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Wow Customers by Adding Sprinkles to Your Retail Service They may come in for fast, good and cheap -- but they'll come back for unique.

By Chip R. Bell Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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"I can get it for you fast, good or cheap. Pick two."

Today's customers want all three -- plus they want it unique. When entrepreneur Candace Nelson introduced a 24-hour Sprinkles cupcake ATM that delivered a personalized cupcake in 10 seconds, it was more than a successful novelty. It was a metaphor for today's retail customer.

The quest for value-unique emerges at the perfect time -- when value-added (taking what customers expect and adding more) has gotten pricey for retailers. There are finite ways for generous addition, but there are unlimited ways for unexpected ingenuity. Customers may come in for fast, good and cheap -- but they come back for unique.

Here's a recipe for adding sprinkles to your retail customers' experiences.

Related: The Magic Words Customers Want to Hear

1. Pay attention to people important to your customers

Miller Brothers, an upscale men's clothing store in Atlanta, put a large, colorful gumball machine on a table at the store entrance. Beside it was placed a large bowl of pennies. Guess where Junior goes while Dad is getting fitted for trousers? Guess which men's store is the buzz at cocktail parties?

Don't make your customers have to wear an "Ask Me About My Granddaughter" T-shirt for you to affirm who matters to them.

2. Put a cherry on top of great service

Hotel Monaco is a medium-priced hotel. While many chains are struggling, Hotel Monaco is on the rise. They seek to enchant business traveling guests with quirky additions.

The bathrobe isn't boring white -- it's leopard or zebra print. Guest can have a goldfish in their room (taken care off by the housekeeper). And, instead of the proverbial mint on the pillow at turndown, guests find on their pillow an unexpected treat -- a foreign coin, a flower, a lottery ticket or who knows.

3. Be the icing on your customer's cake

Nicholson-Hardie is a nursery and garden center in Dallas known as the "garden center with the cats." Why? Lounging on top of the large check-out you'll encounter one of two large calico cats. Beside the cats is a business card holder with their names: Frankie Cat and Sammie Cat. Their job title? The Rat Pack! Ask any customer about the garden center and the cats will be a part of the reported charm.

Related: Why Customer Support Stories Spread Like Wildfire

4. Let your customers 'lick the beaters'

Matt Garofaio, owner of the Oconee Cellar near Lake Oconee, Georgia, decided to have a well-known bourbon brewery in Kentucky create for him a signature bourbon to sell in his store.

The brewery concocted five distinct options and sent each to Matt in a clear, numbered bottle. Now, how do you think Matt chose his special brand? He invited his best customers to taste test each of the five bourbons and register their preference.

How many customers do you think will place orders for their "co-created" beverage? They'll care when they share.

5. Let your customers borrow a cup of sugar

Customers love to be trusted.

The manager of First Watch Restaurant in Overland Park, Kansas, purchased a large supply of umbrellas for customers who might have to cope with an unexpected rain shower after dining. Attaching his business card to each one, he put them in a large container at the front door along with a sign that read: "If you need an umbrella, please take one. If you bring it back, we'll give you a free cup of coffee."

According to the store manager, almost every customer returns the borrowed umbrella. Look for ways to make service feel genuinely neighborly, not conveniently store-bought.

6. Always add an extra helping

A customer finished his breakfast at the restaurant of the Park Inn west of Harrisburg, Penn. It had been peaceful and tasty with superior service from his waitress, Sandy. Folding his newspaper, he requested his check.

Sandy brought his check along with a complimentary to-go cup of coffee fixed just the way he liked it. "You have no idea how much I needed coffee to-go today," the customer said.

Innovative service is unexpected, off-the-beaten path service. It delights because it's distinctive, not just excellent. It creates a story because it touches customers in ways good service can't.

Put sprinkles on your customers' experiences and watch their loyalty grow -- right along with your bottom line.

Related: 3 Reasons Why Apologizing Hurts Your Business


Chip R. Bell

Keynote Speaker, Author and Customer-Loyalty Consultant

Chip R. Bell is a renowned keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling books including his newest, Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service. He can be reached at

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