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Win Customer Loyalty With an Unexpected Experience

Here are a few ingredients from the Corley recipe of service with sprinkles.

Chip Bell




Display of a generous attitude has a magnetic impact on customers. It draws them in because it conveys the kind of unconditional positive regard that characterises relationships at their best. I believe customers like the way they feel when they’re part of relationships laced with substance as opposed to encounters that are merely functional.

Ask my business partner Susan Oldham about Corley, a plumbing, heating and electric company in Greenville, S.C., and she’ll immediately go into a passionate discourse. She’s not just a satisfied customer. She is an enamored advocate.

For her, the company has demonstrated what I call ‘service with sprinkles’, the topic of my new book Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service.

Just like sprinkles make a good cupcake truly special, this kind of service turns a value-added experience into something especially unique. The unexpected enchanting experience is more than a service that wows customers. They are in awe.

Corley has used an innovative service approach to a familiar trades business.

Related: 10 Mindsets That Will Radically Improve Your Business

1. Always add an extra helping

“You cannot mandate a generous attitude,” Corley owner Chris Corley tells me. “It must be embedded in the culture – from who you hire, how you train, to what you value. Two of our core values are character and unselfishness.”

A Corley website video shows company technicians describing how they have gone the extra mile for various customers. Technician Blake Turner inquired of one client if he played any of the guitars on display in his home.

It turned out the customer had arthritis and his hands hurt. After some conversation, “he asked me if I would play for him,” Turner recalled, noting how he enjoyed playing for the customer.

Technician Jeremy Barnes recounted an exchange with a customer battling cancer who had not decorated her home with the Christmas tree stashed in her attic. “I think she was dreading that time of year,” he said. Barnes got down her tree and decorations and helped her start hanging ornaments.

Provide your customers the best that you have and the best will come back to you.

2. Give consumers information

Business owners can also provide customers the gift of learning. Customers today truly value service providers who demonstrate an interest in their learning. Home Depot’s in-store workshops have the potential to turn satisfied customers into advocates.

Corley provides a monthly Girls Night Out event, directed at female customers and the brainchild of marketing manager Katie Sullivan.

“It’s been a while, but we are finally talking about water heaters,” a February event e-vite explained. “We all agree that life without hot water would be a lot less pleasant so we are giving this often under-appreciated appliance its own night.”

On the agenda aside from refreshments: efficiency rating standards on water heaters. “Don’t worry; you won’t get dirty and you can come after work,” the invitation noted.

According to surveys of 10,000 customers done by Customer Care Measurement & Consulting’s vice chairman John Goodman, published in his 2009 book Strategic Customer Service, proactively providing customers new and useful information increases the likelihood of a repurchase 32 percent.

Related: 3 Ways to Keep It Simple When You Have the Urge to Add One More Feature

3. Make the service as easy to use as a TV dinner

Are you a service provider who makes reaching a live person harder than winning the lottery? Do you hold your customers hostage with high switching costs or complicated account-closing rules?

When customers call, do you use your phone as an answering machine instead of an easy tool for two-way dialogue? Is your company always reachable when customers need it or do you impose business hours convenient only to you? Is the company’s service delivery always on time? Is the company’s self-service option a “you are entirely on your own” arrangement?

Corley customers receive an email with a photo of the technician on the way along with a shot of the dispatcher. If they click on the photo, they can learn the background of the arriving staffer.

Technicians focus on being easy to do business with. “When they enter a customer’s home, they treat it just like a castle whether it be a 900-square-foot house or a 5,000-square-foot house,” technician Randall Rainey said on the website video.

“We want to always leave our customers’ homes better than we found them,” Chris Corley tells me. And after a visit, customers receive a hand written thank-you note from the technician. This almost guarantees that if customers need service again, they will ask for the technician by name.

Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain said in a Slate interview: “Anyone who’s a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: Is it good? Does it give pleasure?” Innovative service is a blend of these same two sentiments.

Customers want service that is good – meaning it successfully fulfills their needs or accomplishes the outcome desired.

And they will remember and tell others about service that also comes with an experience that gives customers unexpected pleasure. Take a lesson from Corley and make your customers’ experiences come with sprinkles.

Related: How to Build a Business That Works Without You

This article was originally posted here on


Compete to Win

How You Can Over-Deliver To Gain The Advantage

Go over and above for the people you serve, and you will enjoy the benefits of an abundant relationship.




Wise, established entrepreneurs know that over-delivering value — which simply means going above and beyond for the people we serve to deliver more satisfaction for our service and thus exceed expectations — is crucial to a business’s survival, growth and future. It represents the core of a company’s foundation. And without a solid foundation, a business is always vulnerable to a person or company that does over-deliver.

To ensure you don’t ever forget the importance of over-delivering value, here are three ways it will give you and your company a distinct competitive advantage:

1. Creates abundance

Success comes most to those who are surrounded by people who want their success to continue. When you over-deliver value, people may be sceptical at first, thinking that you are expecting something in return, but when you are consistent and genuine with your intentions, they begin to trust and appreciate that you are just thinking of them.

Related: Your Questions Answered With Alan Knott-Craig

You never know the value of the value you are delivering. But I’ve learnt that if you are consistently delivering greater value to people, your value becomes more and more aligned with the immediate needs of the people and companies you are serving — and abundance in the relationship is created. This is what over-delivering value is all about.

2. Earns respect

Entrepreneurs who take the time to over-deliver value are the ones who earn respect. Typically early-stage entrepreneurs tend to find ways to be the recipient of someone else’s value in a search for momentum.

You never know which transactional seed is going to grow, but when adding value to others, this type of seed is never forgotten.

For example, every quarter, I deliver a white paper to clients with the intention to challenge their thinking. My goal is for them to know that regardless of whether I am conducting business with them or not, I am thinking of them and thus strengthening our long-term relationship. And since my white papers focus on predicting future leadership trends and business strategies, when a related topic arises in one of their strategy meetings, they don’t hesitate to call me to discuss an opportunity for us to engage.

3. Enables distinction

Entrepreneurs who add value to others create and sustain a distinction in the minds and hearts of those they are serving. After all, most people are simply doing what they’re told to do inside the box they are given. Entrepreneurs can’t afford to do that.

Related: 7 Steps To Optimise Your Cycle Of Customer Service

We are the originators, the innovators and the opportunity seekers. We live our lives constantly in search of ways to add value to make things better. We disrupt the status quo. We are not in the business of fixing the old ways of doing things. We create new ways of doing things. If entrepreneurs are technically the experts at adding value through our products, services and brands, why can’t we add value through the people we depend upon most for our success?

Over-delivering value is the key not only to being a successful entrepreneur but also to the entrepreneurial mindset we must continually cultivate in ourselves and others. No one is successful alone. We must see the value in over-delivering value by being other-directed and connecting dots of opportunity with focus and purpose to become smarter and wiser, while making ourselves invaluable to the people and businesses we serve.

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Compete to Win

How Netflix Is Now Disrupting The Film Industry By Embracing Short-Term Chaos

One wrong move and Netflix could have been nothing more than a footnote in the history of entertainment. But by staying ahead of the curve and embracing disruption, the company is threatening some very entrenched competitors.

GG van Rooyen




Attendees of the annual Cannes Film Festival are typically not afraid to be vocal in their dislike of a new film — booing and hissing are both surprisingly common — but the recent film Okja possibly set some sort of record. The crowd was booing and jeering before the film had even properly begun. In fact, all it took was the name of the studio behind the film: Netflix.

Why the animosity? Netflix is disrupting the film industry, and the traditionalists aren’t happy. After debuting at Cannes, Okja wasn’t released in cinemas. No, instead it was released right to Netflix, free to stream as long as you have an account.

Of course, few would have guessed a few years ago that Netflix would ever get into the business of making its own television shows and movies. According to industry lore, entrepreneur Reed Hastings launched Netflix because he was annoyed with the exorbitant late fees of video/DVD store Blockbuster.

Instead of having to return a movie once you’ve watched it, he conceived of a business that would ship DVDs right to your door through the mail.

Related: Meet The 40 Richest Self-Made Entrepreneurs On Earth

It was a clever idea, but not one that seemed terribly disruptive. The whole process could be a bit of a hassle, and it required you to schedule your entertainment well ahead of time. Blockbuster even had a chance to buy Netflix, but decided that it wasn’t worth it.

The rise of streaming

Even as Netflix was hitting its stride in the early-2000s, the tide was already turning. It was becoming increasingly clear that the Internet was going to be an incredibly disruptive force, but many companies failed to notice. Or, if they did notice, they failed to take adequate action.

By 2007, the potential of streaming TV shows, films, music and books online was clear, but the DVD business was still doing well. However, Netflix decided to prepare for the future (and disrupt its own operations) by launching a streaming service. It did this by going to the traditional movie studios and television networks, and asking to licence their old content.

In the view of these studios and networks, old pieces of entertainment had run their course, so they were pleased with the new revenue stream.

This brings us back to Okja. Netflix has been creating its own content for the last few years because it realised that studios and networks would eventually catch on. At some point, they would understand that they were giving Netflix the ammunition needed to disrupt the industry. Why have Netflix stream your content if you could create your own streaming service?

“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” Hastings said of one of the most popular American cable channels back in 2013.

In a mere 20 years, Netflix has gone from a low-tech operation that sends DVDs through the mail to one that not only streams content online, but is also producing its own content — content from some of the most respected actors, producers and directors in the world. All of this is costing Netflix hundreds of millions of dollars, and it remains to be seen if this strategy will ultimately pay off, but betting against Netflix is risky.

Related: How To Make Money Investing, According To Ashton Kutcher

Netflix has shown itself to be uniquely capable in drastically shifting its business model. Here is how Hastings explains it: “Short-term optimisation about being efficient is the death of long-term success and innovation. Building Netflix, we created a company that tolerated some short-term chaos, and we manage right at the edge of chaos. The value of that is keeping and stimulating the amazing thinkers, so when the market shifts, like DVD to streaming, or licence to original content, we have in Netflix all kinds of original thinkers, and that is the long-term optimisation that all of us in organisations want.”

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Compete to Win

SME Leaders: How You Can Manage Growth

Fresh growth is all around us this Spring – find out how you can powerfully manage growth as you provide leadership to your SME.




In the transition from start-up to scale-up, a critical factor for a growing business is the quality and strength of its leadership team.

Learning to trust and empower staff is a crucial step for SME leaders who wants to grow their business upwards.

As a business grows, one of the biggest challenges for the business founder and leader is the hand-over of an idea from the founder to the people who work there, The brand moves from being one person’s idea to being the professional focus of a whole group of people.

Without effective leadership, small businesses will be held back, more than three-quarters of SMEs provide no leadership development for their staff. What does this mean for you?

Related: We Went up Against A Highly Regulated, Entrenched Industry. Here Are 4 Tips For Getting Your Foot In The Door

If you lead your business with vision and clarity, you set yourself apart from your competition. Here’s how.

Lead the pack

A growing business creates more work than a leader can handle alone.

As the team grows, founders often react by micromanaging the details of their business. In trying to take on everyone else’s job, the founder often leaves the most critical position vacant: strategist and vision-setting.

Learn to trust and empower others in the organisation and you will find you have room to innovate, which is critical for business growth.

Related: What I Learned About Dating That Will Transform Any Business

Steady the ship

An effective leader will also engage others in the business to embrace and adapt to change as growth continues.

  1. Vision: First, plot the course for where the business should go in the short term, and the long term.
  2. Change: Understand what needs to be put in place to grow the business. You might need to source better business operating systems to streamline this growth, or change a few internal business processes, or rethink how you calculate your hourly rates.
  3. People: Growth equals change, and change equals pain, so if you want growth, budget for pain. Understand that you will need to guide and coach the staff into changing their mindset and adapting to these growth changes.

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