Imaginative Service: Going Beyond the Basics

“When Business Week picks Amazon.com as the #1 best service company– an on-line fulfillment company—it’s proof good old fashioned service is dead.” The comment sounded like a “kids are going to the dogs” statement someone’s grandfather might make. But, it was coming from a non-computer savvy physician in one of our client focus groups.

Suddenly others in the room jumped into the discussion with jubilant praise for Amazon.com. “Their website is so easy,” “I always get what I order,” “Their prices are the best,” and “Returns are a breeze.” Their comments reflected excellence at the basics—the core expectations of all the shoulda’s and oughta’s. Then, someone told the story of a customer ordering a used book through Amazon.com, not getting the book expected, with zero success contacting the used book company. Amazon not only refunded the customer’s money before the flawed book was returned but took on the rogue used book dealer on behalf of the customer. Even the naysaying doctor was impressed.

Imaginative service creates devoted customers. However, imaginative service only works if the basics are met. Great service providers like Amazon.com provide only as much service as is needed—until more is required. A routine order and you get exactly what you hope for, no more no less. But, if there is an exception or problem, you witness greatness and creativity. We all like service with a cherry on top. But if what’s under the cherry disappoints, the cherry won’t matter. Are you focusing on sparkly service and letting solid service slip?

Writer Bio: Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of Take Their Breath Away: How Imaginative Service Creates Devoted Customers. They can be reached through www.taketheirbreathaway.com.