Creating Service in Stereo

boomboxEddie Taylor was the lead nerd in my high school in the 1960’s. He carried way too many ink pens, spoke ham radio, and never got more than three feet from his slide rule (just Google it!). Rather than wearing faded jeans like the rest of us, he wore black dress pants that revealed too much of his white socks. But, he was the first kid in our school to own a stereo. And, he had amazing records that made the sound of a jet plane “fly” across his bedroom. As we witness the decline of service quality in the face of challenging economics, I have thought a lot about Eddie’s great stereo record player.

Imaginative service is like serving in stereo. One track is the one that gets the spotlight – matching service to what customers need, expect, or want. And, great service means delivering that customer-centric service better than what customers expect. But, there is another “track” to serving in stereo often missed—signature service. Signature means adding your personal best to the experience. Notice the last sentence does not simply say “best.” Personal best is laced with excellence and originality. It means adding your style and character to your customer’s experience.

Service in stereo is what Zappo’s.com did to online shoe buying. There were plenty of ways to buy shoes on the Internet. Even the great Nordstrom, originally a shoe store, had them available on the Internet. But, Zappos added a signature touch – over the top service with a quirky, down-home style and delivery that got shoes to you almost by the time you got off line! It is what Disney did to theme parks, what BMW did with the Mini Cooper and what USAA did to insurance.

The difference between getting great service and getting signature great service is like getting tomatoes out of the produce section of the grocery store and getting them at a road side vegetable stand sold by the farmer who grew them in the tomato patch right behind the stand. Somehow that “made by hand” component makes it taste better, even if it is all in your head. And, the pride of craftsmanship comes through at the stand in a far different way than you get from the produce manager.

Pretend the service you deliver was something that could be displayed in a “service museum.’ Would you want your name on it? Would museum patrons recognize it as uniquely your creation? As your legacy, would it be something your kids (or future kids) would proudly share with their family and friends?

Writer Bio: Chip R. Bell is a customer loyalty consultant and the author (with John R. Patterson) of Take Their Breath Away: How Imaginative Service Creates Devoted Customers. He can be reached at www.taketheirbreathaway.com.

photo credit: stallio