Don’t Put Cheap Wine in a Fancy Bottle


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“Matt, give a $10-12 Merlot with an attractive label.” The request came from the customer in front of me at my favorite adult beverage store. The customer smiled at the clever name on the bottle of wine Matt picked for him. It made me recall my early experience with moonshine whiskey.

I grew up in a completely dry and very rural part of the South—the nearest liquor store was over thirty miles away. It meant some of my wilder relatives with a hankering for spirits were good buddies with a local moonshiner. One of these wayward kinfolks showed up one time at a family reunion with moonshine. It was my first time to lay eyes on what I had only heard about over the kitchen table. He removed the “good stuff” from his car trunk. It was in a clear glass Mason jar placed inside a brown paper bag. When I asked my granddaddy about the plain vanilla packaging, he said, “It’s not the container that’s important; it is what’s inside that container that really matters.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. Connoisseurs of fine wine appreciate the worth of an attractive label or a memorable brand name. But, if the good stuff inside is not first rate, the label just becomes false advertising.

Customers are the same. As customers, we appreciate the appeal of a decorative, engaging experience. In fact, it is the experience we typically remember long after we have forgotten about the core offering. Do you recall how clean the hospital was on your last trip, or how safe the bank seemed to be the last time you went inside, or how safely the plane landed the last time you flew? We often take the givens for granted. But, a quality core offering is critical to making the engagement memorable. And, if the core not what customers expect, the customer’s assessment becomes a lot like getting cheap wine in a fancy bottle.

In the last month I have talked with a super friendly technical rep who was clueless about how to repair my computer; eaten at a gorgeous new restaurant with inferior food; and, had an overly helpful teller short me $20 when making a deposit with a $200 cash back. All these service providers had their total focus on the packaging of service and completely forgot that, while I wanted a great service experience, first and foremost, I came for the “good stuff.” What steps can you take to make certain you never take for granted the basics of service?

Chip Bell
Chip R. Bell is the founder of the Chip Bell Group ( and a renowned keynote speaker and customer loyalty consultant. Dr. Bell has authored several best-selling books including The 9 1/2 Principles of Innovative Service and, with John Patterson, Take Their Breath Away. His newest book, Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service, will be released in February.


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