The air conditioning system broke in the little country church we attend when we have a getaway weekend to our North Georgia river house. It was a hotter than normal day, even for the normally cool mountain area. So, the church ceiling fans were turned on! It was an improvement, but clearly not the same. It reminded me of customer service…but, then most things do!!

A fan moves the hot air around much like a sudden breeze on a hot July day. It is temporary and superficial, accomplished through the simple agitation of the air. In the church in which I grew up there were no ceiling fans; ushers passed out individual fans—cardboard stapled to a thin wooden paddle. It was a favorite way for the local funeral home to advertise.

Air conditioning pulls the hot air into an appliance, sends it over a built-in refrigeration unit for cooling and then returns it to the room. The heat from the hot air is sent outside, leaving only cool air inside. It literally modifies the condition of the air.

Innovative service is more like an air conditioner and less like a fan. Fan-like service simply meets the basic needs of customers without leaving a trace of anything in their memory bank. But innovative service changes the emotion of customers from ho- hum to wow; from no memory to a super story they are eager to share. It does that by focusing on an enhanced experience, not a superficial one; on changing, not simply agitating. And, it works because it channels any unpleasantries “outside.”

Front-line employees with a fan approach to service view it as a task to perform and a checklist of practices and patterns to complete. Front-line employees with an air conditioned perspective work to understand the real requirements of the customer—what they really, really want, not just what they request—and manage everything within their control to deliver it.

Be an air conditioner to your customers, not a fan!