Serving Well Is A Covenant …

“To kalidescope-by-chip-bell-02-2017serve well is to enter into a covenant with a customer that guarantees worth will be exchanged for worth and in a way that keeps central the customer’s best interests.” (pg. 35)

So says Chip Bell and I could not agree more.  In his latest book, Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles, Bell uses the analogy of a child’s toy, a kaleidoscope, to illustrate some solid principles of effective customer service.  As in his earlier books, Chip’s words and phrases are pithy and colorful, with many easily memorable statements that just beg to be quoted and digested by those of us who care about such things.

I see several valuable points in that sentence at the head of this post, each of which guides us beyond the common and tired sayings about customer service, while helping us aspire to a much higher level of involvement:


I have only worked in one organization where this word was regularly invoked to describe our relationship with each other and with those we served.  That non-profit provided help and comfort to the aged, families, and people in need.

To me, covenant indicates more than a promise, more than a guarantee … Covenant is a sacred duty to honor commitments and to treat others in an honorable way as you offer services and goods to them.

Covenant is also a relatively equalized relationship between you and another


Since we are talking about a relationship here, it makes perfect sense that we consider the values involves.  Most businesses run on a transactional model:  You give me something and I give you something in return.  Nothing wrong with this, as long as each person receives what they expected to receive.

Worth is another word that pushes us toward a higher level of engagement.  Worth goes beyond the mundane or trivial.  Worth means something of real value.   I offer my dollar bill and you give me an ice cream cone … we have completed a transaction.   I give you my dollar bill, and without being asked, you add sprinkles (yes, a nod to another Bell book), a genuine smile, and a cheery “Have a great day!“, and now we are talking worth.


Not “The customer is always right” because they are not, and not that the customer can ask for or do anything, but here we have a clear reminder that we are in our business to serve the customer’s best interests.

As a realtor, I sometimes serve customers who have a well-designed list of needs and wants, price range, and vision for their ideal house … then  they fell in love with a fire pit (not on the original list) and all else goes away.  Their best interests are served by helping them move beyond the emotion of the moment to reconsider all the other things they said they had to have in the house they buy and to look at their decision from the financial perspective as well.  

Adding perspective to their decision may mean losing a higher commission, but I am serving my customer’s best interests.

Look at what I gained from reading just one page of one chapter in Kaleidoscope, and you might well think “Wow, if he can do that, I could gain so many more valuable insights from reading the whole thing” … and you would be absolutely right.  

Enjoying another great book from one of my favorite authors in the Heartland ….



Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books.  Global Gurus ranked him both in 2014 and 2015 as the #1 keynote speaker in the world on customer service.  He has appeared live on CNN, CNBC, ABC, Fox Business Network, Bloomberg TV, and NPR; and his work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, Forbes, USA Today, Fast Company, Money Magazine, Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Businessweek.

Images reposted with permission

Caveat:  I received a copy of this book for review prior to publication.  I now have a great stocking stuffer for family and colleagues this Christmas.

Guest Post: Serving It Forward by Chip Bell

Kalidescope by Chip Bell 02 2017.jpgAny post which starts with a lesson from one of my favorite films is sure to be full of thoughtful insights.  Any post by Chip Bell pretty much meets the Excellent Customer Service Thinking standard, whether he mentions a favorite film or not.

Chip’s latest book is Kaleidoscope – click the image to the left to learn more.

Chip is one of my most trusted sources of solid and engaging leadership thinking … enjoy the following slice, which provides my claim nicely:


Lawrence of Arabia won the academy award in 1962 for best picture. Given the current conflicts in the Middle East, I recently watched the four-hour movie to learn more about the cultural history of the area. Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (played by best actor winner Peter O’Toole) was a British intelligence officer assigned to investigate the revolt of the Arabs against the Turks during World War I.  He embraced the culture and dress of the Arabs and organized a guerrilla army that for two years raided the Turks with surprise attacks.

In the early part of the movie, a poor Bedouin guide is hired to escort Lawrence across the desert to meet with Prince Faisal (played by Alec Guinness), the leader of the Arab revolt.  (Faisal would ultimately become King of Syria and King of Iraq pushing for unity between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims).  It was customary then for desert guides to be paid at the end of their assignment.  Instead, at the beginning of their journey, Lawrence gave his military pistol to the guide—a gift of great value and pleasure for any Bedouin.

What followed was a powerful example of “serving it forward.” The guide instantly gave Lawrence some of his food, provisions better suited to desert survival than the military rations Lawrence carried.  The guide then assumed a mentoring role revealing valuable desert survival secrets.  The timing of Lawrence’s unorthodox gift completely changed the dynamic of the relationship, with the Bedouin transforming him from “compliant servant” into “resourceful partner.”

Customer service is a reciprocal act.  Customers exchange money, time and effort for goods and services.  There are unwritten norms about how this mutual undertaking is performed.  Customers are expected to communicate their needs; service providers are expected to indicate whether they can meet those needs.  There are generally stated or implied expectations around speed, quality, cost, and so forth.  Both parties assume a modicum of respect; both assume the exchange will employ a measure of fair play.

Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia started getting a lot of publicity after their decision to sell single slices of pizza for a dollar. But it didn’t have to do with the price of the slice; it was about a customer-suggested idea for how to fund pizza for the homeless. It works like this: when customers buy pizza for themselves they put a dollar in a container, write a message on a Post-it note and stick it on the wall.  Any homeless person can come into the store, take a Post-it note off the wall and get a slice of pizza. Rosa’s has given away thousands of slices.

The principle of abundance is about giving more than is expected.  It is a proactive attitude of engulfing a relationship with emotional plenty without concern for reciprocity. An attitude of abundance is more the belief that if we employ a giver mentality, the customer will take care of the bottom line.   It is leading with an orientation of selflessness—of focusing on the customer first, not on the bottom line.  “Generosity,” wrote Khalil Gibran in The Prophet, “is not giving me that which I need more than you do, but it is giving me that which you need more than I do.”

Chip Bell.jpg

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several national best-selling books.  His newest book is the just-released Kaleidoscope:  Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles.  He can be reached at



Sprinkle Some of This On Me …

promo_03In order to make a dish that connects your heart to your customer’s heart, you must put your whole soul into the presentation and presentation, not just your smarts and sweat.”  (p. 92)

Bottom Line:  Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service by Chip R. Bell is not the first book I have ever read about adding some zing to our interactions with other people … However, it is one of the easiest to read and understand, and by far the most visually appealing.

I found myself with a serious case of the munchies while reading this book …

Ice cream tones, numerous cookie graphics, and repetitive stress on the metaphor of cooking, with words like “sauce” and “spice” are found throughout this book.

I was prepared to treat Chip R. Bell’s deceptively short book somewhat dismissively, since it had far less verbiage and way more pictures than I expected.  The darn thing did not fit with the other books on my shelf, which were mostly bigger and heavier from all the ink.  I should have remembered from past experience with this author that the value of his thinking has nothing to do with the size of the book or the number of words.

When you read this book (and you should read this book), you will notice several things about Chip Bell’s writing style:

Chip has a way with words and examples, using both to great effect without wasting space or time…

This book is one of the shortest I’ve read, under 100 pages and a squat 6 ¾ X 6 ¾ inches square.  It might be lost on a crowded bookcase among the larger and longer books with more “business-like” titles.  Do not dismiss this title as not worth your time, because it lacks many words and many pages.  The value is in what is said, not how much is said.

Missing this book would be a tragedy for anyone who cares about ramping up their customer service game and really having a blast serving others.

Chip uses diverse and engaging examples to make his points crystal clear …

His stories are drawn from all types of organizations, from giant corporations like Hewlett-Packard to a mom-and-pop hardware store, healthcare, retail, and fast food, from non-profit and profit, public and private,  providers of services and products.  No matter what environments you toil, you will find specific and positive examples of how to up your customer service game and stories which you will delight in retelling (with proper accreditation, of course).

Chip even draws customer service wisdom from watching a group of deer on a snowy morning, which resulted in this gem:  “Always give your customers woods at their back” (pg. 76) which relates to “accessibility” sprinkles.  You’ll have to read the book to learn more.

Chip likes Alliteration …

The “sprinkles” of the title are those specific enhancements to customer service that move us from simply great to “awesome”.   Here are the topics of every chapter in his book:    Appetizer (introductory comments), Amazement, Animation, Abundance, Ambiance, Adoration, Allegiance, Alliance, Accessible, and Adventure.  If these topics catch your interest, you will be even more engaged after you read the sections on each one.

In lesser hands, this effect might just be cutesy … when Chip does it, I appreciate the help in remembering each element of innovative customer service.

‘Sprinkles adorn, enrich, enliven, and excite.”  P. 11

Some ongoing themes in Chip’s message seem to include:

1) Unusual:   We now expect customer service to be great and when it is not, we vote with our purses and our feet.  Great customer service is not enough – we need to knock people’s socks off, then wash, pair up, and fold the customer’s socks for them.

Do what they do NOT expect us to do …

2) Unrequested:  If a customer requests special treatment, we are just meeting their expectations when we do what they ask us to do.  Ordering a particular flavor of ice cream is not awesome customer service.  Adding something special and different to the ice cream is unexpected.

Do what the customer will LOVE, not what they will ask for …

3) Inexpensive:  Awesome customer service is not about spending lots of extra money.  In a high-price hotel, customers expect to receive expensive treatment.   Awesome treatment does not need to cost more and it is not about throwing money at an experience.  Although it may take more time and work to identify and do, passionate customer is worth it.

Do what delights, not just what costs dollars …

A Few Words About  “Choice”  …

One of Chip’s stories is about a HP representative who could have stayed on script, but chose to go above and beyond to give really exceptional service.  The idea that we can choose to offer awesome service is essential to Chip’s message.

Consider your current situation.  If you can go above and beyond, then do so and amaze your customers.  However, if you are bound to a script and not allowed to deviate, even to surprise a customer, then you need to crank up your job hunt activities.

You always have a choice – if nothing else, the choice to stay or go.

“…. we remember service that comes with an experience that gives us unexpected pleasure.” (From the Introduction)

I could say much more about each part of Sprinkles, but I will spread my continued observations out through several upcoming blog posts.  This one is a keeper …

Enjoying yet another great thing in a small package in the Heartland ….


Disclaimer:  Received a review copy of this book before it’s public availability.  Imagine me sticking thumbs in ears and going “Nyah Nyah”.  Great book which needs no insincere hype from me to boost the value.

Three Thoughts Around Customer Service …






“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say,  I just watch what they do.”

Andrew Carnegie

The first week of October every year in the UK and the US is Customer Service Week .

While the smart folks think about how to provide effective customer service every blessed day, the amount of high-quality postings and pondering around this important topic this week is impressive.  Here is my humble contribution to the hub-bub:

At first, the above quote and image may seem to be contradicting each other.  After all, Carnegie says to not pay attention to what people say, while the animated message is all about saying something.  When we consider customer service, I do not believe a dissonance is present.

We are all very good at creating words which describe who we are and what we do (at least from an aspirational perspective).  Words are often the first point of contact between you and those with whom you wish to engage in transactions.  What you say and how you say it make a difference in three important ways. 

Words Matter . . .

Our words are how we are introduced to our colleagues, customers, and to the public.  What you say:  

… sets the tone for the initial interaction.  Whether a second interaction occurs is completely dependent on how consistent you are with your own vision, at least in the customer’s eyes.

… spurs you to live out that vision.  People will spot a phony message either immediately or after a brief experience.  We have an obligation to live up to our aspirations, as described by the words we choose to talk about ourselves.

Actions Matter . . .

Words are only words without solid action to back them up.  When we describe an organizational culture in a certain manner, we then have to act out that aspiration in tangible ways.  If your customer service mantra is some variation of “People Matter”, you best be proving that every single day in every single thing you do.

When the espoused vision does not match the daily “grind”, we experience a version of what the psychologists call “cognitive dissonance”.  Sometime is not in sync and this affects direct customer interactions, which in turn reduce customer satisfaction and sales, which then lowers morale and engagement, and at some point, the future of the organization is in question.

Not just the front-line worker who talks to the customer, not just the manager, but the company and everyone who is connected to it.

The old trite saying that “Customer Service is Everyone’s Business” is neither trite, old, or just a saying … it’s a business reality.

Follow-Through Matters . . .

Once the words are just right and the actions have been taken, the next vital step is to keep saying and doing what your heart of hearts tells you is the best customer service delivery possible.

If you say the right things and do the right things, just keep doing them … until doing the right thing in every situation becomes second nature and really is embedded in the organizational culture.  

Create a situation where the only responses to a suggestion that we violate or “bend” what you do well are raised eyebrows and rolling eyes, following by complete silence as that suggestion lies on the floor, gasping for breath, as it dies a lonely and unlamented death.

Above analogy based on my personal experience … yours may vary.  Feel free to come up with a better one to illustrate a culture of zero tolerance for anything less than saying what you mean to do and doing what you say you are doing.

I wish I could say that this was posted from a hammock gently swinging in the refreshing early fall breeze somewhere in the Heartland .…


Shameless Promotion Department:    

If you want to really “up your game” toward excellent customer service, you will not find a better source than Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach, who I quaintly term “The Queen of Customer Service”.  She gets it on a deep level and is devoted to both shining a bright light on examples of effective customer service skills and sharing her experience and knowledge with others to create disciples for effective customer service.  It just does not get better than Kate and her organization.

Disclaimer:  Got not one penny or other form of payment for this endorsement.  Will not receive kickbacks or promotional “gifties” for doing this.  Do not recommend people or organizations unless I trust them to a very deep level.  



Guest Post: “Can Social Help You Out-Zappos Zappos?” by Mark Babbitt

In honor of the launch of A World Gone Social by Ted Coines and Mark Babbitt this week, here are some thoughtful observations about the power of social by Mark.

share_15Can Social Help You Out-Zappos Zappos?

Author: Mark Babbitt

Think your small organization can’t compete with big guys? Think size is a disadvantage, as it was throughout the Industrial Age?

Let us introduce you to an eight-person company that beat the pants off of some of the largest, most iconic companies out there: Nike, New Balance, Adidas/Reebok, and even online retailer Zappos.

Yes, They Out-Zapposed Zappos

It all started simply enough when Ted Coine, my co-author of A World Gone Social and impulse buyer par excellence, woke up and decided he needed new running shoes, stat! So he called one of his most revered companies, the online retailer Zappos, to get some advice and place an order.

We have admired Zappos for years. The CEO, Tony Hsieh (pronounced “shay”), intentionally created a quirky, customer-obsessed culture with an intentionally relentless focus on culture. So as you read, please keep in mind that we strongly believe Zappos is a remarkable company – and we’re certain the company was having an off day when this story took place. We’re also absolutely certain that, in the Social Age, too many bad days can ruin your company—yes, even Zappos.

As we were saying, Ted woke up with running on his mind. So he called Zappos—at five o’clock in the morning Las Vegas (where Zappos is headquartered) time. His only expectation, given the reputation of Zappos and despite the early hour, was quick counsel from a human knowledgeable in all things footwear.

Within just a few moments, it was clear that Ted’s expectation would not be met.

The clerk at the other end of the line was not exactly well informed on product and was far less trained and much less focused on finding Ted a solution to his un- fortunate shoe issues. Frustrated, Ted said a polite good-bye—and ended the call without placing an order.

But Ted Coiné, the author of Spoil ’em Rotten!: Five-Star Customer Delight in Action, didn’t let it go.

Knowing Zappos is famous not just for its extraordinary service but also for the active presence its employees maintain on Twitter, he decided to throw them a meatball—a pitch so slow and right down the middle of the plate that even the newest Zapponian could easily hit a home run.

He sent a tweet to @Zappos, asking for someone to call him.

No answer. Nothing.

Disappointing—but also intriguing! Had Ted found a chink in the armor of the mighty Zappos? Ted decided to turn this should-be-easy sale into a mini-research project—one that went on for a couple of hours that morning. Ted tweeted again, asking the Zappos social media team to have a sales associate call him, informing them that he wanted to buy a pair of shoes. No one called.

Meanwhile, Ted expanded his reach. He first tweeted to Nike, the brand he already owned, and Reebok, a brand he also admired, then went directly to the running Twitter account for New Balance, another brand he liked, and the customer service handle for Zappos:

Let’s see who calls me first to sell me some running shoes (if anyone). The race is on! @newbalance @NBRunning @Zappos_Service cc @zappos

Again, nothing. Eventually, Zappos did reach out to Ted on Twitter. For some reason, however, the company refused to call him, even after he sent a private tweet (known as a DM, or “direct message”) with his phone number. Instead, the Twitter-empowered Zapponian provided Ted with the same customer service and product order phone number he had already dialed several hours earlier, when he spoke to that less-than-helpful clerk. Ted wasn’t even offered the direct extension of a knowledgeable veteran employee who would be happy to assist.

Meanwhile, in the Social Age

In what has become standard practice on social media, another company—a smaller, hungrier company than the one from the land of Zapponia, a company that generates sales by closely monitoring social media channels—was hard at work. It knew that many of its potential customers buy shoes online. It knew that many of them loved Zappos. And it knew that many who loved running would order Nikes online from Zappos.

@tedcoine We’d love to sell you some shoes! Check out our Men’s at . . . and give us a call (617) 431–3800

It turns out this socially enabled, shoe-selling start-up—specifically, an intern at the start-up—was using a low-cost monitoring tool called Sprout Social. On the Sprout dashboard (which can be closely watched from any desktop, laptop, iPad/ tablet, or smartphone), that intern was most likely monitoring a combination of keywords. In this case, perhaps those keywords included “shoes,” “running,” and “purchase.” The intern might have even been monitoring “sell me some running shoes” or maybe even “Hey, @Zappos . . . call me!”

This intern was Alex Stoyle, who followed the basic rules of social media monitoring and selling:

  • Rule No. 1: Actively listen.
  • Rule No. 2: Respond quickly.
  • Rule No. 3: Meet customers where they are now.

Alex saw Ted’s tweets (he listened). He reached out to Ted (he responded quickly). He asked Ted, via DM, for his phone number (he met the customer where he was then). Alex called Ted.

Alex Made the Sale

Alex’s employer, Topo Athletics, had just opened a few months before, with a unique design that set them apart. Ted was reluctant to try this new shoe out, so Alex walked him through the technology and the benefits. When the well of Alex’s product knowledge ran dry, he put a coworker, whose specialty was product design, on the line with Ted to answer more questions. Satisfied with the science behind the shoes, and now really rooting for the little guy, Ted placed his order.

And Ted told 300,000 of his closest friends:

I’m placing my order now with Alex at @topoathletic. This #intern grabbed my business from 4 multinational corps!! #bravo !!!!

It should be noted that, as of this writing, Ted has never heard from New Balance, Reebok, or Nike. He never heard from Zappos.

And while all these well-established, well-respected companies—which most likely have entire social media command centers backed by the best enterprise-level software available—were ignoring a potential sale, an intern at a tiny eight-person company won the day, and Ted’s business.

Alex showed them all how it’s done… in the Social Age.



Please include with your post:


promo_02Mark Babbitt is the CEO and Founder of YouTern, a talent community that enables college students, recent graduates and young careerists to become highly employable by connecting them to high-impact internships, mentors and contemporary career advice. Mark has been featured as a keynote speaker and workshop director by the Tiger Woods Foundation, Smithsonian Institute and National Association of Colleges and Employers. He is an in-demand speaker at colleges and fraternities, including UCLA, the California State University system, New York University, Delta Sigma Pi and Alpha Kappa Psi.


promo_03Together with Ted Coiné they will be releasing their book A World Gone Social on September 22, 2014.