Much of my career has been devoted to promoting a great customer experience. It differentiates organizations from their competition since it is crafted around an emotional connection, not just a functional outcome. If the airline flight lands on time in the right city, no one cheers. They assume the basics will be met. What passengers boast about is how they were treated when dealing with the airline. Think of it as service air. You do not notice the air in the room. However, if someone started removing the air, you would notice it. And, if they removed enough air, you wouldn’t notice anything else. Your core offering to customers is like service air.

The core offering—the basic need of the customer–while boring and plain vanilla, is the most important part to get right. The memory of a gourmet meal in a fancy restaurant with five-star service is completely erased if the diner gets food poisoning.

The photo is of the Watson Mills covered bridge near Athens. It is the longest coverage bridge in Georgia and was built in 1885 by freed slave Horace King and his son, Washington. At the time, they were the most well-known covered bridge builders in the South. Their carpentry work is intricate and impressive. But the key feature of all covered bridges is how they protect the foundation—the part travelers walk or ride on to traverse a river. This wooden bridge has done its “protecting” job well—it is still in operation after almost 140 years.

Look for ways to first and foremost “cover” your customer’s basic needs by protecting your core offering—what customers come to you for. Then, look for ways to decorate their experience.