Key Takeaways from the Compete Through Service Symposium


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Last month I had the opportunity to attend and present at the 24th Annual Compete Through Service Symposium. The event held in Phoenix is run by the Center of Services Leadership (CSL). CSL is a research center within the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University (ASU) and an outreach arm from ASU to the business community and the global academic community. The CSL has established itself as a globally recognized authority on how to compete strategically through the profitable use of services.

ctss 2013

This was my second year attending the event. I attended last year as a guest of board member Chris Zane of Zane’s Cycles. The theme for this year was INTERSECTION. There were a multitude of great speakers. Here are my top takeaways from the conference:


1. The conference kicked off with Mike Maddock of MaddockDouglas who talked about his latest book, “Free the Idea Monkey.” Mike’s takeaways involved innovation:

– The need to step outside yourself for an answer. You can’t see the label when you are sitting inside the jar.

– The difference between intelligence and wisdom. Intelligence is learning from your own mistakes, whereby wisdom is learning from the mistakes of others.

– The importance of word of mouth. Marketing and advertising is the tax you pay for having a bad idea.

2. Next up was David K. Lenhardt, Chief Executive Officer of Phoenix based PetSmart spoke about Barking up the Right Tree. David’s takeaways involved the movement towards service and its impact on the business:

– All offerings are not created equal. Services are twice as profitable as the sale of products at PetSmart and a key differentiator.

– Making a strong first and last impression. David talked about getting eye level with the pet with the acronym HOP “Hands On Pet.” He also stressed the importance of follow up through a “PAWgress Report.”

– Gating your innovation in three stages. Petsmart uses the following progression:


3. Marty Wick VP, Operations of Service Master and Dilip Bahattacharjee – Associate Partner of McKinsey & Company talked about taking, “An Integrated Approach to Transform Customer Experience.”

– Touchpoints matter, but it’s the full journey that really counts.

– American Home Shield has created a lab where they can monitor the entire customer journey. It’s led to a strong dual benefit: reductions in cost and improvements in service.

4. Stephen Mostrom of ASU wrote about my talk Creating Customer WOW in the post, “Why the mint on the pillow matters“:

– As competition increases and customer expectations shift, it is no longer enough for a company to provide adequate service. To stand out, you have to over-deliver.

– Defined as “the gift” or “to give more,” lagniappe represents the potential to turn customers into your largest sales force by exceeding expectations.

– Two ways to exceed customer expectations: maintenance and value. Maintenance – how can you make your service more convenient for the customer, or make them feel appreciated? Value – what are the little benefits you can add to your service?

5. Bill Carl Johnson of the Disney Institute shared insights on creating an engaged workplace and a differentiated customer experience:

– “The way you take care of your people is the way they will take care of your customer.”

– On being intentional, “Disney’s consistent business results are driven by overmanaging certain things that most companies undermanage or ignore  – and that is a key source of what differentiates us. We have learned to be intentional where others are unintentional.”

6. IBM’s Rich Lechner talked about technology, the wisdom of the crowd and the importance of collaborating with customers.

– 60% of CEOs will start involving customers in business strategy development in the next 3-5 years.”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – After the event Joe Connolly of the Wall Street Journal did a report on WCBS 880 NY radio. My favorite takeaway: Go the extra inch. Don’t stress about going “a mile,” just do a little extra. Click below to listen:

joe connolly wsj

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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