Let Them Eat Cake...with Sprinkles!

Written by Kayla Brehm | Feb 10, 2015 9:24:02 AM

Guest blog by Chip R. Bell:

Who are the best customer service companies on the planet?  Not the ones on the “best of the best” lists; the ones on your list.  Bet your list includes organizations that work diligently to get it right, get it fair, and get it easy.  That is called “doing the basics well.”  And, we certainly need far more organizations like those in our lives.

But, the features of companies that engrave a positive memory in the hearts of their customers are those that do more than the basics well. No one jumps on social media to tell their friends that Amazon promised a book would arrive by Wednesday, and by George, it came on Wednesday!  The criterion for customer advocacy lies in the stories of how service providers add “sprinkles to an otherwise good cupcake.”

Good service brings customers in; but gourmet service brings them back.  And, since many of today’s customers have been to Disney World, bought from Zappos and shopped at Trader Joe’s, Nordstrom, or an Apple store, the criterion for praise is a compelling emotional connection, not just a correct service delivery. Consider these ingredients for your recipe for customer advocacy:

Everything goes better with sprinkles.

A waitress in the Park Inn in Mechanicsburg, PA treats her customers to a complimentary go-cup of coffee as they get their check.  When customers express their appreciation, they get “sprinkles”--she announces, “It is our gift to you!”  Customers enjoy value-added; they adore value-unique--the unexpected gesture that reflects ingenuity, not just generosity.  Deliver a personalized surprise to turn wow into awe.

Let your customers “lick the beaters.”

Following the success of “just add water” Bisquick, Betty Crocker launched their first similarly styled cake mix.  It was not a success until the company removed the powered egg from the mix to let the homemaker add a real egg.  Cakes as a source of culinary pride are not the same as pancakes or biscuits.  Customers will care when they share.  Look for ways to let customers put skin in the service game; but carefully choose when and how customer participation is valued.

Always add an extra helping.

Extra communicates caring.  Miller Brothers, an upscale men’s clothing store in Atlanta put a large colorful gumball machine on a table at the store’s entrance.  Beside it was placed a large bowl of shiny pennies.  Guess where junior goes when daddy is trying on trousers.  Guess which gentleman’s clothing store is now the buzz at cocktail parties.

Be The Icing On Your Customer’s Cake

Billy Rivera of Karaoke Cab in Charlotte, NC does not need a dispatch to acquire customers; they call them directly.  Why?  Not only is his taxi immaculate, he has his laptop in the front seat next to him and a monitor on the back of the front seats for passengers to sing-along!  He is able to offer customers more than 39,000 songs.  Many request he keep driving around the block until the song is over—not caring the meter keeps running.

Anthony Bourdain, host of the CNN TV show Parts Unknown wrote in his book Kitchen Confidential:  “Anyone who’s a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is:  Is it good?  Does it give pleasure?”  Gourmet service is a blend of these same two sentiments.  As customers, we all want service that is good—meaning it successfully fulfills our needs or accomplishes the outcome we seek.  But, we remember service that comes with an experience that gives us unexpected pleasure.

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books.  His newest book is the just-released Sprinkles:  Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service.  He can be reached at