The Joy of Service…. And Popcorn! by JC Quintana

speaker_quintana_jcI would love to give you a precise list of all the things I’ve done wrong in my 30+ years working with customers. It would fill volumes of tragic and humorous episodes I would rather forget. I’ve learned through this wondrous experience of serving people, that helping human beings is as much about doing things right as it is about remembering to keep the focus on the right things. It reminds me a lot of making theater movie popcorn.  No really… it is like making that delicious, buttery, and frustrating movie

I have to get to the movies at least thirty minutes early to make my popcorn. This is serious stuff. It is sacrilege to grab popcorn and go straight to your seat. Popcorn requires at least fifteen to twenty minutes to get just perfect.

First, you take the butter and you get it on there just right. Then you sprinkle on the salt by letting it run delicately through your fingers Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark style (OK maybe that is just me). Then you shake it all together and do it all over again a couple of more times.

Then (and only then) you sit down to eat your perfectly crafted masterpiece. But as you reach in to that layer that I like to call “the undiscovered country of popcorn” and take a bite, I realize that I have missed an entire layer altogether. Really? Come on! All that effort and I still didn’t get it right?!

Here is the thing… popcorn is not a technical or strategic exercise. It is not the end goal and it is not why you go to the movies. You are there to experience something and movie popcorn is a part of that experience. It adds to how you feel and to the memories you make with loved ones.

It would seem silly to walk out of the movie frustrated about not having achieved your popcorn engineering goals. And yet, many customer professionals treat the customer experience that way. They are so busy journey mapping, implementing technology, and designing strategy that when faced with the sometimes frustrating human experience, they forget it is actually about something else altogether. It is easy to forget that the very names of the strategies that represent customer-driven function, are human relationship elements.

So with National Customer Service Week just around the corner, let’s review and remember these important principles:

Customer Relationship Management is not about centralizing customer data. It is about managing human relationships.

Customer Engagement is not about increasing communication speed. It is about connecting people and building a positive communication climate that compels them to be co-creators of value.

Customer Centricity isn’t about customizing self-service. It is about making experiences relevant to people.

Customer Service is not a Service Level Agreement. It is keeping a promise.

And Customer Experience isn’t a catch phrase. It is a measurement that ensures customers get what they need in a way that is easy and enjoyable for them.

When your purpose for implementing methods, strategies, and technology is to ensure that customers get what they need, then all those things serve their purpose. When relationship, engagement, centricity, service, trust, and experience are just initiatives with the prefix “customer” you will always get it wrong and you will miss out on your own joy in the experience.

There is still nothing wrong with trying to get your popcorn just right. As long as you remember the real reason you are at the theater. Enjoy the movie!


JC Quintana is the author of several books on customer, employee, and partner experience and a professor of customer experience innovation at Rutgers University. His company focuses on helping organizations build better relationships through measuring the right relationship components. /

National Customer Service Week was launched in 1984 by the International Customer Service Association and is October 3rd through the 7th this year.  For more information visit the Official National Customer Service Week website: NCSW16

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