Service Spares


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Smart manufacturers know the wisdom of redundant systems. Airline pilots, infantry commanders and emergency room physicians all value back-up plans and contingency methods. Yet, let customer service fail and too many service providers are left flat-footed with an awkward countenance and an angry customer.

I entered the lobby of a well-known brand hotel to register only to be faced with a long line at the front desk. “What’s up?” I asked the guest-to-be in front of me. “Their computer is down and they have to check people in manually.” Not being very proficient at waiting, I elected to head to the hotel restaurant, eat dinner, and let the line die down. As soon as the waiter put the menu in my hands he quickly announced all the items they were already out of. When I ordered what appeared to a perfect entre, he quickly suggested I pick another choice. I wanted to scream, “Then, what the heck is it doing still on your menu?”

Customers are fair, patient, and willing to provide wide latitude to explainable and reasonable hiccups. When a clerk announces he is at trainee, we lower our expectations and provide the benefit of the doubt. When an unexpected rush on a high demand item occurs, we appreciate a service provider with the panache to suggest an equally suitable alternative. However, let a snafu happen service providers seem to have zero thought-through auxiliary strategy and customers will bolt faster than you can say, “oops!” What steps have you taken to insure you have a service spare for every aspect of your customer’s experience?

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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