The Importance of Luminosity in the Customer Experience

Candlepower is a term you have probably never used, but once it was the common term to express the luminosity of candles – how brightly they shone.

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” The group of second graders sang with spirited animation and elevated decibels. They jubilantly tossed their joy out into the audience with the abandon of adorning a cupcake. They collectively raised the grin factor on everyone; I was one of the proud grandparents on the receiving end.

After the concert my granddaughter Annabeth emerged with her best friend. They both seemed noticeably grownup wearing “big girl” make-up, medium height heels, and long decorative dresses. Complying with the job description of every grandparent, I showered her with praise. When the oohs and ahs subsided, I asked her, “What exactly does little light mean?” Without a moment’s hesitation her friend shot back a powerful answer:

“It is my happiness laser!” The room got suddenly quiet as we all marveled at the instant wisdom.

Every person, unit, and organization on the planet has a happiness laser. It is the amount of joy-filled light, energy, and attentiveness one concentrates on another. And, organizations whose happiness laser registers a high candlepower have a much greater emotional connection with the recipients of that light. “Candlepower” is largely an obsolete term but is still sometimes used to describe the luminous intensity of high-powered flashlights and spotlights. So, if the candlepower of customer experience was unbundled like the colors of the rainbow, what might it contain?

Every person, unit, and organization on the planet has a happiness laser.

The Candlepower of a Simple Gift

I walked into the restaurant at the Park Inn in Harrisburg, PA. From the back of the restaurant I heard, “Good morning, I’m Sandy, how would you like your coffee?” When I said black, she warmly responded, “Take any table you like and I’ll have your coffee there before you can sit down!” My day was off like a colorful merry-go-round!

The breakfast was perfect and served quickly. Periodically Sandy checked to make sure all was well. There was no chitchat, just attentiveness…and, lots of smiles aimed at my table. I finished, folded up my newspaper and requested the check. And then, it happened!  

Sandy brought my check along with a complimentary go-cup of coffee fixed just the way I like it!  “This is great!” I exclaimed. “You have no idea how much I needed a coffee to go today.”  Sandy winked and responded, “It is our gift to you!” I left her a tip almost as big as my breakfast tab and went straight to the manager on duty to compliment Sandy’s generous service. “I am so delighted,” he told me, “We get comments about Sandy every day. Some guests tell us they drive way out of their way just get a shot of Sandy in the morning.” Her closing words of generosity still echo in my mind like a favorite tune.

The Candlepower of Respect

When I was a kid, I used to accompany my grandfather to town in his pickup truck to buy a few bags of feed for his cows. To and from the feed store we talked about “stuff” like two old friends, not like an elder speaking to a kid. And, he always introduced me to the people he encountered as Mr. Chip. If the sales person at the feed store asked him how many bags he wanted loaded, he would point toward me and declare, “Mr. Chip can tell you.” As a 10 year old, I felt very grown up. It’s that same type of declaration and affirmation customers enjoy. It is a powerful feature of a happiness laser that elevates the candlepower.

What can you do to apply the respect-filled happiness laser? Use “sir” and “ma’am” to people you don’t normally address in that manner. Thank someone who never gets expressions of gratitude — the janitor in the bathroom, the cashier in the checkout line, the invisible and taken-for-granted maintenance people. Listen to customers as if you were at a raffle, hoping to hear you have the winning number. Be a proactive guardian of your customers’ dignity. Never participate in any action that could be viewed by your customers as cynical, caustic, or indifferent. Respectful service entails an extra helping of help, an enduring act of benevolence, and a sincere interest in making a difference in the welfare of those around you.  

Be a proactive guardian of your customers’ dignity.

The Candlepower of Passion

Lights are a traditional holiday feature in many faiths. Without lights, the holiday season would be as festive as…well, Arbor Day or Groundhog Day! Happiness lasers are less like normal tree lights and more like bubble lights.

Bubble lights were invented during the forties and popular from the 50’s through the 70’s. If you mixed regular multi-colored lights with bubble lights you typically use far fewer bubble lights since they would just overpower regular lights. If you have not seen bubble lights they are small colored tubes filled with oil that, once turned on, begin bubbling to create colorful movement. They are wonderful at entertaining small kids and worrying small pets.

Create customer experiences that are as animated and energetic as a bubble light. Don’t just shine; bubble. Make service filled with initiative and proactivity. Anticipate, don’t just respond. Choreograph your customers’ experience with an eye toward surprise. Remember, happiness lasers have the wattage of a child on Christmas morning. Couple your “thank you’s” with a handshake or a hug.”  

Happiness lasers exterminate apathy. Apathy comes in many shapes and sizes. It can be complete emotional indifference by the cashier, the sleepwalking actions of a hotel housekeeper, or the wooden sound in the customer service representative’s voice. Apathy robs work teams of energy, marriages of romance, and organizations of much needed service sensitivity. While not a life-threatening malady, apathy is a spirit-squashing affliction that communicates a deadly message of indifference to customers. It says, “Spend your money with us or not; frankly we don’t care.”

Great customer experiences are those that replace indifference with the candlepower of a happiness laser. And, they light up all around them much like a children’s choir does to their audience. Make a powerful pledge to all you serve today: “This little light of mine; I’m gonna let it shine!”


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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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