As most business owners have read, we live in a world where customers are harder to acquire and harder to retain.
Customers have an increasing array of options for almost everything. To survive, businesses have unleashed business innovation at an unprecedented level.
Businesses now focus on improving their tangible features (price, appearance, employee training, etc.) with their intangible features (reputation, for example).
As a result of these changes, the relationship between the customer and business, of any size, has changed. Customers have become less willing to deal with companies that have outdated technology, long wait times, or fail to make an impression.
It’s no longer just about offering a smile to the customer. It’s now about offering an experience that is better priced, offers more value, and provides less hassle (along with a smile) than your competitor.
Many books have taken on the challenge of how businesses can improve their customer service, strategy, or features in order to survive. Chip Bell decided to take a different route.
He used sprinkles.
Sprinkles, Chip Bell discusses in his new book “Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service” can serve as a visual metaphor for brand distinction.
It’s that elusive “thing” that encourages customers to visit one particular store again or shop from one website. It’s that elusive “thing” that fuels customers to camp out in front of a store just to buy one product.
In other words, it’s how good businesses continue to get customers in an age where customer loyalty can change with a click.
Does Demanding Customer Expectation Require More Business Expenses?
Most businesses have become aware of the need to “do more” for their customers, but there isn’t clear consensus on how to do this. Should you focus on replacing your phone system, giving customers a “gift” with their purchase, or offer them a discount? Should you focus on creating individually wrapped napkins that have your customer’s name on them or create a new policy that empowers your front line to interact more with customers?
Even less clear is whether this desire to “do more” will actually improve the bottom line. While there are some customer service innovations that cost nothing but time (changing how you speak to a customer) other customer innovations could cost quite a bit of money and even more time. Is it even worth it to go “over the top” for a few customers? “Sprinkles” attempts to address both issues by providing a convincing argument for innovative customer service with an array of profitable examples.
Characteristics of Service with Sprinkles
The focus of this 112-page book is two-fold, mindset and process. Bell suggests that business owners and managers break out of the old “just provide service” mentality into a reality that is more flexible and innovative. He suggests that innovation doesn’t always come from the business itself. It can (and should) come from a wide variety of sources, even random ones. Bell urges the reader to question assumptions and expand his or her creative muscles. Instead of asking “How can I get more customers?” focus on “How can I exceed my current customer expectations to the point that they will tell everyone and anyone?”
To get at the mindset, Bell invites readers to reflect on sprinkles. Sprinkles are only a tiny part of a dessert, but they somehow dramatically improve the ice cream-eating experience. Similarly, “sprinkles” in your business are the tiny (or big) things that you “add on” to your service to make it distinctive.
Bell identifies several characteristics present in individuals and companies that have “sprinkles.” Some of these characteristics involve the typical personality traits that make customers feel appreciated (saying “Thank you,” smiling, and demonstrating a positive service attitude). Other characteristics focus on what managers can do (empowering front-line employees, addressing barriers to service, etc). The point, Bell argues, is to find and enhance your business’s unique approach to customer service. What can your business “add” to the customer service experience without taking away profits? “Sprinkles” asks for readers to look everywhere for inspiration to find what will work for them.
Throughout the book, Bell provides examples of how this “sprinkles” mindset has been implemented successfully by companies. Examples range from simple changes like changing the language used when speaking to customers or as “over the top” as returning a customer’s deposit even when the customer caused some of the damage. All of the examples create moments that powerfully affect the customer service experience. That experience encourages business loyalty and business growth.
Will the Book “Sprinkles” be Adding Anything to Your Bottom Line?
The big question is whether this book delivers on its promises. The answer is mixed. While the book has positive and motivating language wrapped in cute metaphors, it leaves out quite a bit of detail. Bell spends most of his time recounting stories of customer service innovation without really providing a set path to help businesses get there.
About the Author
Chip Bell is the speaker, author, and founder of the Bell Group, a consulting company. He can be found at his website or Twitter (@ChipRBell) His book “Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service” will be available for purchase on February 10, 2015 on Amazon. This review is based on an electronic copy of the book received for reviewing purposes.