It’s Time for the Valentine Strategy

I love Valentine's Day. The backstory of Valentine's Day is worth revisiting as a metaphor for how we can best serve customers all year long? It was associated with a religious celebration honoring St. Valentinus, a priest from Rome who was martyred in the late 5th Century. Two stories (probably myths) frame the sentiment associated with Feb. 14.

Valentinus generously performed marriage ceremonies for soldiers and their brides at a time when soldiers were forbidden to marry. He supposedly carved wooden hearts and gave them to each soldier to remind him of his vows while away in battle. When Valentinus was later jailed and awaiting execution, he healed Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer, Asterius. He sent the girl a farewell note and signed it "Your Valentine!" Add these two storied concepts—generosity and kindness—and you get a strategy for delivering Valentine service all year round.

Become famous for your generosity.

Shwetha loves HP! No, that's not a Krylon spray painting on a water tower or overpass. Shwetha is a support tech contact center operator for Hewlett Packard. And, her style, behavior, and words clearly display her devotion both to the HP brand she fronts and the customers she serves.

My new MacBook Air laptop came with Windows 10 and Office 365. While I have a new HP color printer; my old, reliable workhorse printer is a monochrome HP LaserJet P2015dn. Not only is this printer a veritable antique as printers go, it has been out of warranty for years. I was only able to find a universal printer driver for my new laptop to talk to the printer. It allowed me to print, but I couldn't print front and back like the printer did with my old laptop. I finally surrendered and gave HP technical support an evening call.

I hit the jackpot! I got Shwetha! She was warm, clear, and patient. She informed me that since my HP printer was out of warranty there would normally be a charge for her technical services. But, she really wanted me to have a good experience with my HP and was willing to help me without charge. We began troubleshooting. She was noticeably passionate about the product and my success with it. After numerous tests, we learned I had not checked the proper computer port in my printer setup. With that, she made it work perfectly.

Now, let me ask you a question. If you really, really loved a product or service, you would want to make sure it was delivering perfectly, right? Shwetha closed our conversation with, "May I call you back tomorrow just to make sure you are happy with how your HP printer is working?" Let me remind you this was a free call on an out-of-warranty product…a call driven solely by the brand allegiance and generosity of a contact center tech rep. The next day she called as promised. And, her love affair with HP got passed on to me. I would never own any other brand!

One by-product of Valentine service is not just keeping customers but changing their feelings about the unit or organization from pleased to thrilled, from passively retained to actively an advocate. One powerful route to your customers' hearts is a generous attitude that leaves customers surprised, not just happy.

Show kindness toward those who matter to your customers.

"Amy's plant" has a special meaning to a good friend of mine. He always smiles whenever you ask him about it. But, I am getting way ahead of myself!

My friend tore down a shed in his yard. The ugly, old shed was in stark contrast with the rest of his coiffured lawn. He decided to turn the space into a flower garden, complete with a lattice-covered sitting area. When it came time to purchase plants and ornamental trees, he took along his six-year-old granddaughter, Amy. The sales person at the nursery treated Amy as a part of the decision-making process, much to the delight of my friend. Amy got to be the sales person's "helper," and he even asked her opinion on some of the plants.

Amy was over at her grandpa's house the afternoon the plants and trees were delivered. After they were placed in the spots where they would be planted, the driver had one more plant to unload. It was a small, aromatic rosemary plant with a tag that read, "Amy's plant." She was thrilled and got to personally choose where in the garden it would be planted. Now, every time she visits, she races to the yard to check on her plant. Here is the most important part: Whenever someone visits my friend's garden, wants his opinion about where to buy plants, or asks about any topic even remotely related to horticulture, that person will get to hear the "Amy's Plant" story.

Think Valentine's Day everyday. Reach out to angry customers and let them know you appreciate their gifts…we always learn from upset customers. Contact customers who have left and just let them know how much you enjoyed serving them. Surprise a customer or colleague by sending a "Thinking of You" note or card. Give a gift or offer a hug for no special reason. The core emotion surrounding Valentine's Day is adoration. We see lots of Cupids, hearts, and flowers during this annual event. But, the most influential type of affection is that expressed without motive or need of a special designated day.

Chip R. Bell is a keynote speaker and the author of several best-selling, award-winning books. His newest book is Kaleidoscope: Delivering Innovative Service That Sparkles. He can be reached at