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Innovating Service With Chip Bell

Customer Care

Color Your Service Purple

Adorn customers in the hue of nobility

Published: Tuesday, December 13, 2016 - 18:50

It started out as a lackluster taxi ride from the airport to the hotel. But it turned regal and elegant the second I hailed the next taxi as I exited Charlotte Douglas Airport. The Crown Cab that pulled up was shiny and spotless. When the taxi driver raised the trunk to deposit my roller bag, I was stunned to see it was lined in mink—not real mink of course, but a faux mink blanket. Instead of returning to the driver’s side, he opened the passenger door for me to embark.

As the taxi pulled away, classical music began playing on the radio. There was a cup holder with a small bottle of ice cold water. The magazines in the seat were ones you might expect at a luxury hotel—Robb Report, Wine Spectator and Town and Country. When I complimented the driver on his choice of music and reading material, he smiled and humbly responded, “My pleasure, sir.” I felt like a rich tycoon in a chauffeur-driven limousine—and it was a 10-year-old Chevrolet! I was “purpled!”

If you spend time with young granddaughters you quickly learn the really big-deal importance of purple. Pink is a girl color, but purple is a princess (or prince) color—a hue of nobility. The word is typically used as a noun or adjective; for granddaughters with an undying desire to be a princess, it is also a verb: “I will ‘purple’ you with my wand.” Think of it as the 6-year-old version of knighting someone. After you are “purpled,” you are to be always treated as a prince or princess. 

Customers love being purpled—raising the class and increasing the elegance of service. Servers who purple find ways to enrich the experience by adorning the mundane. It’s the financial consultant sending papers by courier when regular mail would be adequate. It’s a carwash attendant in white coveralls and a tie. Or a flight attendant placing plastic flight wings on a child’s doll as well as on the child when they board. It’s the manicurist who walks out to open the customer’s car door and start her engine so she won’t scuff her nails. 

Examples of the purpling principles are all around us—if we look for them. MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center in Baltimore commissioned a new breed of hybrid rose called the “Rose of Hope.” Each cancer patient at the center receives a Hope rose as she begins treatment. Sewell Village Cadillac in Dallas decorates the service waiting room with pricey leather sofas, gourmet coffee, and pastries; its elegant bathrooms have fresh flowers. Catalyst Ranch, a meeting center in Chicago, keeps three brands of LCD projectors to ensure compatibility with any laptop. 

Legend has it that in the mid-1600s when Dom Perignon invented what we know today as champagne, he called to his friends and exclaimed (in French, of course), “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!” Purpling is a deliberate rebellion against plain vanilla service. It is helping your customers taste the stars.

What can you do to apply the purpling principle?

Create service processes that ensure red-carpet ease, not a thorn-filled path of excess effort, unexpected dissonance, and policies written in the language of distrust. Care about customers as special people not simply as subjects who are but a means to revenue. Remove those spirit leeches who try to suck the ecstasy and elegance out of work by showing them your red-hot passion. Boldly summon customers on a journey to collective joy much like a child welcoming a close friend to a treehouse filled with secrets.

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 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 (Berrett-Koehler, 2020), shows how co-creation partnerships enable you to tap into the treasure trove of ideas, ingenuity, and genius-in-the-raw within every customer.