Adding a Kaleidoscope to Customer Service

The beautiful new Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel on the waterfront in downtown Vancouver, BC was truly enchanting. My guest room had a spectacular panoramic 21st floor view of the Salish Sea. But, the best feature was displayed on the high tech, industrial strength work desk — a circular box of Pick-Up-Sticks, an antique yoyo in its original box, and a kaleidoscope!!

Fairmont Toys-2

The ultra modern furnishings bathed in an abundance of chrome, glass and push-button-everything was cheerfully contrasted with the simple, colorful toys of yesteryear. This unique and peaceful blend was expressed to make you pause, reflect, and feel like the room had given you a great big “welcome home” hug. The kaleidoscope grabbed my attention and held on tightly.

Kaleidoscopes are addictive. They make you privately “ooh” and “ah” as you turn the cylinder and behold the colorful glass that charms you into nostalgia for a simpler time.

Kaleidoscopes also have the attributes of the kind of experiences we all desire — as customers, employees, and colleagues. Notice how we all like good service, but only tweet and boast about experiences that are unique and emotionally connect. Good is the key to customer retention; but, unique is the secret to customer advocacy. Master and dispense kaleidoscope experiences to those you serve and you will lasso their hearts.

Kaleidoscope Service is Inclusive

“How ‘bout going and getting the tractor and parking it in the barn?” These sweet words were music to my ears when I was a ten-year old growing up on a farm. It was my dad’s way of nudging along my maturity. To get the very special privilege of starting, driving and parking a large expensive tractor communicated trust and respect. His gesture also left me feeling thrilled…and tall. It made me think about the power that inclusion has on all relationships–especially employees and customers. Need proof? Turn cookie baking over to a young child and watch her or his eyes light up!

Kaleidoscopes function differently than their eye candy cousins — binoculars, telescopes and microscopes. Once you adjust these other devices to suit your vision, you just stare through them much like viewing a photo. Kaleidoscopes invite you to alter the cavalcade of color and design simply by rotating the cylinder. The more you rotate, the higher the candlepower on your grin. And, just when you think you have seen the pinnacle of artwork, another image tops the one before.

Inclusion means being willing at times to sacrifice a bit on efficiency or effectiveness for the commitment gained by respectful participation. It would have been safer, and perhaps faster, for my dad to park the tractor in the garage himself. But, he opted for partnership over perfection. My glee trumped his gait. When employees and customers are invited to assist, advise and assess, the path they take may not be identical to the one you would have taken or expected. Like delegation, the delegator must exchange some control for cooperation; command for commitment-building collaboration.

Kaleidoscope Service is Enchanting

A large colorful gumball machine sits on a small table in the entrance foyer to Miller Brothers Ltd., an upscale men’s clothing store in Atlanta. Beside it is a large bowl of shiny pennies. Guess where Junior goes while daddy is trying on trousers? Kaleidoscope service at its finest. A dry cleaner in Charlotte, NC gives a candy kiss to every customer. But, the familiar chocolate candy has a surprise — an almond in the middle. The IT department of a large accounting firm has an “I’m a Superhero” day each month complete with costumes, signs, and their ever-present, “The-answer-is-‘yes,’-what’s-the-question?” attitude.

Kaleidoscope service is hand-crafted to make recipients swoon, sigh and giggle. If the customer or employee only smiles, the experience has fallen short of its intent. It is the waitress in a New York City diner putting on your table her flower arrangement from her wedding anniversary the day before! It is the Disney World housekeeper who turns towels into swans and leaves a lipstick kiss (from Minnie) on the bathroom mirror! It is the sales department of a large manufacturer that sends special Valentines to customers, when it is far from February!!

Kaleidoscope Service is Ever Changing

Customers and employees have short attention spans and quickly bore with good but nothing-to-write-home-about service.  Look at the 2015 Super Bowl half-time show. It was complete with pyrotechnics and Katy Perry jetting through the air or riding a giant glass lion as she sang her hit song “Roar.” It was a metaphor for how much it takes in today’s super stimulating, sensory overload world to “get patrons on their feet.”

One of the most intriguing features of a kaleidoscope is you never see the same colorful arrangement twice. The feature keeps us hooked and delighted. And, it is an invitation to all service providers to constantly up their game. The good news is the fact that while there may be a limit to value-added generosity, there is no limit to value-unique ingenuity!

My favorite hotel is the Hotel Monaco. When I arrived recently at a property I frequent, I was treated at check-in to a champagne flute of watermelon juice with a sprig of mint. My previous stay it had been a tangerine drink with a cherry. “How many kinds of juices do you all have back there?” I asked? The front desk clerk giggled! “Who knows? I think the chef just keeps making up beverage combinations no one has ever thought of. The roses in the entrance are probably going to wind up in a drink some day!!” She seemed overjoyed with the enchanting treasure hunt. And, I was vicariously drawn into the pursuit!

Service, whether delivered to external customers or internal colleagues, clearly has its somber moments — the attentiveness of a funeral director to a bereaved family, the delivery of bad news by an accountant to a client, or the security guard evacuating an office building when a fire alarm goes off. But, most interpersonal encounters are rich territory for the addition of whimsy and allure. Take a page from the Fairmont Pacific Rim and add a touch of kaleidoscope to the features of the service you deliver!



Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books including Take Their Breath Away, Managing Knock Your Socks off Service, Managers as Mentors, Wired and Dangerous, The 9½ Principles of Innovative Service and his newest book, Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service. Global Gurus ranked him both in 2014 and 2015 as the #1 keynote speaking in the world on customer service. His work has appeared in Fortune, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc. Magazine, Leader to Leader Magazine, CEO Magazine, Fast Company and Businessweek. He can be reached at

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