If You Want To Sabotage The Customer Service Experience (CX), Just Ask, ‘But Will It Scale?’

According to comedian Sarah Cooper (you know her from her spot-on political impressions on Twitter), all you have to do to survive a conference call without paying attention, is to ask, “but will it scale?” every few minutes, regardless of the topic under discussion.

Hotel waiter serving drinks by the pool

There’s truth in the joke that Cooper is making: An easy way to shoot down most ideas is to require the purveyor to game its practicality out to infinity.

But when you’re talking about the customer experience, this is also a wrongheaded move. As a customer service consultant and turnaround expert, I’ve long argued that the most magical part of CX doesn’t always scale. And if you give up on providing these magical, powerful, loyalty-building moments, you’ll (ironically) be sabotaging the likelihood that the portion of your growth that’s driven by word of mouth will ever grow to scale itself.

“Does it Scale” Is the Wrong Customer Experience (CX) Question

When Apple spent three hours and fourteen minutes (I timed it) on the phone with me troubleshooting my beloved Mac’s internal search problem (there’s nothing freakier than having your entire life’s work on your hard drive but no idea where), was that scalable? No! But in those three hours and fourteen minutes they reinforced my passion for them as a customer and re-enlisted me as an active ambassador for nearly all things Apple.


When a salesperson at Nordstrom hightailed it over to my house (a nearly two-hour round trip, considering Philly traffic) to replace my shoes after they were ruined in the rain by the delivery company, it blew her entire afternoon. Was that scalable? Hardly, she could hardly afford to be off the sales floor every afternoon. But she felt it was called for at the moment, and it won her a customer for life. (She’s Joanne Hassis, if you’re wondering, at the King of Prussia, PA store.)

When Adam Beer, the incomparable GM of Lido House, an Autograph Collection property in Newport Beach, takes the time to fill a non-drinking guest’s fridge with an assortment of juices and waters (and removes the celebratory booze that would typically greet an arriving guest), is that scalable? I don’t know; there’s a lot of time and atypical process involved. But being known as the local place to recommend in the neighborhood (for example to house relatives who are visiting but you don’t really want to be all that close to) is an enviable market position.

So again, don’t worry too much about all of this apparent unscalability. Because what is truly scalable about extraordinary customer service and an exceptional customer experience is this: Customer loyalty, brand ambassadorship, and word of mouth (or what I like to call “word of thumb”) can grow and grow exponentially in response to truly one-of-a-kind moments of exceptional customer service. And that’s something that both the visionaries and the bean counters at your company should be able to embrace.


Credit where credit’s due: Hat tip to Seth Godin for seeding this discussion when we were interacting on a webinar sponsored by Freshworks.

Customer experience consultant • customer service keynote speaker & webinar host • training • executive content creator and ghostwriter • influencer • company culture •