Dinner on the Ground

“Dinner on the ground” was code for participation in small towns in the South when we were growing up.  While this experience went with all family reunions, its most special form of community occurred after certain church services.  “Dinner on the ground” was a super opportunity for little boys to run, holler and pull ponytails pretty much unsupervised since their caretakers were occupied with set-up and clean-up.  For the women, it was a time to show off a new recipe; men told tales over sweet iced tea of the one that got away.  Everyone went home stuffed and happy after eating way too much fried chicken and peach pie.

This “everyone brings something” event brought people closer and enabled them to feel their interdependence.  It was community in its purest form.  The covenant was egalitarian.  And, it was surely a sad day when someone got the bright idea of “just calling Big Al and having him bring barbecue with all the trimmings.”  The “expert” cook made it all much easier.  It also completely removed the recipients from getting to “vote” on how it all would unfold.

Customers’ feelings about a service provider soar when they get a chance to put “skin in the game.”  Inclusion not only captures the creativity and competence of customers as they serve with you, it elevates their commitment and allegiance.  People care when they share.  Wise service providers attract customer loyalty by making the “dinner on the ground” side of service as fun, memorable and wholesome as a church picnic.  But, when “bringing a lemon icebox pie” is taken from the Susie’s and Steve’s and given to the Big Al’s, something “breaks” in the customer’s notion of the real meaning of service.

What are new ways to help your customers put more “skin in the game?”  How can you involve customers in a fashion that helps them feel valued?


About Chip&John

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is "Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do About it."
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