Value-Unique Trumps Value-Added


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Value-added literally means taking what the customer expects and adding more. As new value is added in an attempt to “exceed customer expectations”, up also go those expectations, setting up a potential route to an economic dead-end street. At some point, the additions exceed what is cost-effective.

The solution: innovative service (value-unique)! There are unlimited ways to surprise customers. And, there is far more “bang for the buck” in a simple but unexpected surprise than in taking the predicted experience and simply adding more. Innovative service that takes the customer’s breath away like a great magic trick gets employees excited as well as customers buzzing.

What made the Cracker Jack Company last over 100 years? It was not the molasses-flavored caramelized popcorn and peanuts. It was a feature that was essentially financially worthless but emotionally priceless: a free prize inside. Why does Zappos continue to get super high marks for great service? It is the byproduct of a culture that has such core values as: “Deliver wow through service” and “Create fun and a little weirdness.”

Here are four concepts for finding value-unique ideas for an awesome customer experience:

Touch Your Customer’s Heart MedStar Health, a large Baltimore hospital, opened a new cancer center. The hospital commissioned a new breed of hybrid rose called the “Rose of Hope.” (The rose is the symbol of hope, life, and empathy.) Today each patient of the new center receives a Hope rose as he or she begins treatment—a reminder, in the fight against cancer, that care and compassion are as important as the best physicians and cutting edge technology.

Treat Your Customers Like Partners Buy a set of Bose QuietComfort® headphones and they come with a stack of courtesy cards for the new owner to pass along to potential buyers. On the back of the courtesy card is every conceivable way to contact Bose. And, the strategy works––at least according to the many users who continually request replacement courtesy cards. Bose turns consumers in partners. Politicians would be wise to learn the ways of Bose.

Find Fun Ways to Involve Your Customers On Southwest Flight 22 from El Paso to Phoenix, the flight attendant accepted assistance from two adoring passengers to help pass out peanuts to fellow passengers. The most important part of the occurrence was not the obvious fun the two guys in Bermuda shorts and ball caps had. It was the noticeable positive effect the incident had on everyone on board. Even super serious passengers could not help but grin as they received the all-too-familiar snack from the flight attendant-wannabes!

Decorate Your Customer’s Experience The most unique feature of the Columbia Tower Club (a part of ClubCorp) is four stalls in the ladies restroom. They are designed so the commodes face toward the outside of the building and the exterior wall it looks out on is wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling window. Since the Club is the top floor of a high-rise building, a visitor sitting on the toilet can enjoy a panoramic view of downtown Seattle! Patrons of the club would naturally assume the ladies restroom would be spotless, comfortable, and well appointed. They would not expect the club to sport a “john with a view!”

Customer standards for service have reached the level that okay, pretty good, nothing-to-write-home about are deemed indifferent or mediocre. Today customers only give grades higher than a “C” to experiences with sprinkles! Stop focusing on adding value and consider creating value! Value-unique will give you far more opportunities for differentiation and delight than the proverbial value-added.

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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