The “diva is in the detail” –  secrets of customer service

Written by Jon Tolley
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Originally published
March 1 2017,
July 3 2020

You no doubt heard about Mariah Carey’s New Year’s Eve epic fail? Likewise Madonna’s fall at the Brits when her dancers tried to drag off her cape while she was still attached to it? Incidents like these are all the more surprising when such global megastars are renowned for leaving little or nothing to chance. Known in the trade as “tour riders”, some of the outrageous demands they make are the stuff of legends. The bigger the star, the more detailed and demanding the contract, it seems.

The most controversial and well-documented is probably that of Van Halen, the Californian rock band of “Jump” fame. Known for their rock and roll lifestyle and excesses, a demand for M&M's though with an "absolutely no brown ones” stipulation seemed over-the-top even for them.

But David Lee Roth, the band’s wild frontman, explained that his band added this “candy clause” as a test. It was buried in to their contract at random because, chances were, if this was missed, some of the more important, show-critical or safety obligations would have been missed too. A smart move initially perceived as just a bunch of pampered stars making life difficult for the venue and production teams.

In the world of business, detailed contracts and SLAs are one way of policing a supplier. The smart money though is on those organisations who deliver above and beyond what their customers expect or specify and are capable of pre-empting issues in the first place. 

So, for example, if you're trying to launch a new personalised project, it's important to work with a company that can prevent those issues that can cause diva strops from your valuable customers. These can be small things like adjusting sizes not just for accessing preferential postal rates and discounts or savings but to ensure the item can actually be posted through a letterbox, preventing an unnecessary trip to the post office. Or replacing a standard substrate with a textured and so more engaging example. How about, delighting a consumer with faster than anticipated turnaround that makes them more likely to re-order from the brand again? Or, re-engineering product packaging to maximise its protection and so slash returns and complaints?

Seeing and seizing these sometimes small, and sometimes much bigger, wins and opportunities comes with experience. Eliminating brown M&Ms from a hospitality bowl is a less-skilled (and ultimately more calorific) task!

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