Top customer experience expert Chip Bell is a romantic at heart. So when his car dealership sends him home with a rose for his wife after a routine maintenance check, the business wins both his appreciation and loyalty. In this session, Chip discusses value-unique customer experience, the power of creativity, and what business leaders everywhere can do to inspire employees to provide memorable customer experiences people will want to talk about.
Let's get started. So a little bit about Chip. Chip is a keynote speaker and a customer loyalty expert. He has written 22 books, that's a lot. And in this session today we will discuss customer experience through innovative service. So, Chip, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself beyond this introduction.
Yeah, absolutely! Well, I love working with organizations all over the world. And the thing I like most about is helping organizations create experiences that create, that lead to what I call a profoundly remarkable experience, meaning an experience that is so profound it touches you in such a powerful way you can't wait to remark about it. That's profoundly remarkable. And even beyond that the kind of remark that I like to foster that I think really is the pinnacle is when they tell a story about you. When someone says "You’re not gonna believe what happened to me!" and they tell you this great story that creates the kind of advocacy that goes beyond just a recommendation. I know a lot of organizations like Net Promoter where they basically look at people who promote you but we found in our research that a story based recommendation versus “I'd recommend them” has a much higher impact on whether or not you can turn a prospect into a customer but it's all about creating that kind of culture kind of experience. And the kind of people who drive that kind of experience is the customers. They serve so it's [as if], if you thought about a label for that innovative service, kind of the overall label for it. So, as you know I've been doing this many many many years and I have written a lot of books which means that I've been on a lot of flights because I write when I fly. I write other times, too but my favorite is on a flight to Colorado or someplace like that where I've got time to write and, fortunately, people apparently like them and so I'm always working on a new book, which I am right now.
What is the new book about?
Well, the new book [will be] out next year the tentative title is called "Inside your Customers Imagination" and this one, in particular, is about kind of a new concept that is not really new but I haven’t heard much about it. It’s called "customer-ization" and that is not just customization. It is how do you involve the customer so that they help you create, co-create a service or a product or a solution. And so it's literally partnering with customers not just getting their input but getting their participation and looking for ways to do that So, that's the new book; I'm in the middle of all that right now, But it'll come out next year.
Sounds fun, looking forward to it. So let's move to our first question. So please talk about the difference between value-added service and value-unique service.
Well, value-added, most people if you ask, most organization leaders they'll say, "Well we will provide value-added" and that's a good thing because it's a generous approach. But, sure traditionally what that label means is taking what your customer expects and adding more. It's, “you know you're such a great customer, I'll tell you what, we're gonna upgrade you to first-class.” Or “you frequent this hotel so many times, tell you what, we're going to upgrade you to the fancy floor, the concierge level - that's value-added. The challenge with it there's nothing wrong with that, obviously. As I say it's generous the challenge with it is that you can pretty quickly run out of room And the other challenge with it is the fact that oftentimes, not always, but oftentimes customer expectations go up with it. So all of a sudden the customers go "well last time you did this, now what are you gonna do for me now" And so the expectations get higher and higher and higher and higher. Value unique, on the other hand, is doing something unusually different, kind of ingenious or creative and totally unexpected. It's creating a sense of surprise. So it's less about generosity and more about ingenuity. I'll give you an example. My wife bought a new car and traded in her old car got a new car. A week after she had a new car she turned on the radio for the first time and discovered they had programmed in her radio stations from her trade-in. Now, what do you think she talks about - the car or the radio? She talks about the radio and, lord, I think what she paid for that car! But that's the kind of thing that's unique, that's different, it's not just value-added, it's unique, it's unexpected. It creates a story that people just can't wait to share with somebody else. So, value-unique is the kind of experiences that are unexpected, they're simple, most of the time, you need them simple. But they're appropriate, they fit these circumstances. So that's the concept and now, you think about it like if Cracker Jacks did [customer] service, it'd be very unique. You know you got a prize in that box but you just don't know what that prize is gonna be and so I think it's the element of surprise that people will go "wow this is neat." So that's what I love to focus on.
Okay, a follow-up question on that. So, you did mention how by adding value-added service you're going to run out your options. So how can you make sure that you don't run out of value-unique things?
Well, I think [It’s about] the creativity of the people in the front line. There's obviously a limit to generosity. I don't think there's any limit to ingenuity. You can always come up with another idea. So I don't think we ever run out of ideas. It's always a different way to look at it. And one of the things I do, I like to do, with organizations and working with them is helping them craft lenses, different perspectives that multiply the number of [options] they may have. So, for example, you might say what would be a lens? One lens I call 4D, is a fun one. I'll give you a story behind 4D. 4D is like looking at this experience through all the senses. I know there are five senses, but here's why I call it 4D. Several years ago my wife and I broke the bank and bought a new TV and this is a high-definition, you know big TV that was 3D. And we cornered the market on all the 3D movies, kids movies. And our goal was if we could have a 3D theater and 3D TV and we had tons of 3D kids movies, our grandkids would come to see us more. And I mean we had "Frozen" in 3D, we had "Brave" in 3D, we had "Toy Story" in 3D, we had them all. And so it worked! They come see us, you know, and they would put on those glasses and they'd be in the living room and they'd squeal. And we thought, we got a winner. And then they went to Disney World. And in addition to the images coming out in the theater, the seat shook and the wind blew and they got mist with rain and they walked out of the theater and they said, "Chippy, when are we gonna get a 4D TV?" And in many ways that's sort of like the customer. How do we create a different perspective and how do you think about it? If you look through the lens of all the senses, what might be new and unique and creative applications that would please the customer, that would get them to want to come back or get them - certainly - telling those great stories about you.
Alright, so do you shake their seats now and throw water at them as they watch TV?
No, we just have to find another reason for them to come. We got all the Barbie movies, we got a full collection.
So, talking about creativity and ingenuity. You said there's no limit to that, but how can we inspire that in our employees? How can we encourage them to keep coming up with new ideas?
I think that's a great question. I think that it is the atmosphere that you create that says "I trust you." I don't think that frontline people are going to do weird, crazy, wild, unusual, out of the ordinary, unexpected things unless they know that they are trusted. And you know we might use the word "empowerment" but that's an overused and often misunderstood word, "empowerment." Some people think it means "unlimited license" and the truth of the matter is it means "responsible freedom." It means providing people the freedom to go the extra mile for that customer, but also with a sense of responsibility for the organization. So it's a balance of service and stewardship. That, I think, is the true meaning, but behind even empowerment is "I trust you." And "I trust you" also coupled with "if you make a mistake..." because we're asking people to do unique things. And if we encourage them to do unique things they are going to mess up sometimes. They're going to make a mistake, they're going to go too far, they are going to do something that we sure wish they hadn't done. And I think the organizations that are successful at that are those that say, "okay what can we learn from this" or "how, you know, how can we turn this into a learning opportunity" as opposed to an opportunity for rebuke or judgment or criticism or that kind of thing. So I think if you hire great people and you provide them the resources they need to be successful and you provide them the confidence they need to be successful then you let them do the job. And knowing they're going to make mistakes because we're all human, we're going to blow it once in a while. And, again, how a leader and organization responds to that is the difference. Not that we don't always expect excellence but we don't expect perfection, because that is absolutely critical to an innovative environment. So, I think that's how we do it. And we also learn from it in a way that's part of the shared aspect. A good example is Disney. When you come in to your room after you'd been out and if you went, if you stayed at Disney property, I bet you, somebody took one of those towels or bath cloths from the bathroom and they effect-fashioned some sort of figure - a swan or something out of it. Well, that's standard, that's sort of signature Disney. And you would find that if you're in a Euro Disney, if you're at Disneyland or Disney World, they all do it. But it all came when a housekeeper in one of their properties learned how to do this and did it and got enormous feedback from the guests who stayed there. And all of a sudden it got picked up and they started doing it in every property. And so I think part of the experimentation and risk-taking that results in, "hey this is cool this works, our guests really liked it, maybe we can replicate that in other places." So what does it do for that employee? It says, "I'm valued, I'm important." What does it do for other people? "Hey if I come up with some of these ideas look what happens, other people will get to do it as well and my name will be a hero because I came up with cool things." And so I think it's all in how we provide the kind of affirmation, when we learn from it and again turn that learning opportunity into shared learning, not just an individual learning. So those are key ways to help if you want that kind of ingenuity practiced. And a key point I made earlier I want to underscore is if you look at, and I'm working on this now, is if you looked at the most innovative companies in the world and we can name some that you'd think of like Amazon and Google and so forth, they have no tolerance for incompetence, but they give you lots of freedom to make mistakes. And so I think when we say freedom to do silly, crazy, wacky, whimsical, things doesn't mean that we don't have high standards of performance. They can go, hand in hand, so it's but it's how we treat people at the end of the day, in terms of everybody has the capacity to be creative and innovative. Everybody does. You're born with that. You used to be. Most people I tell, I hate to say, go "Well, I'm not creative." I bet if I talk to your daycare worker, she would say you were when you were five. You know, I bet your mama will have a different story about whether or not you're creative, used to be creative. So we all have that capacity and I think it's just finding a way to nurture it, it's finding a way to bring it out, it's finding ways to reinforce it, it's finding a way to find people to help people be more confident around the concept of "I'm creative and letting them come along a little step at a time. And they go "Hey, you know what, I am creative, I can do some cool things." I think it's creating an environment of where wacky's cool, wacky's okay, particularly in the whole service area. You know, there are certain situations where you don't want wacky, you know, brain surgery be one. You know I don't want wacky in the operating room you know. You don't want to get creative there. Yeah, when my brain's involved, you know, let's follow rules. And there are certain settings where wacky, in maybe a funeral home probably silliness wouldn't work. That's why I said earlier, I think innovative service, you know, it needs to be unexpected but it also needs to be appropriate. It needs to fit, so keeping that in mind as well.
So, again, talking about the value-unique service, you give three components of that. So it's unexpected, simple, and brand fitting. Can you talk about each one and what are some examples of that would be?
Oh, sure! Well, I just talked about fit. You know, it needs to fit the setting, it needs to fit the environment, it needs to fit the culture, it needs to beat your core values. You know, let's take an example. Delta Airlines is an airline I fly a lot on. I'm a fan of Delta I fly with them a lot because I live near Atlanta. But their personality is very different than Southwest and so if you did Southwest on Delta it would look a little odd. It wouldn't be quite the right fit. It works because Southwest is covering a lot of other stuff and is open about it, you know. It's a kind of value proposition to the marketplace that should fail. Think about it - they're using old planes they heard you on, there's no first-class, there's no assigned seats and they feed you peanuts. Now that ought to fail, you know, but they don't, they're successful. Why are they successful? What do people talk about? Because the flight attendant was really funny, they stood up here and gave the FAA briefing and it was really silly and really funny, so in many ways it's part of their strategy, and then, I mean their whole, you know, stock symbol is LUV. And so they're all about that. That works for Southwest it wouldn't work the same way if you were Delta. So I think it needs to fit your set of values as well as the setting. As I mentioned, what'll work in a Home Depot wouldn't work in a funeral home. And so it needs to be sensitive to that. I think unexpected means, to me, that it sort of catches you, some aspect about it, catches you by surprise. I'll give you an example. There is a men's store called Miller Brothers in Atlanta and, you know, they're high-end men's store they do a lot of unique things. But if you, let's just imagine, if you were going there to buy clothes and they have kind of a real pretty entrance area, with an entrance hall table kind of thing you'd probably expect it to be sort of classy, upscale, which it is. What you wouldn't expect is there is a gumball machine with big colored gumballs inside and the big bowl of brand-new shiny pennies right beside it. So it's kind of like "Whoa! That's cool! Look at their big gumball machine in the middle of a classy men's store." But guess where Jr. goes when daddy's trying on trousers. You know, so it's kind of an unexpected twist. It's adds something. And you've seen stores where it says children must be accompanied by an adult. Well, I have a store that I go to nearby that says...instead of using the usual traditional sign that says "Unaccompanied children will be given an espresso and a free puppy." Well you know not only, you would remember that and you probably comment on that. So it's looking for the unusual kind of unexpected things and I think the point of simple is the fact that you know customers like the things that are unexpectedly but simple because you know if we get into champagne and red carpets and helicopters you know customers start wondering "how much am I paying for this? Well, no wonder this costs what this costs, look what they got." So I think it needs to stay simple. Then we all know that in the world of humor and the world of entertainment the simple works more effectively. I'll give you an example. I have a date, I have a dealership where my wife and I both take our cars to have them serviced. Well, it happens to be an hour and a half away. You know, you can guess it must be a pretty good dealership if you drive 90 minutes to take it there. And so, but we go there because they do kind of unique things, unique things. For example, my wife and I have the same brand car. And so they when they do the customer profile they ask us what kind of coffee do you like. "What's your favorite coffee? Do you like flavored coffee? - Yeah we like flavored. - What flavor you like? - Well we like hazelnut." So you can bet when I take the car over - and I'm going to wait for it because it's an hour and a half, I'm not gonna drive over and drive back, you know, just to have it serviced. It usually takes an hour and a half or two hours, so I'm gonna take my laptop computer and sit in the reception area while they fix my car, do the maintenance on it. And you can bet when I'm there there are at least two K cups for the Keurig machine that are hazelnut because Chip's coming or his wife's coming, let's make sure we have one for his enjoyment. That's kind of simple that doesn't cost a lot it's not hard to do, but it sure makes a difference. Also it's not unusual for a dealership to have a bottle of cold water in the cup holder when you get your car after it's been serviced, I bet they do that at your dealership. But they do something different. When I take my car and now remember, my wife's also got the same brand car she takes hers in as well. And so they sometimes, not every time, but a lot of times there'll be a single long stem rose laying on the passenger side seat for me to take home to her. I'm a romantic at heart that kind of touches me I go "Wow this is kind of cool!" I mean as you and I were talking earlier, somebody that gets up and dances during the credits must be a romantic kind of dude, which I am. But you know there's the kind to eat whether you are or not the whole idea is "Wow look what they thought about!" They knew his wife brings her car here too and lets help him remember her as well. But that's simple. That didn't take a lot of effort, you know. That didn't take a lot. There's a florist, nearby they just you know...Let's stop by and pick up a dozen roses to put in the cooler so when a customer comes in with that kind of circumstances... So but it's planning and setting it up so the customer goes "yeah you won't believe what happened to me!" And then all of a sudden there's that story they can't wait to share with other people. And again as I said earlier to me storytelling is the pinnacle of customer advocacy. When you get customers telling stories about you that's the highest. So those are three elements - unexpected, simple, and does it fit, is it appropriate.
Going back to that, to brand fitting, what's important to keep in mind when coming up with that? It's important to be creative, yes, but how do you not go overboard?
I think the customer will tell you that. And your finance person will probably tell you that too. But I think if my view is err on the side of going too far and here's why. Organizations are rational, not whimsical. I mean everything about an organization in the business world today is rational, logical, and analytical. So you know nobody ever says, you know, this plan we got is just too rational, you know it's just too logical we can't do this. And so what I'm saying is the environment already reeks of control. It already reeks of analytical and logical and rational, that's already hardwired into the DNA of every organization. And so you got a lot pulling you back to say we’ve got to stay within the boundaries. So I encourage people and say let's go, it's ok, I'd rather go overboard than under board because you got plenty pulling you back. And so it's harder to get people to say, "What if we did something weird?" I'll give you a good example you know, the one I love. I'm a huge Jack Daniels fan and I love to barbecue. And so my wife bought me the Jack Daniels barbecue cookbook. It's a real pretty cookbook, got lots and lots of recipes. Well I'm thumbing through and I'm looking at some of these real cool restaurant recipes and I get halfway through and I see they've got a recipe for a roast possum. Look at this! They got a recipe for a possum! And you turn the page and there's one for barbecued rabbit and then at the bottom of the page - chicken-fried beaver. And nobody eats chicken fried beaver! But they put it in there. Somebody said "Hey, let's put something cool in the cookbook!" And, like me, I go "Hey, come look what they put in this good book!" and you got a story! I bet you, most of my friends when they come over to my house say "Where's that cookbook I heard about?" Well, there's a story that creates it. And because somebody said "Well let's do something out of the ordinary, let's put something unusual, let's put something out of the ordinary in the middle of this cookbook!" Probably something totally unrealistic. Who's gonna eat beaver? You know, maybe possum, I ate possum as a kid but not very often, it's terribly greasy. Rabbit would be ok, we all ate rabbit you get poor enough to eat rabbit. But beaver? I mean, you know, it's like eating armadillo! What I'm saying is they put it in there just for the whimsical effect that and so sometimes that's a cool thing to do. It's looking for some way to create a story. You and I were talking earlier about working with this auto auction bidding wholesale auto auction company. They're big giant locations where people, wholesalers come to buy and sell automobiles. Great marketplace! It's called Manheim. One of the things they do at their dealership is you can always count on in the lobby, where you have to get your badge they always put in the lobby something out of the ordinary that starts people talking. For example, there is a CIA van with all the equipment inside that people can actually go in and look. And here is a brand new Rolls-Royce, "Whoa! look at that!" Here is a real cool-looking sports car! You know here it's an antique Morgan or an MG! There's always something in that car in that lobby that gets people talking. That's the kind of creativity that creates a memory, you know. To me that's part of it - creating that kind of memory that people talk about. Go on the edge, be silly be whimsical. You know there'll be plenty out there to call you back.
Alright, so we're moving on to our question and answer do we have any questions? We don't have any questions, but I have one. So, as a customer experience expert and you have all these great stories about things that work, is it hard to be a customer out there? You see things that are not done right you see the customer experiences that you go through that might not be so fun. So is it hard to be customer out there?
It is cuz you see what they could do. But I decided years ago rather than just doing "oh look what they're doing that's terrible, that's wrong, I can tell them a thing or two." I decided that I could always be a mentor. You know and I could say "Would you be interested in an idea about how this might work better?" "Well, yeah" and so I always take it upon myself when I'm in a situation where I get bad service to figure out a way to turn it around. I get great service pretty much wherever I go I'll be honest with you. Not because they know who I am or what I do, but because I set it up that way. You know, I set it up going into it. I assume I'm gonna get great service and I assume the person that I'm dealing with wants to give me great service, there's usually just something in the way. And so I go in and I go "Man! This is gonna be a great day, ain't it? I'm so glad! You know how lucky we are we got you! We got you!" And so you know I go in a restaurant and I set it up I say "You know what I'm gonna do I tell you what, I want your very best I want your best waitstaff you know and we're big tippers. I'll tell you what, would take good care but I want your very best." And so they'll go well... Whoever it is doesn't matter and so the person comes out and take our order and I go "You know what, we're lucky we got you because we asked for you!" "What?" "What we said we wanted the very best they had and they gave us you so we are really lucky!" With what kind of service am I gonna get if I've already told this person we heard you're the best they got. So that's what I'm saying you can wire it in a way. I think you can influence in a way that you can get you know because I'm an optimistic guy and I go in probably more aggressive than I need to be but nevertheless. What I notice is the person who's in the service role usually ends up having fun along with you particularly if you if you work with them and you honor and respect the rules they have. You don't make them the culprit. Again, pretty much most people who're serving are good people want to do the right thing they're not just evil individuals who come and say "Whose day can I ruin today?" Otherwise they would not last very long. To me the job is to say let's turn this into a happy moment because I'm going to benefit I'm going to get a happy experience and they're going to benefit because they will end up feeling better and maybe learning some techniques along the way that would benefit the next customer they serve. So I think it's you to me if you bring the right attitude you can get great service.
It's a great point! So as much as management and employees are responsible for great service so are the customers, right?
Yeah! Yeah! I expect great service I want great service and I'm gonna do my best to make sure I get it. It's a partnership, hey you and I are going to create this great experience together and you go in with that attitude that you're there to help them as you hope they help you and the outcome usually it's pretty good. Not very often do I get somebody who, you know, who is just absolutely insists "No, we're gonna have a bad day here!" That does not happen very often. And when that does happen and you've done everything you can and then you just say "Guess I won't be coming back, that's not where I want to be."
Right! So that's a great point and I think it's a good place for us to wrap up and for everyone to remember - you can be a good employee and a good customer, right?
Okay, awesome! Well, thank you so much. For anybody watching, we were here with Chip Bell and have a great day!
Chip R. Bell is a highly sought-after keynote speaker and customer loyalty expert. He has written 22 books on the topic inluding his most recent, "Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles." In this session, Chip will discuss how we can create remarkable customer experience through innovative service.
"Value unique is doing something unusually different, kind of ingenious or creative and totally unexpected. It’s creating a sense of surprise. So it’s less about generosity and more about ingenuity."