Entries Tagged as 'Commentary'

Guest Post – Leading Innovative Service, by Chip Bell

Customer service and business expert Chip Bell has long been an influence on my work. His many books and articles reflect a true understanding of what makes businesses and their customers tick. And I’m fortunate that we have become friends. I’m thrilled that he has a new book coming out February 14 – Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service that Sparkles. I’ve had a chance to read a sample, and can’t wait until the full book arrives (I’ve pre-ordered it at Amazon – http://amzn.to/2iY81Tw.) My favorite line in the book so far is, “Good is the key to customer retention, but unique is the secret to customer advocacy.

While waiting for the book be available on February 14, Chip offered to write a guest post for my blog. I think you’ll enjoy it and find it to be valuable.

Leading Innovative ServiceScreen Shot 2017-01-21 at 4.19.51 PM

By Chip R. Bell

Value-added has been the service solution for many service exemplars–take what the customer expects and add a little more. Nordstrom sales clerk escorts you to another department far from their own. Southwest Airlines gives you free peanuts with slapstick humor. Airlines upgrade frequent flyers; hotels put loyal guests on the fancy-floor concierge level. And Rosie’s Diner refills your ice tea glass without you being charged.

But value added extras have gotten a lot more expensive. That free snack on a flight is now eight dollars and service charges are standard fare on most bills.   Pursuing the extras can also send a very mixed message. What do employees think when told to “wow” customers in the morning and informed of staff cutbacks and expense reductions in the afternoon? Challenging financial times call for a new approach: value-unique service.Value-unique is different than value-added. Ask customers what would be value-added and they focus on taking the expected to a higher-level…meaning “they gave me more than I anticipated.” But, value-unique is not about addition, it’s about an imaginative creation. When service people are asked to give more, they think to themselves, “I am already doing the best I can.” But, if asked to pleasantly surprise more customers, they feel less like worker bees and more like fireflies. And, when employees get to create, not just perform, they feel prized.

But, how do leaders foster customer service that takes customers breath away? What is it that leads employees to think “value-unique,” not just the familiar, too-expensive “value added?”

Project Realness

Innovative service leaders know they get from employees the attitude they project. Employees do not watch the leader’s mouth; they watch the leader’s moves. As all leaders move in the floodlight of employee observation, their actions can telegraph either optimism or gloom; excitement or despair. Great leaders know that an animated attitude is contagious.   When we are around happy, upbeat people, it is much easier for us to join in the spirit––especially if the invitation to join is coming from someone who clearly prefers we enroll. An unbridled spirit has a magnetic power on both customers and employees.

Protect Customers

Tasks are important; rules are essential. But, revenue comes from customers. Innovative service leaders encourage and empower employees to put customers first; not procedures. This is not about deliberately violating a safety decree or putting the organization at risk. Archie’s manager Osman Shaw is quick to say: “Archie loves customers. We get more letters about him than anyone else. So, we encourage Archie to ‘do Archie.’ I wish I had a dozen more like him.”

Provide Trust

Innovative service happens when there is an atmosphere of trust–where people are considerate and supportive. If people are given license to criticize colleagues behind their back, the setting turns to one of suspicion. If manipulative or unfair behavior is tolerated, the climate turns to one of protection. It requires leaders disciplined enough to model thoughtfulness and hold others accountable for the same.

Preserve Integrity

Innovative service leaders are grounded and laced in complete, total, wall-to-wall, no-exceptions integrity. They stand on integrity; they are constructed of integrity, they reek of integrity. Such leaders do not do half-assed integrity–as Tom Peters says, “There is no such thing as a minor lapse of integrity.” They show their nobility when they courageously tell the truth, relentlessly do what they say they will do, and gallantly turn their backs on all shady actions. They know they send signals through their character—a word rooted in the concept of engraved.

Challenging times require a departure from “the way we’ve always done things.” Customer expectations are not waning. Expectations are increasing as economically challenged customers demand increased value for their diminishing funds. As organizations scramble to shore up value, the time is ripe for service with inventiveness, not just service with generosity. It calls for leaders who ensure the ingredients they add to their leadership recipe are those that advance service innovation.


Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books. His newest book is Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. He can be reached at chipbell.com.




Getting Customers to Love You – The Power of Presence

“In the Moment” for Customer Service


In the Moment

The only way that we can consistently delight our customers is if we are truly present for them – truly “in the moment.” If we’re not in the moment, we miss the visual, verbal, or even written clues customers are constantly giving us, and we end up processing customers through our systems. And no matter how well our systems are designed, most customers HATE feeling processed. They want to feel important, listened to, and respected. They want to feel valued. Valued customers come back; processed customers merely tolerate our organization until something better comes along. And something better almost always comes along.

Falling into robotic, transaction-like service is easy when we’re not present. A recent example with a flight attendant innocently, but hilariously, demonstrated what not being in the moment looks like and sounds like. She was walking down the aisle of the plane handing out peanuts and other snacks. Of course her next duty was to walk back down the aisle picking up trash. Unfortunately she accidentally combined the scripts. Instead of saying, “Would you like a snack?” later followed by, “Can I pick up any trash?” she mindlessly asked, “Would you like any trash?” as she handed out the snacks. I heard her say this to about ten passengers until she reached me. Everyone looked confused, but no one said anything. With a chuckle I said, “I don’t want any trash, but I WILL have a Kit Kat bar.” She froze for a moment, then burst out laughing and whispered to me, “Have I been saying that to everyone?” I gently told her she had indeed said it to everyone.

We’ve all been guilty of not being present for our customers. Our minds drift to something other than the customer we’re dealing with. We could be thinking about the next thing we need to do, or a problem we’re having, or our plans for the weekend, or the ten thousand other things that go through our minds every day. Each time our mind drifts away from our customer, we risk treating that customer as a task to be completed and not as an opportunity to create a positive customer experience.

One simple strategy for setting the stage for being present is holding morning or shift huddles. How we start the day (or the shift) effects everything to follow. So, why not make sure things start off right? A 5-10 minute team huddle can include:

  • A positive service story from the previous day.
  • An example of one employee setting up another for success in a customer situation.
  • A positive customer letter.
  • A motivational quote.
  • Reinforcement of an organizational value.
  • The “customer service objective of the day.”

The idea is to get everyone in the right mood for being present for customers; to be in the moment so that they can delight customers.

But what if you’re an individual in an organization and your company or department doesn’t have morning huddles? Well, you can suggest starting them and even volunteer to lead them. But you don’t have to wait for anyone else to do anything. You can start your own day or shift off right by reflecting on any of the items mentioned above. One software help desk employee said that she puts a Post It note on the side of her computer screen every day with her “focus thought of the day.” It might be the word “Listen,” or “Smile,” or “Compassion.” The point is that her word of the day keeps her present and in the moment for her customers. This idea might sound simplistic, but I would say it isn’t simplistic, it’s simple, which is why it works.

Something to think about: Are you and the other members of your organization “in the moment” for your customers? What can you do to start the day off right so that you increase the likelihood of being present for your customers?

Please check out my new, interactive, virtual training program, Dennis Snow Virtual Training, at www.dennissnowvt.com.

When an Employee Just Isn’t Cutting It

badappleOne of the most challenging situations that faces any leader is having to deal with a wrong fit employee. Leaders should, of course, give the employee a chance to improve through coaching, additional training, etc. But when those remedies don’t work, we have to let the wrong fit employee go. I find that too many leaders avoid the situation far too long, causing frustration for customers and for other employees.

Delay tactics are often justified with statements like, “Opinions about performance issues are sometimes too subjective to take such drastic action.” Management guru Mark Sanborn addresses the issue in a blog post titled, “7 Clues You’ve Got the Wrong Person on Your Team.” I especially like clue #1. While a certain amount of subjectivity might still be involved in such difficult people decisions, Mark’s list sure helps clarify the situation.

Completing Tasks Versus Creating Experiences – Pike’s Place Fish Market

In this video I showcase the world-famous Pike’s Place Fish Market as an example of taking a routine task (selling fish) and turning it into an experience that delights customers.