Does Your Business Emanate the Warmth of a Cool Fluorescent Light?

I recently read Setting The Table by Danny Meyer. This book shows up for me as inspiring, useful and entertaining. In this post I want to share with you a few passages from this book and my thoughts on these passages. In the process I question the value-power of Customer Experience.

What gave rise to Danny’s way of showing up in the world?

In France we usually stayed in low-key, family run inns where the welcome felt loving and the gastronomy was exceptional.  Those trips left a lasting impression. The hug that came with the food made it taste even better! That realisation would gradually evolve into my own well-define business strategy……..

Take a look at your business, your organisation and ask yourself whether your welcome occurs as loving and your ‘product’ as exceptional as experienced by your customers. How did you fare? I say many, if not most organisations, have huge room for improvement here.

Does genuine customer-centricity lie at the heart of Danny Meyer’s business strategy?

The heart of Danny Meyer’s business strategy is being on the customers’ side. Here is how he puts it:

Hospitality is the foundation of my business philosophy. Virtually nothing else is as important as how one is made to feel in any business transaction. Hospitality exists when you believe the other person is on your side……. Hospitality is present when something happens for your. It is absent when something happens to you. Those two simple prepositions for and to – express it all.

I invite you to take a look at the policies and practices of your organisation and assess how your organisation rates on the for and to dimensions. If your organisation is like the multitude of organisations you are likely to find that your organisation is not hospitable. Put differently, you are likely to find many instance of to and few of for if you look at your organisation through your customers’ eyes.

Is there power in distinguishing between hospitality and service?

When we make new distinctions new worlds of possibility open up for us. Danny Meyer has generated such a distinction and living it has been the source of his success.

Understanding the distinction between service and hospitality has been the foundation of our success. Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of the product makes its recipients feel…… To be on a guest’s side requires listening to that person with every sense, and following up with a thoughtful, gracious, appropriate response. It takes both great service and great hospitality to rise to the top.

My question for you is this, has your organisation invented new distinctions that open up new possibilities? Or are you stuck in the taken for granted and common distinctions of your industry?  I say that everything starts with inventing new distinctions. Lets take the area of customer service. What happens when you invention the distinction ‘customer love’ and contrast it with ‘customer service’? Notice ‘customer love’ cannot be collapsed into ‘customer service’. Why? Something new-fresh is born with ‘customer love’.  The distinction ‘customer love’ calls forth a very different way of being-showing up in the world to ‘customer service’.

Incidentally, I say that there is no power, no vitality, no freshness, and no possibility in the distinction ‘Customer Experience’. This distinction has been made empty and meaningless by the way that it has been embraced. I’ll let you chew on that and get back to me if you disagree.

Do most businesses delivery plenty of light but no warmth? 

I love the way that Danny Meyer uses concrete metaphors to make instructive points.  Here is one that is particularly valuable and in line with the lamentations of Colin Shaw:

Imagine if every business were a lightbulb and that for each lightbulb the primary goal was to attract the most moths possible. Now what if you learned that 49% of the reason moths were attracted to the bulb was for the quality of its light (brightness being the task of the bulb) and that 51% of the attraction was to the warmth projected by the bulb (heat being connected with the feeling of the bulb).

Its remarkable to me how many businesses shine brightly when it comes to acing the tasks but emanate all the warmth of a cool fluorescent light. That explains how a flawless four-star restaurant can actually attract far fewer loyal fans than a two or three star place with soul.

How does your organisation fare on the light-warmth scale?  And in your Customer Experience efforts are your  business cases and people focussed on improving the light or the warmth?  From what I have seen, and what Colin says, it occurs to me that the bulk of Customer Experience efforts are focussed on the light.

Does your organisation lack soul?

It occurs to me that the distinction ‘with soul’ is worth savouring. I invite you to ask yourself how many businesses show up in your experience as showing up ‘with soul’?  When was the last time you experienced a product ‘with soul’? Or the last time you were served ‘with soul’? What about the last time you came across marketing literature ‘with soul’? When was the last time you came across a salesperson ‘with soul’?

I say that most workplaces and most brands lack soul. And the challenge is for these organisations to put soul back into workplaces and brands. It occurs to me that even that is not enough. It occurs to me that the true challenge is for us to show up ‘with soul’ each and every day and collectively put soul back into the game of business.  What do you say?

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

6 thoughts on “Does Your Business Emanate the Warmth of a Cool Fluorescent Light?”

  1. Good read, Maz. But, I think it’s easier said than done. To motivate all employees to bring their souls into their work is the most challenging task.


    1. Hello Rubal

      It occurs to me that if you and I show up from this context “I think it’s easier said than done” then that is exactly what shows up. Showing up from this context, are we not already defeated and possibly going through the motions to prove what we already say is so.

      Here is my question, are there some organisations where employees are highly motivated? If that is so then it occurs to me that there is proof that employees are willing to be bring their souls into work. Perhaps the challenge is that many organisations do not show up as being worthy of ‘souls at work’ nor do they have a listening for ‘souls’ showing up at work.

      I thank you for sharing your perspective and apologise for my late reply.

      At your service / with my love


  2. An interesting idea Maz,

    It strikes me that we know what “warmth” is when we enter an organisation, but that it is very difficult to put your finger on. So difficult to measure.

    Maybe our belief that “what can’t be measured can’t be managed” is part of the problem



    1. Hello James

      It occurs to me that warmth, as the human warmth between one being and another, cannot be measured at a distance. Yet it can be measured. Warmth is a feeling and feelings show up in the body. I suspect that warmth shows up in a smile, a softer relaxed face, a change in the tone of the voice. I suspect warmth affects the heartbeat….

      Our beliefs are always a huge part of the problem. Every worldview is a model and all models hide as well as show. The move from a communitarian way of living in the world (under the thumb of the Catholic Church) to an individualist way of living (under the enlightenment) put rationality, science, and the individual human being into the foreground. In the same way this movement has hidden/obscured the fact that we exist, always, in relationship. A human being is NEVER an individual, he is always in relationship with all that is so in this world of ours. When you are in a good/bad mood do you not ‘infect’ others with your mood? When you drive well/dangerously do you not impact others who share the roads with you? If the quality of air/water changes does it not change the functioning of you and impact your health.

      You and I can be viewed as ‘self organising systems’ interacting with self organising systems and nested within larger self organising systems.

      With my love


  3. Hi Maz,
    Your post reminds me of the Maya Angelou quote: “People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

    Starting with and delivering to the feelings that we want to evoke is, I believe, the heart of great customer service and experience.



    1. Hello Adrian

      I find myself to be in total agreement with you. Just yesterday I rang around for a air conditioning top-up on the car. I ended up booking it in with Halfords because Chris picked up the phone and said “Hello Maz!” The recognition, the delight in his voice is still with me and I am looking forward to seeing him.

      All the best


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