Innovative Service Lessons from a Master Griller

Innovative Service Lessons from a Master Griller

My son, Bilijack, is a world class griller. More than a hobby, he refers to himself as a grill snob…as in, an expert who knows he’s an expert. And, he only uses quality charcoal as his source of heat! He labels my “over and done” gas grilling as just basic outdoor cooking. In his view, charcoal grillers are creative chefs while gas grillers are merely short order cooks! When I asked him the benefits of charcoal versus gas, he was quick to render his grilling expertise.

“First, the food cooked over charcoal tastes much better. Whatever you are cooking is able to slowly absorb the sweet aroma of charcoal briquettes, especially if you add the aromatic smoke from apple wood chips. Charcoal grilling takes concentrating on the meticulous process not just the cooked outcome. Also, with charcoal, you have more control over the heat by the way you arrange the coals. It requires you stay engaged. It takes longer, but it
is worth it in the end.”

His charcoal lesson revealed a lot of the features of innovative service. Ordinary customer service is like my throwing a steak on my gas grill, setting the proper heat, turning the steak a couple of times and putting it on a plate. Innovative service, like charcoal grilling, requires thinking about the blend of thoughtful preparation with a keen focus on a valued outcome. It takes practice with imagination. It involves generosity, not just meeting a customer need. It might take more careful attention and forethought, but your customers will say it was “worth in the end.”

The service department at my auto dealership always leaves an ice cold bottle of water in the cup holder after servicing my car. It takes more time and preparation, but it makes me smile. My dentist always calls me after any procedure to make sure all is well. It’s a little extra that signals that he cares. The man who mows our yard brings the newspaper from the street to our front door. A little extra effort, but we would never consider anyone else taking care of our yard.

My son continued with his final charcoal versus gas point. “I have a neighbor who cooks on a gas grill on his back deck and no one ever notices. But, when I am cooking on my charcoal grill on my back deck, everyone in the neighborhood knows it and frequently comments.” The final payoff of innovative service: everyone in the neighborhood (or marketplace) comments on it! Happy grilling; happy innovative serving!

Chip R. Bell is a customer loyalty consultant and the author of several bestselling books. His newest book is The 9½ Principles of Innovative Service available from

Chip can be reached at