Content By Innovating Service With Chip Bell

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By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

Many years ago, I worked for the president of a bank famous for aggressive bank acquisitions and rapid growth in the financial services space. The bank ultimately became the Bank of America, and the president became its CEO. Hugh McColl was famous for his swashbuckling leadership style, his brilliant strategy execution, and his sometimes irreverent style of communications, especially when the media were involved.

When the bank purchased Barnett Bank, the largest bank in Florida, McColl commissioned the construction of a large high-rise in Tampa, Florida, which the locals called the “Beer Can Building.” It was a tall circular structure that dominated the Tampa skyline. When asked if he had plans to put the bank name or logo on the side of the building, McColl wisecracked, “You wouldn’t think of putting a sign on a female that proclaimed ‘woman,’ would you?” The media had a field day with this metaphor.

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

Parking lot. We use it in the meeting-management world to mean agenda items that are tabled for later discussion. These are generally posted on a sheet of flip-chart paper, taped on the meeting wall, and then placed on the agenda of the next meeting so they are not forgotten as topics for discussion.

I was working with a large B2B company and sat in on its weekly senior leadership staff meeting. The attendees all agreed they needed to spend a considerable amount of time talking about the negative impact of their customers’ experiences of their company. Survey results verbatim and customer complaints repeatedly contained comments on the company’s great products but its lousy customer service. Their customer churn rate was up; customer-contact employees’ morale was low. But this particular meeting was already full of higher priority issues. So, customer experience was put on the parking lot flip chart.

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

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.

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

I recently had eye surgery that required me to sleep on my back for two weeks following the operation. I have always slept on my side, ever since I was a kid. My back-sleeping attempts are so challenging, I am never able to nap on those United States to Europe flights. I usually end up burning a gazillion frequent flyer points to get a pricey seat that reclines to a flatbed—just so I can turn on my side!

It made me think about the many times we make customers break their routines of comfort in order to be served the way we want to serve them. When my family recently organized my mother’s 102nd birthday party, the restaurant bluntly told us we could not move tables together, or have simple table decorations, and if we wanted to have ice cream with the decorated birthday cake we brought, we had to buy a case of 48 cups in advance. We had only half that many family members at her party.

One more thing: We had to either all order from the menu, or all go through their buffet. Try getting an eight-year-old to select roast beef in gravy, cauliflower, and mashed potatoes from the buffet when there are chicken tenders, mac and cheese, and French fries on the kid’s menu! Their rules trumped our comfort and enjoyment.

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

Standing in the gate area of Delta Airlines at the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport, I was watching the monitor to learn if my name appeared on the “upgrade to first class” list. Honestly, I was feeling totally entitled since I fly a gazillion miles a year on Delta.

Had my name not appeared, I would have been disappointed, maybe even angry. But, this time my name appeared. Today, you do not go to the gate attendant for a new boarding pass, the computer issues you a new seat assignment as you board with the first-class passengers.

The upgrade process is designed to be an affinity program—crafted to ramp up the affection of customers. No humans were involved in this historically value-added process. And, since there was no emotional connection, no expression of bigheartedness from Delta, my heart never raced; my affection meter for the brand never budged. It was as functional as a vending machine. I realized I had just participated in the mechanization of customer delight, and it completely failed to enchant. So, I did not tweet about my upgrade, nor did I tell my neighbor.

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

The 1962 film, Lawrence of Arabia, won the Oscar for Best Picture at the 35th Academy Awards. Given the current conflicts in the Middle East, I recently watched the four-hour movie to learn more about the cultural history of the area.

Thomas Edward Lawrence (played by Peter O’Toole) was a British intelligence officer assigned to investigate the revolt of the Arabs against the Turks during World War I. He embraced the culture and dress of the Arabs and organized a guerrilla army that for two years raided the Turks with surprise attacks.

In the early part of the movie, a poor Bedouin guide is hired to escort Lawrence across the desert to meet with Prince Faisal (played by Alec Guinness), the leader of the Arab revolt. (Faisal would ultimately become King of Greater Syria and King of Iraq, pushing for unity between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims). It was customary then for desert guides to be paid at the end of their assignment. Instead, at the beginning of their journey, Lawrence gave his military pistol to the guide—a gift of great value and pleasure for any Bedouin.

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

The coolest birthday present I ever received was a gift from my wife a number of years ago; it was a white 1962 Mercedes-Benz 220 sedan reasonably well-restored. But the classy antique car, with its deep fenders and leather seats, turned out to be a real lemon. That’s about all I remember about the car. But I remember a lot about Brothers Auto Service near Charlotte, North Carolina, where my elegant birthday present was frequently nursed back to health during the two years I tried to depend on it.

The two owners, Nicky and Joe, believed all customers were simply “good neighbors with car problems.” Their prices were fair, their workmanship superb, their hours convenient, but the same could be said of most of their competitors, including the service department of a major Mercedes dealership that was less than a mile away. However, it’s Brothers’ “in customers we trust” philosophy that has kept it in business since 1982.

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.
—Anne Lamott

Howard Perdue was the owner, manager, and spiritual leader of the Ford tractor dealership in McRae, Georgia, during the 1950s and 1960s. In that era, about 185 percent of the population—practically every man, woman, child, dog, and mule—was involved in the overtime occupation of worrying about soybean prices and praying for rain. Because no one could do much serious farming without a tractor and the proper plows, Perdue was the center of the universe. He was also my mother’s brother.

The Perdue-farmer relationship was a special one. Few farmers started the planting season with enough money to fund all their farm equipment needs. They typically bet—along with Perdue—on the success of their harvest. Their new combine or fertilizer spreader was bought on credit and a promise to pay “when I make my crop.” Frequently, farmers literally “bet the farm” when an unexpected equipment failure led to an unforeseen expense. But the risk was not only on the customer’s side; if the farmer could not harvest his crops, Perdue lost as well.

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

Variation and defects. They are the bane of all manufacturing companies. They signal an absence of efficiency, a neglect of productivity, and a total disregard for cost effectiveness. Who is seen as the rescuing knight in shining armor? Sir Six Sigma!

Fundamentally, Six Sigma (always capitalized, mind you) is a data-based discipline, a collection of principles, and a set of tools designed to identify and eliminate defects by minimizing process variability.

Who could argue against the Six Sigma payoff, with its confidence-building rigor and mathematical prowess? What gets measured gets done... at least at work. It’s the manufacturing version of motherhood and apple pie. Countless organizations have trained countless employees to “Think Six Sigma.”

All disciplines carry a set of beliefs that form paradigm-shaping outcomes. With their proper application, they can enable a person to see opportunities otherwise unseen and thus missed. A Six Sigma-trained professional can spot a source of defects or process variability faster than a person who doesn’t have those tools.

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

What if you were required to fill out an online form if you wanted the phone number or address of an enterprise with which you wanted to do business? Let’s say you were driving to a meeting at their location and you needed to contact someone to let them know you were unavoidably detained. You would have to pull over on the side of the road, fill out the online form, and wait for a response, which would make you even later. Sound ludicrous?

I continue to be amazed at the number of businesses that brag about their customer-centricity but make an email address impossible to find on their website. If you want to communicate, you are required to fill out an online form. I know some smart marketing person offered the website form as the gate so that names and contact information could be captured. Their message is clear: Our marketing needs trump your need for access.