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Innovating Service With Chip Bell

Customer Care

Welcome to Innovating Service

A monthly column dedicated to the quest of being remarkable

Published: Monday, September 26, 2016 - 16:47

Francie Johnsen is my very favorite pharmacist. When the petite, redheaded bundle of energy first came to work at the Eckerd Pharmacy (now CVS) near my home, she encountered a store spirit painted plain vanilla. Employees were creating a completely memory-less experience. Nothing was wrong, mind you; there was just nothing that would make you want to come back.

But under the Francie magical influence, the energy in the store quickly became as animated as a new puppy let out of its cage.

Francie manages customers waiting in a way that leaves them totally infatuated. One day she noticed my obvious impatience while waiting for my prescription. “Go check to see if your pictures are ready while I fill your script,” Francie said, encouragingly.

“But Francie, I don’t have pictures being developed,” I protested.

Unfazed by my refusal to take her bait, she elevated the fun to a higher altitude. “Well, go look at someone else’s pictures,” she volleyed. “Or better yet, go check your blood pressure on that machine over there. I’ll have your order ready by the time you get back.”

Before Francie, should you have a prescription called in or dropped off for later retrieval, you got a mechanical message on your answering machine, along the lines of, “Someone in this household has a prescription ready for pickup.” She terminated that. When our vet called in a prescription for our cat, the answering machine at our house played an even more playful message: “Taco, meow, meow,” the message trumpeted in Francie’s voice. “Tell your parents, meow, meow, that your prescription is ready, meow, meow!”

Not only did she call the cat, she spoke fluent kitty!

Value-added activities have been the service solution for many exemplary organizations: It means taking what your customers expect and adding a little more. But value-added extras have gotten a lot more expensive. That guest room on the hotel’s fancy floor that front desk clerks used to upgrade a frequent guest, for example, now need to be sold to generate full revenue. No more baker’s dozen; the merchant needs to sell each donut with no extras. Tough economic times call for a new approach: value-unique service.

Value unique is different from value added. It’s not about addition, as in, “They gave me more than I anticipated.” It’s about a unique and unexpected creation. When service people are asked to give more, they often think, “I’m 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. This refreshingly novel brand of service leaves customers more than cheaply entertained; it leaves them richly stirred.

In this monthly column, we’ll begin a series on innovating service. It’s dedicated to the quest of being remarkable. Here you’ll find an instruction manual and inspirational guide to making service an experience that causes your customers to swoon, smile, and sing your praises. It’s your sparkplug for bringing energy and igniting your customers’ experiences.

“Remarkable takes originality, passion, guts, and daring,” writes Seth Godin in his bestselling book, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable (Portfolio, 2003). “Not just because going through life with passion and guts beats the alternative (which it does), but because it is the only way to be successful. Today, the one sure way to fail is to be boring. Your one chance for success is to be remarkable.”

Get set for a unique ride ahead. And one last thing: Please don’t just read this post and move on. Apply it and share it. Let it benefit your colleagues and customers. Let your service be the type customers are eager to talk about. Greatness doesn’t come from customer retention; it comes from customer advocacy.

This is an excerpt from Chip Bell’s book, The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service (Simple Truths, 2013).

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About The Author

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Innovating Service With Chip Bell

Chip Bell has helped Fortune 100 companies dramatically enhance their bottom lines and marketplace reputation through innovative customer-centric strategies that address the needs of today’s picky, fickle, and vocal customers. Bell is author of 22 books; seven are international best sellers. His latest book is Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2017). Global Gurus ranked Bell in 2014 the No. 1 keynote speaker in the world on customer service. The Chip Bell Group has helped clients become famous for the kind of service experiences that result in devoted customers, enhanced reputation, and significant growth.