Value-added literally means taking what the customer expects and adding more.  As new value is added, up also go the customer expectations setting up a path to a 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 taking the predicted experience and simply adding more.  Innovative service that takes the customer’s breath away like a great magic trick.  It gets employees excited and customers buzzing.  Here are four approaches:

Touch Your Customer’s Heart

MedStar Health, a large Baltimore hospital, has 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 technology.

Treat Customers Like Partners

Buy a set of Bose QuietComfortÒ 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 the many users who continually request replacement courtesy cards.   Bose turns consumers into partners.  Politicians would be wise to learn the ways of Bose.

Find Fun Ways to Involve 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 the 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 outsid e 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!”