Are Your Customers’ Experiences Getting Sanitized?

The following is a guest post by Chip Bell. Chip’s latest book, Kaleidoscope, uses stories, anecdotes, and quotes to inspire and instruct. If you’ve gotten to know Chip through one of his previous books or by attending one of his seminars, then you’re familiar with his extensive repertoire of illustrations that teach—like those contained in this post. Enjoy!

Customers totally forget ordinary, nothing-to-write-home-about service experiences. They might remember a good experience, but today they only talk or tweet about experiences that are unique, delightful, and unexpected. Yet, far too many organizations continue to serve plain vanilla when, with a bit of effort, they could turn it into a Neapolitan story-to-share experience.

I was waiting for an appointment with my insurance agent. In the corner of the reception area was a collection of toys. A woman was also in the reception area and her two young boys were giggling over one of the toys. It was not loud; it was actually refreshingly comical. As I was finally ushered back to my agent’s office, the receptionist commented, “That’s why our ceiling has acoustical tile…to absorb noise like those kids.”

Her prophylactic comment gave me pause. Customers are lovers of sensory stimulation. Most prefer their senses get invited to a carnival experience, not a conventional one. Gloomy, dreary, and quiet might be an appropriate feature for a funeral home, but not for an experience that should be remembered with a smile or a swoon. What if you made experiences more like a kaleidoscope and less like sun glasses?

Here is the world through a kaleidoscope perspective. Happy music is never far away. Frontline employees are costumed—maybe just a colorful pen or flower is all that is needed to change business casual into business charming. There is an abundant use of rich color. Animals can sometimes have a place. Your senses are fooled into thinking you must be at a theme park. There are an abundance of sensory surprises. Typical offerings are punctuated periodically with something unique or clever. Need a few examples?

Miller Bros. men’s clothing store in Atlanta placed a giant gumball machine on the table in their entrance foyer. Beside it is a bowl of shiny pennies. Guess where junior goes while daddy is trying on clothes? The ultra modern Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver puts colorful box of pick-up-sticks, an antique yoyo in its original box, and a kaleidoscope on the high tech industrial strength desk in guest rooms. The contrast adds charismatic personality to concentrated productivity.

Jack Daniels Barbeque Cookbook added a recipe for roast possum, country-fried beaver, and barbequed rabbit right in the middle of otherwise normal fare. Think of the fun their staff must have had with the whimsical addition; consider how many smiles the discovery has created for cookbook buyers. At Betty’s Grocery Store in Helen, GA you can buy marbles by the cup, watch bees making honey through a viewing glass, buy products (NuGrape, RC Cola, Mary Jane candy bars) you hadn’t seen in years, or gaze at antiques adorning the grocery store walls.

We live in an era of stimulation that stays lodged in the memory of customers. It is time to get out of the plain vanilla service business. Take the gloves off your customers’ experiences and go a little wild! You will be the talk of the town and the toast of your customers.

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several national best-selling books. His newest book is the just-released Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. He can be reached at

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