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Innovating Service With Chip Bell

Customer Care

How’s Your Service Scenography?

Put your senses into service

Published: Monday, April 24, 2017 - 12:02

Imagine a hotel proposing that the housekeeper put a goldfish in your guest room in a basketball-sized bowl filled with colorful rocks.  All they ask is that you give it a name so you can have “your” fish join you again on your next stay. Visualize the bathrobe in the closet being zebra-striped or leopard-spotted rather than boring white, or the turn-down item left on your pillow something completely unexpected—a foreign coin, a flower, even a lottery ticket—instead of the ubiquitous mint.  Welcome to the Hotel Monaco!

 Hotel Monaco is my favorite hotel. Not only because of its over-the-top service but because it provides a clever cacophony of sensory stimulations. Your colorful guest room radiantly greets you with garden-fresh flowers, peaceful fragrances, unusual artwork, and restful music. Bathroom amenities range from scented soap to your very own rubber ducky. A super pet-friendly hotel, the Monaco not only provides a turn-down bone and nature videos for guests’ furry roommates, it even includes a dog concierge in its lobbies. The complimentary late-afternoon wine party in the lobby might include a handwriting psychic quietly reading palms for a small fee.   

Customers love service that awakens their senses. Famous bars have become light shows, bakeries pump tantalizing aromas from their kitchens onto the sidewalk, and modern hospitals provide babbling fountains and tranquil music. Walk into the lobby of any Westin Hotel, and your nose knows the scent suddenly shifts from the “smell of the street” to a signature fragrance called “White Tea.” An antique and memorabilia shop in Memphis plays oldies music; an upscale jewelry shop in Chicago has all employees wear formal evening attire.

“Scenography” means all the senses of the service experience are working congruently. The term comes from the world of theatre. The script, the set, the costumes all have to work together to minimize any subtle audience dissonance. Our subconscious knows when the thread count of the sheets don’t match the elegance of the hotel room. 

And the “23 mph perspective?” It started out as a version of Trivial Pursuit—only it was related to minute facts everyone had collectively experienced at the end of a long weekend getaway. The setting was a gated beach resort; the participants were three couples who had rendezvoused from different locations. The stump-the-other-team trivia question that got the biggest laugh was, “What is the speed limit on the streets of this resort?” Everyone yelled, “23 mph!”  What made this speed limit sign so effective?  A typical number would have just disappeared into the surroundings without being noticed. Stimulating the visual senses created a memory-making experience.

If you pull into Harry’s Marathon Service station in Saline, Wisconsin, you can pump your own gas or have it pumped for you. But Charlie will take your money or your credit card, and return your change and receipt. What makes this cashier unusual, however, is that Charlie is a golden retriever! Patrons to Harry’s love Charlie’s service so much that they started a 401K-9 retirement program for him. A book was even written about him called Gas Station Charlie (Kays Press, 1999). Charlie died in 1999, but his son, Benjamin, follows in his father’s paw prints.

A major hospital asked its patients during admission to identify their favorite flower. The hospital worked out an arrangement with a local florist to have a single stem of the patient’s favorite flower in a bud vase placed on that returning patient’s hospital bedside table.

Customers today are bored with ho-hum, pretty good, nothing-really-special service. They want their service experience to have a cherry on top! As customers, we like stimulation; we ignore bland. Finding innovative ways to make your service experience different from what others offer can be a key to building loyalty. When realtors suggest baking an apple pie before holding an open house, and when upscale retail stores put a pianist at a baby grand on the sales floor, they are putting their “senses into service.” 

What can you do to follow the 23 mph principle? Conduct a sense audit. What should your service experience smell like—sound like—feel like—look like—taste like if you wanted to excite your customers’ memory with an enchanting experience? What messages are being sent by the color, font, tone, images, or language used on your website? What does your parking lot, lobby, or waiting area telegraph about your attentiveness to your customers’ experience? Examine your customers’ experience through the lens of organizations known for a sensory-driven experience, such as Disney or Cirque du Soleil. Service is memory-making; make yours out of the ordinary.

Discuss

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.