A cousin of mine recently passed away. She had been very ill for a long time. She was surrounded by her immediate family as her spirit exited this world. At the funeral, I spoke to one of her family members about her final time. “Right before she breathed her final slow breath,” he told me, “She smiled. I wondered what she saw and felt that created this unexpected reaction.” His comment reminded me of the Natalie Wood’s last movie.

The last movie that starred Natalie Wood was the 1983 movie Brainstorm also starring Cliff Robertson and Christopher Walken. The gist of the movie was the creation of “the hat”–a helmet-like device that, when worn, could tape an exact experience the wearer was having (sights, sounds, feelings…the whole works). If another person then wore the hat and played the tape he or she would have the exact same experience as the person who taped it. You could borrow an adventurer’s tape and vicariously experience extreme skiing, a fast canoe trip down the Amazon River, or skydiving over NY City without ever leaving your living room. 

The climax of the movie came when one of the researchers, while working on the device, started having a heart attack. Alone in the lab, she quickly donned the hat and taped her own death. The question then became: if someone wore the hat and played her death tape would that person also die. I won’t tell you how it ended. But, the coolest part of the movie was what she experienced right before the end—a continuous series of “memory bubbles” filled with the highlights of her life. The bubbles were like mini-scenes inside a giant, clear soap bubble. They were not all super big events; but all were significant, colorful experiences. The movie made a strong case for creating lots of positive memory bubbles. In the end, that is the essence of our lives.

As service providers we have the important opportunity of contributing to the significant memory bubbles of our customers. Buy a product, you end up with a tangible object; buy a service and you are only left with your need met (or not) and a memory. The memories that wind up the bubbles and not vanish from the screen like an etch a sketch are those that are unique and poignant. Innovative service is about creating colorful memories. It is not about great service, like an excellent cupcake; it is about special service, like an excellent cupcake with sprinkles!

What can you do to become a significant memory maker for your customers? Become the sprinkle-adder to your customers’ experiences and watch their pleasures grow, right along with your profits and reputation.