“Anyone who’s a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: Is it good? Does it give pleasure?” wrote the late Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and host of the TV show Parts Unknown.


Innovative service is a blend of these same two sentiments.


As customers, we all want service that is good—meaning it successfully fulfills our needs or accomplishes the outcome we seek. But, we remember service that comes with sprinkles on top—an experience that gives us unexpected pleasure.

“I figured if I was going to make the world a better place, I’d do it with cookies,” said Stranger Than Fiction character Ana Pascal. It is a powerful concept for innovative service. “Sprinkles” is code for any heartstring-plucking surprise that takes service from great to awesome. Paraphrasing famed restaurateur Danny Meyer, great service happens to you; innovative service happens for you.


What would your customer’s service experience be like if it was sprinkled?


Checkout clerks would shake your hand, not just say “hello.” The newspaper delivery person would leave a thoughtful note tucked in your newspaper. Pizza delivery boxes would have funny faces inside waiting to greet you when the box was opened. A bank teller would give you an extra thousand in play money just to make you laugh. The reception area would look like the interior decorator got extra leeway. And, there would be fresh flowers in the middle of the boardroom table, not just water pitchers. Operators would have humor in their voice and flight attendants would offer you pink lemonade, not just soft drinks or water.

When the only First Bank & Trust ATM in the rural town of Tahoka, Texas went down, customers were unhappy. They were forced to use the only other ATM in the area at a convenience store where fees were considerably higher. And, when it took several weeks to get the ATM operative, unhappy customers were accustomed to going to the convenience store for their cash. First Bank & Trust found a way to lure customers back to the bank’s ATM–“sprinkles.” They ran an ad in the local paper that told customers not to think it was a mechanical glitch if they received a fifty-dollar bill instead of a twenty-dollar bill when they used the bank’s ATM. Word spread as customers told neighbors when they hit the ATM jackpot!


How can you deliver gourmet service with surprise?


What if you treated every customer like today was his or her birthday? What would your service be like if it came with balloons, candy kisses, a chocolate coin, a funny one-liner, or popcorn?

What would a spunky eight-year-old suggest you do?

What would you do differently if you wanted your service experience to win the Cracker Jack Award for amazement?