What do you get when you cross a rocker with a long wooden plank that bounces up and down like the rocking motion of a horse carriage? It is a joggling board (Google it!!). It was very popular on the porches of antebellum homes in the Deep South during the pre-civil war era. The ends of the long board were mounted on stands with rocker bases at each end. If you sat in the middle of the plank, you could bounce and rock at the same time.
Joggling boards were also called “courting boards.” A boy and girl were seated at opposite ends of the board under the watchful eye of the girl’s chaperone. As the night wore on and the couple bounced and rocked, they gradually shifted to the middle of the board, especially after the couple’s sentinel got bored and retired. It was said that no home with a joggling board on the porch had an unwed eligible daughter for long.
Without pushing this metaphor too far, innovative service is an experience that courts customers in a fashion that turns interest into affection and a single visit into a long-term advocacy. Three features of the joggling board provide strong guidance for making the customer experience spark customer love.
Make It Shake
Innovative service is energetic and engaging. It attracts your heart with the same fervor it invites your wallet. Early one morning I stopped at a gas station to fill up before beginning a trip. Before I could replace the hose in the self-service tank, the owner inside the station came on the pump speaker with a cheerful, “Thank you so much, sir. We have free hot coffee inside if you’d like a cup.” When I indicated I was in a hurry she quickly added, “I understand. I want you to know we will be open on Christmas day. Hope it is a special holiday for you and your family.” Visions of sugarplums danced in my head!
I am a major fan of the Hotel Monaco. A few weeks ago I checked into a property I frequent. I got a heart-starting treat. The front desk treated me to a champagne flute of watermelon juice with a sprig of mint. It was like the greeting you might get a luxury hotel in the tropics. My previous stay it had been a tangerine tasting drink with a cherry. “How many kinds of juices do you all have back there?” I asked. The front desk clerk giggled! “Who knows, I think the chef just keeps making up beverage combinations no one has ever thought of. The roses in the entrance are probably going to wind up in a drink some day!!” She seemed overjoyed with the enchanting treasure hunt. And, I was vicariously drawn into the pursuit! That’s service that shakes!
Make it Rock
There are a lot of symbols embedded in a rocking chair. But, one we instantly think of is comfort. As the favored tool of front porches and fretful babies, it lowers anxiety and worry. Just like innovative service. Customers expectations for service today are higher, their patience is shorter, and their propensity to go elsewhere is greater. InContact recently did revealing research that asked hundreds of leaders, “What percentage of your customers today would abandon you after a single hiccup?” Respondents predicted eight percent. But, a shocking 86% of their customers said they would bid farewell after one negative experience.
That should be a wake-up call to ramp up close attention to anything that reduces the comfort of customer experience. It means paperwork should be easier, processes should move faster, and every employee customers encounter should be more helpful. Organize a “service garbage patrol” to spot and report places where service is a hassle for customers. The most precious commodity for most customers today is their time – and if you waste it with confusion or discomfort most won’t come back for more.
And, Make it Charming
The fun part of the joggling board history is its role in creating permanent unions! It became the setting for lovers to charm each with affection. Innovative service can have the same effect—turning customers who like you and want to return into customers who love you and are eager to sing your praises to everyone who will listen. Service that charms is genuine and trustworthy.
The Delta regional jet was packed. As the flight backed away from the gate, the flight attendant began her ritualistic safety spiel about seatbelts, sudden turbulence and smoking. She ended by saying, “The flying time to Grand Rapids will be two hours…no, it will be an hour and a half…no, actually, I don’t know.” The cabin erupted with laughter and applause. What jolted the half-asleep plane-full into cheering? Unscripted, raw honesty! We all loved her total candor and confident authenticity!
Customers are not charmed by exaggerated promises or cheaply scripted interactions. Customers look for trust-building symbols. Not just the promise keeping type but the clear and present evidence customers are trusted by the service provider. L.L. Bean and Nordstrom’s return policy that presume innocence not only comfort, they charm. It includes the cashier with a personalized salutation or the random act of kindness that seems more like a common practice than an atypical exception.
Innovative service is service with the ingenuity and gymnastic joy of a joggling board. It is filled with surprise but can touch the child-like exuberance of customers as well as the peace and tranquility of knowing you are cared for as well as cared about. Look for ways to infuse shake, rock and charm into every customer experience.
Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several bestselling books including his most recent Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service. He can be reached at www.chipbell.com.