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Innovating Service With Chip Bell

Customer Care

Are You a Disrupter?

Discover better ways to serve customers and trigger service transformations

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2019 - 13:02

Visioning beyond the customer is the responsibility of every person interested in a competitive advantage.

What do Bill Marriott, Ray Kroc, and Al Hopkins have in common?

No, they are not all people of wealth and fame. In fact, Hopkins is a small-town accountant and part-time preacher. They all are (or were) innovative disruptors who discovered new ways to better serve customers and trigger service transformations. They saw the way a given service was being delivered and found a new way to turn it completely on its ear.

In 1937, Willard (Bill, Sr.) Marriott started the first catering service to airlines for meals on board after he noticed people at Hoover Field (now the site of the Pentagon) were going by his small Hot Shoppes restaurant and buying takeout food before boarding flights.

Ray Kroc saw the growth of the nationwide highway system and the paucity of reliable roadside eateries and invented McDonald’s—not just as a quick-service restaurant but as a concept of a recognizable chain of hamburger factories that produced consistent burgers prepared quickly, accurately, and served in a clean, wholesome setting.

And Al Hopkins? When he was a young boy in my hometown, he watched the other 10-year-olds wait for customers to stop by their sidewalk lemonade stands in the hot summer sun. Hopkins 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 headlight and a siren. The next summer there was not a single stationary lemonade stand in town, but quite a few traveling lemonade salespeople.

Being a disruptor takes boldness and the capacity for risk taking

The president of Henry Ford’s lawyer’s bank advised him not to invest in the Ford Motor Co. “The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a fad,” the banker is reported to have told Ford’s lawyer. Today’s lunacy is tomorrow’s conventional wisdom; today’s conventional wisdom is tomorrow’s historical footnote.

Strategy guru Gary Hamel put the requirement for disruptors and transformers this way in “Strategy as Revolution” (Harvard Business Review, July—August 1996): “Corporations around the world are reaching the limits of incrementalism. Squeezing another penny out of costs, getting product to market a few weeks earlier, responding to customers’ inquiries a little bit faster, ratcheting quality up one more notch, capturing another point of market share—those are the obsessions of managers today. But pursuing incremental improvements while rivals reinvent the industry is like fiddling while Rome burns.”

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About The Author

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

Innovating Service With Chip Bell

Chip Bell has helped companies dramatically enhance their bottom lines and marketplace reputation through innovative customer-centric strategies. For the sixth year in a row, Global Gurus in 2020 ranked Bell as one of the top three keynote speakers in the world on customer service. Bell has authored 24 books; seven are international best sellers. His latest book, Inside Your Customer’s Imagination: 5 Secrets for Creating Breakthrough Products, Services, and Solutions, shows how co-creation partnerships enable you to tap into the treasure trove of ideas, ingenuity, and genius-in-the-raw within every customer.