Using Vujà Dé to Juice Up Service


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The late George Carlin was credited with coining the phrase “vujà dé.” It was his comedic flip of the familiar “déjà vu”—the feeling of “I’ve been here before.” Carlin’s made-up phrase meant, “see things through completely new eyes.” That capacity enabled him to render such hilarious lines as “I put a dollar in a change machine. Nothing changed,” or “What was the best thing before sliced bread?” or “So far this is the oldest I’ve been,” or “Cloud nine gets all the publicity, but cloud eight is cheaper, less crowded, and has a better view,” or . . . okay, I’ll stop!

Vujà Dé takes courage. Our pattern loving brain is much more at home with the familiar. “We’ve always done it that way,” for instance, is little more than the brain seeking the harmony of a pattern. Look how easy it is to read the muddled up pattern below:

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch, it deosn’t mttaer in what oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, olny taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pcleas. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by ilstef, but the wrod as a patern.

That’s how quick your brain can find the pattern. The quest for innovative service requires being courageous enough to break from the familiar pattern to find a new service application. To travel from “comfortable” to “creative” follows the path of ideation or reinvention. However, the course from start to finish includes a region of discomfort, even distress. The courage part comes with weathering the uneasiness long enough to get to the ingenious end of the path.

Nordstrom started in 1901 as a Seattle shoe store specializing in high-end merchandise. Nordstrom folklore has it that one of the three Nordstrom brothers (sons of co-founder John Nordstrom) vacationed at the classy Hotel del Coronado near San Diego in the early 1960’s. While there, he was continually impressed with the hotel concierge who delivered over-the-top service to guests, no matter how unique their requests. He returned with a vision to create a chain of retail stores that had every employee functioning as a concierge . . . and you know the rest of the story.

Juicing up Service

“Juicers” are jump starters. They are a way of force-fitting a seemingly irrelevant attribute in order to unleash a new way to deliver service. They get their name from the way they help “juice up” the brain in order to break patterns—getting beyond “the way we have always done it.” The technical term for Juicers is attribute listing and was made popular by Alex Osborne in his pioneering 1950’s book Applied Imagination.

Here’s how to put Juicers to work: First, select a service application or process you would like to improve or alter. Then, select a Juicer from the list below. If you thought of the Juicer as a lens, what would your service process look like if you peered through it? Try a few and see what you get.

For instance, other organizations have asked questions like:

  • What would a carwash be like if it was done greener?
  • What would boarding a plane be like if it was done funnier?
  • What would completing a requisition form be like it was done with a helper?
  • What would contacting the call center be like if it was done more elegantly?
  • What would ordering a pizza be like if it was done automatically?
  • What would completing a tax return be like if was done more instructionally? Done with a mentor?
  • What would checkout at a retail store be like it was done completely invisibly? Or done automatically?
  • What would the receptionist area be like if was flashier, more entertaining, or healthy?

Here are a couple of examples of how others have used the Juicer tactic and forced it to apply to their service offering or process.

Service Done Slower

Catherine Davis, owner of the Davis Financial & Insurance Group in Louisville, Colorado, found that her Allstate agents and administrative staff had gotten so efficient at processing paperwork that they were not taking the time to build rapport with clients. To remind them to slow down, she placed turtle signs everywhere. “I chose the turtle because everyone remembers who won the race in the childhood story of the tortoise and hare,” she reported. Her staff meetings included “turtle talk”—idea-generation about ways to maintain efficiency while ramping up ways to demonstrate the staff had the patience and focus to make each client feel special.

Service Done Healthier

CVS’ recent “Health is Everything” TV commercials focus on health maintenance rather than on drug prescriptions and medical supplies. Their “minute clinic’s are putting medical staff closer to people when emergencies occur. They stopped selling cigarettes and have established programs to help people stop smoking. And, they have another programs aimed at helping people to remember to take their medication.

Stop and take five minutes to try and see everything around you. No really, go away and do it. I’ll wait. Now, look around again, and this time notice all the things that are green. Bet you saw a few things you missed on the first look. Did green things come into your field of vision after your first look? Of course not. The difference was perspective, in this case a green one. Vuja de helps break the patterns that seduce our brain into following the tried (and often tired) and true. Innovative service is about new. And, today’s customers will pay extra for new and refreshing.


  1. Chip, how well put.
    Lest we forget what good service is.
    Maybe the new generation will re-define what good service is. Will they value what you are saying?
    I think yes

  2. One of the other things service can be is more personal, and so more relevant and value driven. Personaization is one of the principal trends driving emotion and memory coming from interactions with vendors. Because today’s consumers have higher expectations of vendor performance only highly targeted, smart, relevant service value which addresses (and even ‘owns’) their needs will work. This is where personalization comes into play.

  3. Thanks for the comment, Michael. My favorite example of a company that may be a bell weather company for the future (like an Uber or a Beepi) is Unique. This is a new company that enables customers to design their own perfume—right down to the shape of the bottle and label on the front—all on the Internet. Our emerging capacity to do what Tom Peters called customerization will change go-to-market strategies for many companies. Customers today want it fast, good, cheap–and my way!

    Congratulations on your selection by Global Gurus as one of the top thirty gurus in the world on customer service.


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