Guest Blog From My Esteemed Colleague, Chip Bell

The Innovative Power of Terms of Endearment

My mother just turned 97! She obviously has a large storehouse of life memories she enjoys sharing. She is still active and sharp. One story she recently told…one I had never heard…involved her imploring her dad to talk her mother into changing her mind about a decision my mother did not like. My mother was apparently the apple of my grandfather’s eye as a little girl.

“Oh no, child,” he fondly told my mother, “I can’t ask Ms. Christian to do that…she’s my cook!” My mother related his statement as one of the greatest expressions of devotion. My grandparents were married over sixty years and died on the same day.

“Words are the voice of the heart,” said Confucius. “I’m so sorry” are words that can turn an angry customer into a friend. “Thank you” are words that tell a customer his or her business is appreciated. “What do you think?” can make an employee feel valued.” “How can I help?” can transform an acquaintance into a neighbor.

But, the innovative side of terms of endearment is when they are used in an unexpected fashion…when they pleasantly surprise. Words might form a sincere compliment or a pose a query that reflects sincere curiosity. When I was checking out of the grocery store after buying the items on my “assigned” list, the grocery bagger…completely out of the blue…said, “I’ll bet you are a great cook!” It was a verbal reach to warmly connect; an attempt to make the moment more than mundane. And, it made me smile and forget the drudgery of chores.

“Thank you for being my customers,” I overheard the Pure Atlanta clothing store manager say to a group of prospects who seemed to be loitering in his Lenox Square Mall store. The uniqueness of his statement was that his respectful expression of gratitude was directed at three teenagers each with very loud dispositions, extremely baggy pants, and earplugs hooked to their Iphones. Out of earshot of the manager, one young man remarked to his buddies, “Man, we gotta buy something here!” As they left the check-out counter, the store manager shot point blank one final blast of endearment: “Gentlemen, please visit me again.”

“It’s only words, but words are all I have, to take your heart away,” sang the Bee Gees.
As service providers with an unending quest for customer loyalty, we might have more than words, but the right words can be powerful in delivering an innovative surprise that can take our customers’ hearts away.

Chip R. Bell is a customer loyalty consultant, keynote speaker and bestselling author. His newest book is The 9½ Principles of Innovative Service. His new book can be purchased at; Chip can be contacted at

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