quoted a passage from Proverbs 31 that outlined the features of a virtuous woman…”and on her tongue was the law of kindness.”  His reading of the scripture was followed by many stories told by family members of a woman who was the epitome of kindness--a lover of children with a constant manner that was always optimistic ....read more

Service Resolutions for the New Year

innovative serviceAs 2013 draws to a close and we welcome another new year filled with endless possibilities many of us will resolve to do things differently in 2014. This year, resolve to deliver truly innovative service to your customers.I've put together 7 resolutions designed to transform ho-hum service into the kind of remarkable service that will have your customers singing your prais ....read more

Putting Innovation in Your Brand

Starbucks brandingBranding started as a tool for creating identity.  While marking products to identify the maker is as old as time, our most graphic lesson comes from the Old West.  During the late 1800’s in the Western part of the U.S. where cattle were the primary cash crop, there were no fences to mark territory.  Ranch owners needed a means to identify which cattle grazing on the open range belonged to a particular ranch.  The act of burning a unique symbol into th ....read more

Holiday Punch List for Innovative Customer Service

santa hat 2It's almost over! With Christmas Eve just one week away, the holiday shopping season is winding down. Folks on both sides of the cash register are feeling the pressures of the season.For many customers, panic is setting in. They're tired, they're frustrated, they're worried they won't find the perfect gifts for everyone on their lists.Many store associates are equally tired and frustrated. They're working longer hours, getting fewer days off and probably standing on t ....read more

Customers Want to Be “Home” For The Holidays

Customer ServiceWhatever happe ....read more

Give the Gift of Inspiration

giftWhat inspires you? Inspiration comes from a Latin word which means to “breathe life into” or to “animate.” I get inspired by an unexpected, completely generous act of kindness. I watched a man stop four lanes of traffic that passed through a residential neighborhood in order to allow a puppy to cross. Then, he drove away. It was not his dog.We are inspired by unique scenes—a perfect rainbow, the laughter of a baby, a pa ....read more

Why Customers Love Small Businesses

This past week I received good service from four companies—Apple, Bass Pro Shops, Custom Printing and Roper's Collision Center. But, the stores I would tell stories about this week are from the two small businesses you never heard of...unless you live in my neighborhood!Apple was very good, mind you, but after I bought a new Apple MacBook Air, they did not call me to see how it was behaving. But, Roper called after having my car in their operating room! Bass Pro Shops did not remember my unique fishing expectations when I gav ....read more

Small Business Superstars: The Gospel According to Betty’s

bettysWhat would it take to make your small business a destination location--the store, firm, website, or service that everyone was talking about? Betty’s Country Store is the talk of the town in Helen, GA, a quaint Alpine mountain village a few miles from my river house. (Visit  www.bettysinhelen.com for a virtual taste.) Even in the winter, the store is full of guests, eager to enjoy all that makes Betty’s an in-site (a plac ....read more

Serving the Least of These: The Good Samaritan

kitten duckThe Good Samaritan is a story of kindness widely known across all faiths, not just those anchored to the New Testament. But, in many ways the back story is particularly instructive to delivering innovative service.The story starts with the words: “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” That route was seventeen miles long descending steeply over two thousand feet and very difficult, rocky terrain.The parable continues: “...and he fell among robbers, who bot ....read more

Measuring an Easter Egg Hunt

8643146097_7d5fac6120_zA good friend once told me that using quantitative metrics to assess a qualitative experience is a bit like trying to drive a nail with a B flat. Now, there is nothing wrong with B flats. Mozart used them all the time in his symphony-composing work. But, when he elected to do a little carpentry, he preferred a strong hammer to a musical note.With the squeeze on profit margins and the push for expense control we are witnessing leaders getting a ....read more

Service Decoration: Why my website is purple

fighter jetMy love affair with service aesthetics started when working with a large aerospace company trying to win a humongous government contract to build a new fighter plane for the armed services. The company had done lots of customer intelligence gathering about the expectations of generals and admirals. They had learned a lot from the appropriations people on Capitol Hill. But, they had spent little time learning from the fighter flyer who would actually be piloting the new fighter ....read more

Thanking Customers the Innovative Service Way

thank youMost customer relationships don’t end in conflict...most vanilla to death. Neglect is more dangerous than strife; indifference more costly than error. Great relationships are fueled by affirmation. Nurturing the bounty of customer loyalty requires more than proper cultivation and seeding. It must be fertilized with attention and care. “Courting” the customer does not end with the sale or transaction.Superior serv ....read more

Empowerment: The Engine of Customer Surprise

Team-EmpowerImagine this. You are having breakfast in a midtown New York City hotel. It is your second morning with the same friendly waitress. You had given her a nice tip the morning before and learned she had been with the hotel restaurant for five years. Half way through your meal, she asks you a question: “Are you going to be taking a taxi immediately after breakfast?” she asks. When you acknowled ....read more

Are We Mechanizing Customer Delight?

5126030385_e67759eb7fStanding in the gate area of Delta Airlines at DFW Airport, I was watching the monitor to learn if my name appeared on the “upgrade to first class” list. Honestly, I was feeling totally entitled since I fly a gazillion miles a year on Delta. Had my name not appeared, I would have been disappointed, maybe even angry. But, this time my name appeared. Today, you do not go to the gate attendant for a n ....read more

Flower Your Customer’s Experience

flowerNature can be a powerful inspiration for innovative service providers. The flower on the left just popped up unexpectedly one bright sunny morning after four straight days of grey clouds and dreary rain. It made me smile...as if the flower knew I would be walking by and elected to brighten my day with its special song. It reminded me of the “Have an Excellent” lady at CVS Pharmacy.University of Rhode Island students enjoy going to the CVS/pharmacy nearby in the Kingston Emporium ....read more

Where Did All the Surprises Go?

easter egg huntWhen I was ten years old, I did a very naughty ....read more

Celebrating Customer Service Heroes: Thank Your Customers!

How many times have you purchased an item and never gotten a hint of gratitude from the person who accepted your hard-earned cash? I purchased a wide-screened, HD 3D Plasma TV to entertain my granddaughters when they come to visit! With the cords and glasses and paraphernalia, the tab came to over a grand. When the checkout clerk failed to give me even a nod of gratitude I asked her, “If I met you on the street and gave you $1000, what would you say to me?” “I would thank you,” she replied.“I just gave you a grand,” I said. She curtly replied, “But, you didn’t give that money to me, you gave it to my employer.” I was not done ....read more

Celebrating Customer Service Heroes: Give Your Customers an Easy Button

JerryI buy my night crawlers (worms) for fishing at Jerry’s Bait & Tackle…an antique, all-purpose country store on Lake Oconee, Georgia. Buying night crawlers involves several steps: opening the refrigerator, taking out a Styrofoam cup of worms, pouring them into a large container to make certain they are all wiggling (therefore alive), replacing the worms in the cup, and purchasing the worms. Anglers are right particular about their fish bait. So, Jerry’s put the “easy button ....read more

Celebrating Customer Service Heroes: Surprise Your Customers with Generosity

Neighborhood Cleaners on Lake Oconee has been my dry cleaners for a few years. Like all great dry cleaners, they pick up and deliver if you prefer. They are as ecologically sensitive as they are inter-personally friendly. They’ll do off-the-beaten-path requests like fix a tear, hem a skirt, or scotch guard your sofa pillow covers. They also do great recovery if there is a service hiccup.One time one of their cleaning machines got rebellious and ripped a hole in my pricey dress pants. They reimbursed me the original cost of the pants along with providing world-class ....read more

Celebrating Customer Service Heroes: Monogram Your Customer’s Experience

GeorganneMiresGeorganne Mires at Colwick Travel in Dallas has been my travel agent for over twenty years. When my friends chide me about why I don’t save tons of money by booking my flights and hotels on Tripadvisor, Orbitz or Expedia, I just tell them a Georganne story.“Assume you landed late at midnight in Columbus and your flight connection to Chicago has long gone. All the following morning flights hav ....read more

Celebrating Customer Service Heroes: Give your Customer a Surprise

I walked into the restaurant at the Park Inn Harrisburg West in Pennsylvania. From the back of the restaurant I heard, “Good morning, how would you like your coffee?” When I said black, the voice warmly responded, “Take any table you like and I’ll have your coffee there before you can sit down!”My day was off like a colorful merry-go-round!Sandy“I’m Sandy. Do I get the pl ....read more

National Customer Service Week Bulletin: The Panning for Gold Principle

National Customer Service Week is October 7-11, 2013. It is a week we spotlight the power and prosperity found in delivering an innovative customer experience. Over the last 9 days we've introduced 9 key principles you can use to elevate the delight in your customers’ experience. Today,we conclude the series by Panning for Gold among the sand.NPIS_goldAn employee of Harris Teeter grocery stores was on the receiving end of both barrels from an in ....read more

National Customer Service Week Bulletin: The Easy Button Principle

National Customer Service Week is October 7-11, 2013. It is a week we spotlight the power and prosperity found in delivering an innovative customer experience. In the days leading up to Customer Service Week we will offer a key principle you can use to elevate the delight in your customers’ experience. Today, it's all about effortless service experience with The Easy Button Principle.NPIS_easybuttonCustomers today are intolerant of having ....read more

National Customer Service Week Bulletin: The Fly-Fishing Principle

National Customer Service Week is October 7-11, 2013. It is a week we spotlight the power and prosperity found in delivering an innovative customer experience. In the days leading up to Customer Service Week we will offer a key principle you can use to elevate the delight in your customers’ experience. Today, we're exploring The Fly-Fishing Principle.NPIS_fishingWarning! This is a proud granddaddy post! When Cassie was barely three she could ....read more

National Customer Service Week Bulletin: The Campfire Story Principle

National Customer Service Week is October 7-11, 2013. It is a week we spotlight the power and prosperity found in delivering an innovative customer experience. In the days leading up to Customer Service Week we will offer a key principle you can use to elevate the delight in your customers’ experience. Today, we continue with The Campfire Story Principle.NPIS_campfirePreferred Office Products, a major office supply chain in Dallas, Texas inv ....read more

National Customer Service Week Bulletin: The Circus Principle

National Customer Service Week is October 7-11, 2013. It is a week we spotlight the power and prosperity found in delivering an innovative customer experience. In the days leading up to Customer Service Week we will offer a key principle you can use to elevate the delight in your customers’ experience. Let's have some fun today with the Circus Principle.NPIS_circus (1)Ask ten global road warriors to name the best airline in the world and nin ....read more

National Customer Service Week Bulletin: The Speed Limit 23 MPH Principle

National Customer Service Week is October 7-11, 2013. It is a week we spotlight the power and prosperity found in delivering an innovative customer experience. In the days leading up to Customer Service Week we will offer a key principle you can use to elevate the delight in your customers’ experience. We continue today with the Speed Limit 23 MPH Principle.NPIS_speedlimitWalk into the lobby of the five-star Mansion on Turtle Creek hot ....read more

National Customer Service Week Bulletin: The Purpling Principle

National Customer Service Week is October 7-11, 2013. It is a week we spotlight the power and prosperity found in delivering an innovative customer experience. In the days leading up to Customer Service Week we will offer a key principle you can use to elevate the delight in your customers’ experience. We continue today with The Purpling Principle.purplePaul had decided to pop “THE” question to Adrienne at lunch in the romantic, ten-table loft ....read more

National Customer Service Week Bulletin: Applying the Big Boy Principle

National Customer Service Week is October 7-11, 2013. It is a week we spotlight the power and prosperity found in delivering an innovative customer experience. In the days leading up to Customer Service Week we will offer a key principle you can use to elevate the delight in your customers’ experience. We continue today with The Big Boy Event Principle.big boyThe night before my annual physical examination I received a text from my physician reminding ....read more

National Customer Service Week Bulletin: Use the Cracker Jack Principle

National Customer Service Week is October 7-11, 2013. It is a week we spotlight the power and prosperity found in delivering an innovative customer experience. For the next nine days, we will offer a key principle you can use to elevate the delight in your customers’ experience. We begin with the Cracker Jack Principle.cracker jackConsider a common service experience: Taking a shuttle bus ....read more

If Cracker Jack’s Ran Your Customer Service

Cracker-Jack NPISA large brokerage company added a twist to their toll-free telephone cue—“...punch 6 if you’d like to hear a duck quack!” Word of the playful feature spread and soon millions of people were weekly calling to hear the duck. The company had to remove the unique feature because it overloaded their phone system and ran up a huge tab! The story communicates just how bored custo ....read more

Extending the Service End

Stretching_Your_Sense_of_Service NPISWatching a skilled magician is an exercise in awe. Try as we might to see through the sleight of hand, we come away amazed. We know there is a rational explanation. But in our hearts we aren’t so sure. It leaves us with a feeling of enchantment. Innovative service––service that takes customers breath away- ....read more

Shift the Customer’s Focus

10691955-what-is-the-best-beginners-course-for-learning-magic-the-easy-way NPISTransference is the magician’s tactic called misdirection. It involves establishing a frame of reference that occupies someone’s attention while something completely different is happ ....read more

Take the Show on the Road

Ceramic-Cookie-Mugs-KNS-CKSD002- NPISWhen Al Hopkins was a young boy he watched the other ten-year-olds wait for customers to stop by their sidewalk lemonade stands in the hot summer sun. Al abandoned the “stand” concept and took his lemonade business door-to-door. He made enough money in one summer to buy a new Schwinn Flyer bicycle with a siren ....read more

Turn Service into a Treasure Hunt

treasure mapWe had our granddaughters visit one weekend at our lake ....read more

Remembering the Nobility of Service

fabled serviceSixteen years ago one of the most beloved books in the field of customer service was published by Jossey-Bass Publishers—Fabled Service: Ordinary Acts, Extraordinary ....read more

Service Decoration

five senses NPISWalk into the lobby of a Westin Hotel and your nose knows the scent suddenly shifts from the “smell of the street” to a signature fragrance called “White Tea.”Reach the checkout counter of Dallas garden center Nicholson-Hardie and you can pet a big calico cat sprawled across the counter complete with business card with the title “House Cat.”Stroll around a Bass ....read more

Do Customers See a Light On in Your Service People?

12309476-brains-in-the-light-bulb-isolated-on-white NPISCustomers are attracted to spirited people! And, today’s customers are frustrated with indifferent service---not bad service, just boring, comatose service. They witness service people sleep walking through the workday. And, as they guard their ever ....read more

Innovative Service Gifts

Innovative ServiceWe checked into the ranger’s store to get our permit for a camp site. It was in the midst of a lush forest...especially the primitive area where we prefer to pitch our tent and build a camp fire. As we were leaving the store to find our site, the receptionist said, “You might need this.” It was what every Army soldier would know as a P38, a miniature can o ....read more

What if…? Kitchen vs. Cathedral

windowWhat if your customer’s experience was a window? Would it be like the windows in a typical kitchen or would it be innovative like the ones in a magnificence cathedral?My son and his fiancé elected to get married in a large antique church in mid-town Atlanta. Their choice of church was driven in part by the splendid stained glass windows in the large sanctuary. Just at the “I do” part of their late a ....read more

What if…? “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” vs. “The Right Stuff”

movieHow many times at work have you heard lines like: “Make you an offer you can’t refuse” (from The Godfather), “Show me the money,” (from Jerry McGuire), “If you build it they will come,” (from Field of Dreams) or “Houston, we have a problem,” (from Apollo 13). You can think of many more.Watching television was often the impetus for backyard play when we were kids. Watch a baseball game and yo ....read more

What if…? Fan vs. Air Conditioner

The air conditioning system broke in the little country church we attend when we have a getaway weekend to our North Georgia river house. It was a hotter than normal day, even for the normally cool mountain area. So, the church ceiling fans were turned on! It was an improvement, but clearly not the same. It reminded me of customer service...but, then most things do!!fanA fan moves the hot air around much like a sudden ....read more

What if…? Pond vs. River

What if your customer experience was a body of water? Would it be more like a pond or more like a river?pondPonds are sleepy. I grew up on one behind our house. While it was stocked with fish, it was a great haven for turtles, algae, snakes and an occasional alligator. In the summer we'd spray the banks since the water could become stagnant—a breeding ground for pesky mosquitoes. And, every few years we had to com ....read more

What if…? Crow vs. Peacock

What if your customer’s experience was a bird? Would it be more like a crow or a peacock?crowCrow-like service can be noisy and unpleasant, like the warp-speed disclaimers we hear at the end of some radio ads. Customers need scarecrow defenses to keep crow-like service providers at bay. Crows spam instead of converse; use “all about me” selfish service instead of generous “all about you” service. The peopl ....read more