What makes a great cookie special? Sprinkles! What makes great service special? Innovative service. Chip Bell expands on this theme in his newest book, Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service, and shares a few of those thoughts in this delightful post.
You have been the sole proprietary of a small antique store that did so well a large chain made you an offer you could not refuse. So you cashed in and pocketed a sizable profit… enough to ensure a great retirement. After a few weeks, you are bored and ready to return to work.
You greatly miss the fun of delighting customers with your innovative extras in your store. You wore a tuxedo to work to the amazement of patrons who crossed your threshold. Fifties music played in the background, conjuring up great memories for customers as they perused your cornucopia of items for sale from yesteryear. On the checkout counter, next to the antique cash register you used, was a container of free sassafras candy and a complimentary copy of a replica of the local paper – fifty years prior. Even the receipt had a parchment look about it.
Your search for a new position landed you a supervisor slot at a very large nationwide department store. You arrive with many cool ideas about how to ramp up sales by raising the delight factor among customers and employees. You are told that the company had a policy for practically everything, as well as standards worked out over years of profits. If you had a new idea for how things should be different, it would have to be put in the suggestion box in the break area and could be practiced only if approved by corporate.
You fill the suggestion box with your nifty ideas over the next few weeks but never hear back from anyone. The store manager admonishes you to “just do your job” and leave innovation to him. While he praises your energy and enthusiasm he also cautions you to stop “stirring up trouble” with your crazy ideas only relevant for a small antique store. You could hang it up, but you really like your customers and you enjoy your associates.
So What Do You Do?
This is the dilemma faced by many leaders in big box enterprises. People who are eager to exercise ingenuity in the experiences they create for customers end up either leaving or they acquiesce to being obedient, leaving their creativity in the parking lot. It is what makes Zappos so unique as the antithesis. It is also why they are so successful.
In his book Courage Goes to Work, Bill Treasurer writes:
“When courage goes to work, people actively seek out tasks that stretched their skills and capabilities. When courage goes to work, people speak up more frequently, forcefully, and truthfully. When courage goes to work, people say yes to company changes with more enthusiasm. When courage goes to work, people are less risk-averse, less self-conscious, and less apathetic.”
Customers win, organizations win, and employees win.
As customers more and more frequently demand service with sprinkles, not just service with standardization, the rule-bound organization will be forced to change from the leadership found in a product-making factory to that common in an R&D facility.
Rules and procedures create consistency with foreseeable results. But customers today want surprise and unexpected delight. “What about efficiency,” you ask? Efficiency is already hard-wired into the DNA of most every successful enterprise in the country.
Standards support consistency. But take a look at a scrumptious, enchanting cupcake with colorful sprinkles. There is anything but uniformity. Yet it displays the features of a customer experience most likely to yield a story your customers are eager to share.
Service with sprinkles takes courage. Do you have the moxie to make it happen?
Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books. His newest book is the just released Sprinkles. He can be reached at chipbell.com.