by Jane Anderson, Featured Contributor
After being treated to the writing of Chip Bell’ in his book The 9 ½ Principles of Innovative Service, I couldn’t wait for my copy of Sprinkles to arrive. I know. Sprinkles. Catchy title, but totally realistic for this book which is packed with real stories about audacious customer service. I have to tell you first that this book even looks fun to read and we can all use knowledge served ala carte with extra sprinkles on top.
Let me begin by revealing the end. Chip uses a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that says “We dare not trust our wit for making our house pleasant to our friend, so we buy ice cream”. All through his book Chip uses analogies, true stories from today and yesterday to impress upon his readers that plain vanilla service is about as far as your own wit can go. You need innovation, spice, sweetness, creativity – the virtual secret sauce in abundance and served up with sprinkles.
In this short synopsis of the book, it’s not possible to cover every paragraph from the chapter intro to the secret sauce, but let’s do this. I’ll lay down the path through the book and sprinkle it with something outstanding from each chapter. Ready? As Chip said in his previous book and now in this one, “value-unique service and not value-added service provides a more promising path to delight – one with ingenuity, not addition.” You can’t keep adding more and more, but you can keep innovating for uniqueness.
Innovation comes from choosing the light, like when someone has a brilliant “Aha!” moment and we call it insight. It happens at some point to all of us, because we have creativity inside. Make sure to put people into the positions where they can experience energy in action, where there are no barriers.
Everything goes better with sprinkles
I remember the look of disappointment on my granddaughter’s face when our local ice cream depot ran out of sprinkles last summer. Those tiny dashes of something special mean so much, and not just to people under 4 feet tall. In this chapter Chip tells his story about being on the receiving end of “Sprinkles” that he says is code for heartstring-plucking surprise that takes service from great to awesome. It’s what transforms service that happens to you into service that happens for you.
The Secret Sauce – Amazement
Differentiate your service so you surprise your customers and take their breath away. Be so amazing your customers’ hearts will be ensnared and they will no longer have an appetite for your competitors.
Make Passion the Spice of Service
Do you know what leeches are? Of course you do. They are the slimy things that attach themselves to an arm or leg to suck the blood out of their target. There are spirit leeches too. They remove optimism, hope, and confidence. Spirit leeches blame and make excuses. How do you get rid of spirit leeches? The same way you do real leeches – with fire. They need to be warmed up with energy, passion, and a feisty spirit. It’s an attitude you choose. Pretend your service is like a jack-in-the-box and create a sense of anticipation.
The Secret Sauce – Animation
Customers are attracted to spirited people. Smart organizations nurture spirit. Fire-up your employees so they aren’t serving up the same boring, humdrum, neat and tidy service. While there has to be a balance between enthusiasm and efficiency, make sure everyone in your organization is enthusiastic and spirited.
Always Add an Extra Helping
Gourmet service comes with an abundance of generosity – like adding a decoration. The spirit of innovative service is when you sprinkle on something that’s important to your customer. It can be as easy and effective as a well-directed compliment.
The Secret Sauce – Abundance
If you want to be a powerhouse to your customers, serve from an abundant heart – the type that leaves customers surprised, not just happy. A generous attitude has a magnetic impact on customers; they feel valued, not used.
Put a Cherry on Top of Good Service
Do you like logic puzzles where you read a story and try to pick out subtle details to arrive at the right answers to questions that follow? Chip asked his readers to read his story in this chapter and pick out all the places that a cherry could have been added to the service he received. The cherry would indicate surprisingly great service. He calls it the scenography of service. He was at a restaurant that could have made a colorful image to all his senses, but he got plain vanilla. He then tells a very different story that I will let you read for yourself on pages 38 – 39. The secret ingredient in service is knowing your customers well and make them feel valued – like having a cherry on top. Get the book!
The Secret Sauce –Ambiance
Sights, sounds, and smells are all cues for customers. Are they making pleasant memories or not? Innovative service is indulgent and decorated. It means stirring the soul while meeting the needs. Gourmet chefs focus on presentation, not just preparation.
Give the Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread
There is no greater gift one can give a customer than delivering service painted the color of love. Chip tells two stories that will blow away any thought that people don’t go the second or third mile to serve their customers because they love the organization they work for and they love to represent their products. Affection is infectious. Go infect someone with your love of customers and love of the product of service you represent.
The Secret Sauce – Adoration
I loved the story Chip told about how his dad repaired a broken fence, rescued some cows, and chalked it up to a good deed for a crotchety old neighbor. WOW! Service with love.
Customers Enjoy Borrowing a Cup of Sugar
When was the last time you borrowed a cup of sugar from a neighbor? Probably never, but in this chapter Chip likens great customer service to being neighborly. He says a large portion of trust is mixed into the brew of service and trust comes through relationships. Homemade trust is fashioned through small acts of communication and caring that make customers fell like every person providing service is on their side. Serve every customer as though you are serving your best friend. You will like the story of the dry cleaners and the rip in Chip’s pricey dress pants. Get the book!
The Secret Sauce – Allegiance
When you are a trusting organization, you can focus more on nurturing the relationship than being miserly. This does not mean “giving away the shop” but it means looking for opportunities to do the unexpected, extra favors for customers. It’s the small, thoughtful, personalized extras that gain loyalty mileage.
Let Your Customers Lick the Beaters
Let’s face it. Not all customers are created equal. Some customers want to be included in a process and want to be invited to put skin in the game. Others want nothing more than the complete product and are willing to pay their money and don’t care to partner with you. Chip lays out seven principles of customer inclusion. Here’s number 6. Give the customer plenty of breathing room. OK. Don’t you want to go see what the other 6 are?
The Secret Sauce – Alliance
If you’re smart, and I think you are, you will view your customers as partners regardless of their degree of participation. Something to think about. Alliance means ‘ally’ from the French word ‘to bind’. The tie that binds in the world of service is an invitation to be a full member in the invention and formation of a service experience.
Be As Easy As A TV Dinner
What is it that trumps every feature of basic customer service? Being easy to do business with. This means reduced stress and escaping the dreaded hassle and frustration that’s too often the norm. This can only come from taking an ‘empathy walk’ through your customer experience. In one part of the chapter, Chip calls one aspect customer forensics. Just like it sounds – what happened to kill that customer relationship? He offers some tips that include keeping a log of customer complaints, learn to spot trends, and find out what created customer disappointment and anxiety. Then do everything you can to reverse those trends and practices. Like a gourmet chef, get a clear picture of what your preparation and presentation will be, then work backward from that goal to ensure reality matches your vision.
The Secret Sauce – Accessible
You’ve heard that stressed is dessert spelled backward? Chip points that out too when he says make access to stressless service a vital and obvious part of your service recipe.
Be the Icing on Your Customer’s Cake
In this final chapter of Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service, Chip uses the analogy of a candle to a light bulb. They both do the same thing, right? Or do they? Great service is light-like; innovative service is candle-like. Lights are stable and bright; candles are shimmery and passionate. People who deliver great service focus on being good; people who deliver innovative service seek to add imagination to what they do. It’s up to you. Do you want to shine a light or light your customer’s candle?
The Secret Sauce – Adventure
Reading this book was an adventure in customer service. It was fun, it was engaging, it was educational, it was inspiring, and it was a tour through the many landscapes of customer service through the eyes of the author who knows innovative service and lives innovation every day. Innovative service is unexpected, off-the-beaten-path. It delights because it is distinctive, not just excellent. Take your customers on a memorable adventure and they will return with their fidelity and their funds.
I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of
– Shelby Latcherie in Steel Magnolias
What if your customers said your unique service was just that wonderful?