Serving Like a Wise Owl — Guest Post by Chip Bell

[Note: this special guest post is by Chip R. Bell, renowned keynote speaker and the author of several award-winning, national best-selling books. See more about Chip at the end of this post.]

Audubon Magazine features annually their photography awards. This is the magazine of the National Audubon Society, the oldest conservation organization in the world for the protection of birds. Their 2018 grand prize winner was Steve Mattheis who made an amazing photo of a Great Gray Owl in Wyoming with a Nikon D850 camera. The story behind how he made the shot was fascinating. But the big deal story was about the actual bird he photographed. The owl stands almost three feet tall with a five-foot wingspan. Here is how the magazine described this amazing fowl.

“The Great Gray Owl is a superb hunter. From a perch, it watches with eyes larger than a human’s, listens with ears so keen it can detect prey beneath a foot of snow, and attacks silently, due to sound dampening feathers.”

What a great metaphor for the features of a great service provider. Now, before we go any further, let me warn you that this metaphor has its limits. Carried too far you will think I view customers as prey instead of partners. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Great service providers watch their customers in action to learn about their behavior. Moen wanted to conduct customer research for use in the developing a new line of showerheads. They hired a firm that got permission to film customers taking showers in their own homes (I just report this stuff) and used the findings in the new design. The insights contributed to the new Moen Revolution showerhead becoming a best-seller.

Great service providers listen to learn. Too often service providers listen to correct, teach or explain. When they engage in deep listening with the sole goal of learning, they change the defensive filter through which customer intelligence can be most helpful. And, they listen “below the surface,” like hotel GM John Longstreet did through conducting focus groups with taxi drivers who frequented his property to transport hotel guests to the airport.

Finally, great service providers are supersonic fast at responding to customer issues, concerns, and opportunities. When a major hospital realized that family members were anxious about leaving a loved one in a hospital room to go recharge their cell phones, they installed a courtesy phone charger in every patient room with outlets to fit every conceivable cell phone.

You probably learned this ancient verse as a child.
 “A wise old owl lived in an oak. The more he saw, the less he spoke.
The less he spoke, the more he heard. The wise old owl was a wise old bird.” 

What can you do to serve like the features of the Great Grey Owl?

Chip R. Bell

[For more great service provider ideas check out Chip Bell’s newest book, Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. Chip can be reached at]

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