How to Deliver Service plus Chocolate!

Having recently consulted or spoken in 6 countries in less than 30 days (ranging from Bolivia to Hong Kong), I keep facing questions that center around the distinction between operationally consistent service and emotionally-engaging customer experiences.  While I’m not convinced that these two service approaches need to be mutually exclusive, I do know that without consistency of basic service excellence, emotionally engaging experiences are unsustainable.

In my book, The New Gold Standard, I spend a great deal of time talking about the role operational excellence and process improvement plays in setting the stage for service that meets and exceeds the expectations of Ritz-Carlton guests.

By designing a 45 minute massage that lasts an hour (scheduling the massage therapists for 1 hour and 15 minutes – so they are not rushing between customers and pricing the massage equivalent to an hour of service) the customer consistently receives a massage that exceeds expectations. The business assures operational consistency through processes that over deliver and pricing is set in a way that does not compromise margins. Moreover, if staff are trained well concerning the desired brand experience and rewarded for empowered acts of service excellence – everyone wins!

Since the question of consistency versus connection keeps following me, I thought I should include the voices of my esteemed colleagues on the matter.  During a recent on-line conversation Heidi Miller, the Chief Conversation Officer at Spoken Communications in Seattle, brilliantly noted, “I’d rather have a dozen ‘good experiences’ than to be a ‘delighted customer’ once…Wowing me is nice, but on a daily basis, I’d rather just not think about ‘brand interactions’ at all.  Let’s take the cable company, for example…. I would MUCH rather have a cable company that I can call twice a year, get my issue resolved immediately without long hold times and get a timely appointment – compared to one that wows me. Truly, if I could have the expectation of a quick and efficient call and appointment, that would be more powerful to me than George Clooney showing up to fix my cable – with a chocolate cake and roses. Maybe my expectations are too low, or maybe I’m just busy. But before you try to wow me, remember that for the most part, I’d be happy with timely, prompt, basic service delivered in a reasonably polite manner. In short, it would be plenty valuable just for me not to *dread* having to make the call.”

Ahh but what if Heidi could get her cable fixed and be given chocolate?

At the end of the day what counts most is that companies aim to deliver the right product/service to its customers according to the customers requirements and then add that extra bit of service which has a marginal or no additional cost to the company but creates a significant positive impression on the customer and the customer becomes a strong advocate of the company because he feels that he got the best values for his money.”

So what are the “must do” right product/price service elements for your business?

What process improvements, service standards, and other considerations must you put in place to execute operational excellence?

How do you drive accountability on those standards? and

Where are your “chocolates?” The low cost/high value flourishes that nudge you beyond the ordinary…..

Smoke over black background

Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

1 Comment

  1. Heidi Miller on August 30, 2010 at 10:21 am


    Thanks for the shout-out! I suppose my issue is with companies that focus on the chocolate and forget to simply show up on time and meet expectations to begin with. It’s a “can’t see the forest for the trees” situation; sometimes, if the emphasis is on wowing customers but there is no money, time or training put into providing a basic and effective level of service, the customer gets one of two experiences: the grueling hell that is calling the cable company, or the rare win that is an exceptional customer experience (with chocolate).

    This goes along with my “Twitter won’t fix your crappy customer service” philosophy. If you are not putting resources into your basic service and making customer service a part of your mission statement that is reinforced on a daily basis, it doesn’t matter if you have one employee giving the chocolate experience. What about the 99 other customers that have below average experiences with your other employees? Fix those first, then focus on chocolate.

Leave a Comment


The Starbucks Experience: Leadership Tips eBook
Elevating Care in Healthcare: Lessons from the UCLA Health System eBook
How to Win Every Customer, Every Time, No Excuses! Article