There are many ways musicians perform their work. Two of the most popular are “with sheet music” and “by ear.” The “with sheet music” is the method you might witness most church choir accompanists using…playing the notes just as the composer or arranger intended. Concert performers learn to perform the score so well they can accurately perform it on stage from memory.
Playing by ear is performance drawn purely from the skill and talent of the musician. When people gather around a piano at a party or a bar for a sing-a-long, it is generally accompanied by a pianist playing from his or her knowledge of music, not their memory of the sheet music.
There are times customers want service providers to use “sheet music”—or their memory of the score. Who wants a brain surgeon to use a lot of inventive improvisation–or a nuclear power plant operator or commercial airline pilot? But, most of the time customers prefer service performed by “ear” so to speak—a tailor-made response to a unique request performed from the heart. A lock-step, rote performance done exactly as the service designer dictated can feel robotic, mechanical and cold. What kind of service performance do your customers prefer, and when? And, when circumstances warrant, can you switch from improv to prescription without missing a note?