Customers are bored with "pretty good" service. They do not speak or tweet about good service; only service experiences that create a story to tell. As companies tighten their belts, they often cut out the extras that customers used to get for free--value-added has gotten way too expensive. Additionally, with fewer employees being asked to do more with less, employees are at the end of their "work harder" capacity.

According to Chip, the solution is this: innovative service (value-unique) that can trump generous service (value-added). There is far more "bang for the buck" in a simple but unexpected surprise than taking the predicted experience and simply adding more. Hotel upgrades are nice but having a live goldfish in the guest room (like the Hotel Monaco) is ammunition for accolades.

Innovative service that takes the customer's breath away like a great magic trick always gets employees excited and customers buzzing.

Here are a few examples:

  • High Point College in High Point, NC has a Director of Wow who focuses on creating "wow" experiences for students all year long. He also eliminates all that is "un-wow." Every detail is managed to ensure the campus is decorated in the color of "extraordinary"--congruent with the university goal for each student.
  • Wayzata Dental in Wayzata, MN is the Nordstrom of dentistry. Guests relax with a heated neck pillow, listen to an iPod, hook up to WiFi, or watch a movie during the visit. Every guest has the doctor's home phone number.
  • Billy Rivera of Karaoke Cab in Charlotte, with a laptop in the front seat next to him and a screen scrolling the words on the back of the seat the passengers can view, offers customers over 39,000 songs. Some passengers so enjoy the wild sing-a-long, they ask Billy to keep driving around the block until the song ends, not minding while meter continues to run.
  • Bouquets is an award-winning flower shop in downtown Denver near many parking meters as well as a bus stop. Many businesses refuse to give change for meters and buses, except to customers, because it takes employee time to go to the bank for more change. Bouquets replenishes a bag of quarters daily, specifically designed to make change for anyone who asks, says co-owner B.J. Dyer. "Coins are offered with a smile and a business card. Many people later become our customers when they need flowers."
  • The beautiful Pacific Rim Fairmont hotel in Vancouver, places a few retro-toys (a kaleidoscope, antique yo-yo, and Slinky) on the super modern industrial-strength guest room desk. The contrast creates an immediate blend of contemporary work with nostalgic play. Hotel Guest Relations say it is the most frequently mentioned item on the guest comment card.
  • Matt Garofaio, owner of Oconee Cellar near Lake Oconee, GA sold out his signature small batch branded bourbon in just a few days. Why? After the Kentucky distillery he hired to make his bourbon sent him five different flavors from which to choose his one special blend, he invited his customers to help him make the call. Even his non-bourbon-drinking customer bought gift bottles since "they helped make it." He is on his third small batch brand! Customers care when they share.
  • When a CVS pharmacist calls a customer to leave a message on his or her answering machine that the prescription for the customer's cat is ready for pick-up, she speaks "kitty" and leaves the message for the cat, not the customer.

Kaleidoscopes thrill lookers with their ever-changing cavalcade of charm. Unlike their cousins--binoculars, microscope and magnifying glass that only amplify--kaleidoscopes enrich and entertain.

Innovative service is like a kaleidoscope with its engaging, animated style and ingenious delivery. Instead of focusing on value-added, try a bit of value-unique and watch your customers grow--right along with your cash register.