Making the Speaking Business More Customer Focused

Teamwork is the No. 1 Secret Sauce for Customer Loyalty


About Dr. Chip Bell

Chip Bell has helped many Fortune 100 companies dramatically enhance their bottom lines and marketplace reputation through innovative customer-centric strategies that address the needs of today’s picky, fickle, vocal and “all about me” customers. Dr. Bell reveals the best practices from the organizations leading the customer loyalty charge, giving audiences powerful cutting-edge ideas and unique sales strategies they can put into practice the minute they leave his keynote. Bell’s impact on audiences is nothing short of extraordinary: over 80% of the groups who hear him bring him back. Always customer-centered, Chip customizes all his presentations to meet unique organizational needs through a background study, pre-event conference call, and phone interviews to better understand specific audience needs and challenges.


Even before she took our dinner order, we could see great teamwork in action.  As our waitress was checking on a couple at a nearby table in the middle of their meal, her colleague stealthily passed her the carafe of ice tea so she could replenish the couple’s glasses.  It had the grace of a championship relay race.

The setting was dinner at the innovative Stoke Charlotte restaurant in the Marriott Charlotte City Center hotel.  I was there for a weekend keynote.  Since it was Valentine’s, my wife traveled with me.  “I will be your primary server,” she told us as she handed us their creative menus, “but we all work here as a team.”  Sure enough, we seemed to be the focus of all the restaurant staff members.  Not in an obtrusive, over-served way, but more like being a guest in someone’s home and being cared for by the entire family.

Teamwork is more than a collection of chores; it is collaborative energy directed at a central focus or mission.  When the bartender brought over another glass of wine, he asked about the weather at Lake Oconee where we live—a fact no doubt passed to him from our primary waitress.  When a waiter completed taking the order of another guest in the middle of our meal, he inquired about whether I was happy with the way my steak was prepared.  And, of course, our departure brought adieus by more people than just our primary waitress.  

Now, here is the best part.  The next morning, we had breakfast in that same restaurant.  It was a completely different staff.  When we mentioned Lake Oconee, our waitress asked if we had gotten the Valentine special with the giant donut.  We had not said we had had dinner in the restaurant, but it was clear she had been briefed about guests from the previous evening.  Teamwork is more than the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing; it is the left hand also caring about what the right hand is doing. 

Great Teamwork is Planned

“Hi, Chip.  I am Kelly, and I serve on Elena’s team.  All your information is on the screen in front of me.  How can I best serve you.”  These magic words began my second dialogue with Dell computer after I purchased a laptop from Elena.  In many ways, I was counting on it being like this.   Elena had planned teamwork from the beginning.  It went like this:  “Chip, I am eager for you to have my direct phone extension.  However, if I happen to be tied up with another customer, you can always count on one of my team members being ready to serve you.  Should you dial in on the number you are using now, all your information will be on the screen just as soon as you start the call.  They will brief me on what they did to serve you.”

We all enjoy personalized treatment by service providers—people who know us.  We even brag about our network.  “Ask for Ted” or “Tell Susan I suggested you…”  Yet, there are many pitfalls to relying on a single service person—they resign, get sick, get transferred and leave us floundering to start over with a new connection.  It is not a necessity it happen this way.  Great customer experiences require great teamwork.  And, it takes together talking about the ultimate goal for the customer and working out the handouts and support.  

Take Care of the Invisible Ones 

I was working with a large hotel chain.  The general manager of one property asked me to join him on his “back of the house” (a.k.a., “heart of the house”) rounds.  When he approached a housekeeper about to empty a trashcan, he excitedly told me (well within her earshot), “I know you have heard of Mr. Clean.  We are so lucky to have Ms. Clean on our team.”  The woman laughed as tears filled her eyes.  His affirmation noticeably moved her.  This was not her boss; this was her boss’s, boss’s boss!  World-class teaming involves taking good care of those in the background.   

Celebrate Teamwork as a Team 

Marriott’s Gold Coin program focused on involving guests in identifying a “front of the house” associate who delivered excellent service, specifically outlining what they did.  But, the program had a unique twist.  A customer was given a gold coin at check-in with instructions to give the coin to anyone who delivered great service.  The gold coin recipient then identified a “back-of-the-house” support associate who helped them deliver great service; both get recognized.  At one Marriott property near Detroit took the program one additional round.  The pair got together to select another person they agreed helped them both deliver exceptional service. Rewarding teamwork nurtures valuable support behavior and collaborative practices.  It helps break down restrictive silos and inter-unit conflict. In the end, the customer benefits from the synergy and collective talents of a team.  

Service is team sport.  Rarely can remarkable service be performed entirely through the efforts of a solo service person.  Rewarding teamwork nurtures valuable support behavior and united practices.  It helps break down restrictive silos and inter-unit conflict.  Great teamwork gives customers trust and confidence.  Never forget that imbedded in the word “trust” is the equally important word “us.”  Look for ways to promote collaboration, not just cooperation, and your customers will want to become loyal members of your team.

To Learn more about Dr. Bell contact [email protected]

Derek Sweeney is the Director of Speaker Ideas at The Sweeney Agency. www.thesweeneyagency.com. For 15 years Derek has been helping clients find the right Speakers for their events. Derek can be reached at 1-866-727-7555 or [email protected]