The Magic of Service Animation by Chip R. Bell

After purchasing a new lakeside home, my wife and I elected to “break the bank” and add a room with an indoor spa. One compelling reason was the fact that we have three granddaughters, 6, 8 and 11. At every visit they always enjoy an hour or more in what they call the “hot tub.” With over 50 jets, underwater lights that change colors, and a waterfall, it is a spa decorated like a merry-go-round!

My neighbor has a hot tub–a California style redwood large container of hot water. One time while the girls were visiting he invited them over for a “swim.” When I mentioned he had a “hot tub” they were excited, no doubt thinking of our spa. They were polite but after fifteen minutes in the still hot water were ready to go.

“What do you think of my hot tub?” he asked them as they were toweling off. The bluntly honest but charmingly innocent six-year-old shot back a point blank question: “Where are the bubbles and colored lights?” As we were walking back to our house, they all concurred they liked a “hot tub” that was sparkly.

Customers are changing. They are living in a highly stimulating, completely animated world. Look at what it took for the Super Bowl half-time show to get fans on their feet? Customers today don’t want service like a cupcake; they want it with colorful sprinkles on top. Great service is no longer Disneyesque, the standard is becoming more like Cirque du Soleil. Disneyworld delights; Cirque du Soleil stuns. Disneyworld leaves you happy; Cirque du Soleil leaves you in awe.

A customer experience like a hot tub is one that is very good—meeting a customer’s need with precision and with the warmth of an old friend. When I check into a Marriott, I always get a flawless check-in by a friendly front desk person and my room is very comfortable with all the amenities I would expect…all at a fair price.

Service like a spa is more like what I get at the Hotel Monaco. The bathrobe in the closet is not white; it leopard or zebra print—plus there is a yoga mat. The turndown service does not leave a chocolate; they leave something unexpected on my pillow—a flower, foreign coin, a lottery ticket. And, the housekeeper brings a goldfish in a colorful basketball sized bowl to stay with me in my room. Marriott sometimes has a wine & cheese reception in the hotel lobby. But, Hotel Monaco’s reception might add someone reading palms, a mime, a magician, or a fortuneteller. You get the point.

Customers love their experiences with sprinkles—or, “sparkly” as my granddaughters called it. As James Mapes writes, “When you are using your imagination to generate ideas or picturing your path to achieve a goal, you want to avoid allowing reality to stifle possibility.” Sprinkles are about imaginative service. What can you add to your customer’s experiences to make them as bubbly and colorful as a spa with a waterfall?

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books. His newest book is the just-released Sprinkles; Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service. He can be reached at