Give Customers a Service Souvenir


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Circuses do it; spectator sports do it; and, any good family reunion will do it as well. You leave with a souvenir reminding you of that special experience. My attic is full of memorabilia from awesome experiences. There is the bobble head doll I got at Yellowstone, the spinning light my grandkids got at the circus, and tons of other nostalgia-making objects cavalcading magic moments like a scrapbook. Why not spread the concept to delivering great service experiences?

Nordstrom is famous for service souvenirs. “We try to guess what is beyond the customer’s purchase,” says John McClesky of the men’s suits department at their Dallas store. “If a customer buy’s a sports jacket, the obvious extension might be slacks or a tie. If you learn the customer is buying the jacket for a cruise, you might explore dressy shorts, an ascot or a Panama hat.” John continues: “But, slipping a complimentary set of collar stays in the newly purchased jacket pocket (a frequently forgotten item on a trip) can leave a customer absolutely awed.”

What are the features of an awe-inspiring service souvenir? It needs to unexpected, simple and appropriate. And, it becomes an attraction tool when it brings customers back. Lake Oconee Spirits sent me a birthday card this year. They obviously check my ID when I buy an adult beverage. Tucked inside the card was a coupon giving me a 10% discount on my favorite brand of joy juice. The card impressed me but I was blown away by the personalization of the discount coupon. Not just any beverage, mind you…my special beverage!

A neighborhood friend tore down a shed in his side yard. The ugly shed was in stark contrast to the rest of his highly coiffured lawn. He decided to make the available area a flower garden complete with birdhouses and a lattice covered sitting area. When it came time to purchase plants and ornamental trees for the new area, he took along his six-year-old granddaughter, Amy. The sales person at the nursery treated Amy as his “helper” and even asked her opinion on the plants, to the delight of my friend.

Amy was over at my friend’s house when the plants and trees were delivered. After all were placed in the spots where they would be planted, the driver had one more plant in the cab of his truck. It was a small, aromatic rosemary plant with a tag that read, “Amy’s plant.” She was thrilled and got to personally choose the spot where it would be planted. Now, every time she visits “Paw Paw,” she races to the side yard to check on the growth of “her” plant. But, here is the most important part. Whenever someone visits my friend’s garden or seeks his input on a good place to buy plants, or asks about any topic even remotely related to horticulture, that person will get to hear the “Amy’s Plant” story.

Service souvenirs delight. Service souvenirs create a story the recipient is eager to share. And, they embellish and adorn the pleasant memory with a trail right back to initial encounter. More than a customer retention strategy, service souvenirs are devoted fan-making strategies.

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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