What does “The Yarn Bomber” have to do with your Google/Yelp Review scores?

Did this get your attention? Good. That is what art does. It creates a connection with your visually and emotionally. That same connection is needed every day and every moment in your customer interaction process. Great Google and Yelp scores can be manufactured with marketing programs but the real feedback from all customers will still be there and it should always be positive. Creating great service is really an art, not a given.  Let’s talk through how the “yarn bomber” artist, Stephen Dunier’s, strategy of breaking goals into small improved steps changed his life. Then, let’s see how that can also work to not only improve your Google/Yelp scores from the bottom up but to make sure all customers have a wonderful customer journey with your organization. It’s all about the small things in art and in service!

The Yarn Bomber’s Journey

In Dunier’s TED talk, “How To Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals”, his message was clear and simple. He says,  “What stands between us and achieving even our most ambitious dreams has far less to do with possessing some magical skill or talent and far more to do with how we approach problems and make decisions to solve them.” He goes on to say goals broken down into small improvements can result in large results. As a C- student at school, he struggled to stay focused for more than 5 to 10 minutes at a time. He realized, that to achieve his goals, he had to break down whatever was in front of him into small steps and try to make even the slightest improvement. And, it has worked for him ever since. By using this “small steps and improvements” method, he took all his lofty dreams and executed them. He finished school, has been successful at business, has learned another language, how to fly, how to run marathons and even how to create interesting art starting with just a small suggestion from his wife that he learn to knit. After finding knitting one stitch at a time somewhat boring, he discovered yarn bombing, and all of the sudden, it became super interesting. Over time, by executing his yarn bomb projects, he has created a connection with his followers just as you hope to connect with your customers and improve your scores.

Google/Yelp scores

Google and Yelp feedback is sometimes bolstered higher by clever marketing programs. But, the negative reviews cannot be avoided without a laser focus on consistency and isolating the small ways to improve the customer engagement process.  Isn’t the purpose of the feedback and customer insight management to make the changes needed to provide great customer service anyway?

How the yarn bomber’s strategy can help your business

Let’s take a look at Dunier’s strategy and see how it might help your customer centric plans.  The steps include the following:

  • Communicate that lofty service goal mentioned in your mission and goal statements
  • Break the customer journey down into tiny pieces and provide base suggestions
  • Then, let your team free form execute details creatively with each customer all the time.

 Small changes, big impacts!

Providing a great customer experience

The same method applies to service. Think of all the small things you can do for customers and make them just a little better.  Commit to creating a great customer engagement. Break it down into the small steps and improve them just slightly.

Reading a book

 Durrier suggests that if you want to start reading books, decide on that change, and start by simply reading one word, then one sentence, then one page.  With that as a start, soon you will be reading regularly.

Taking a walk

If you want to go for a walk, Durrier suggests, put down your cell phone, stand up, grab a jacket, get your keys, walk to the door etc.. By starting with a goal, breaking it into small pieces that are some improvement over what you do now, you create momentum and commitment. Before you know it, you’re walking every day.

  • Look up and smile and stay looking up until they are ready for you.
  • If it fits in easily, start a quick general conversation.
  • If the customer had a long wait time, include a simply apology.
  • Stay focused only on them. Don’t fiddle doing other things.

Just the simple act of staying focused on that customer, will make that interaction a better experience.  If you are busy doing something else, and a customer is nearby, offer to help or point something out that might interest them. Be spontaneous, but not phony. Say something nice about their choices and taste.

At your business, take Dunier’s strategy to achieving ambitious goals and have each team member implement it. Then and only then, will you see high scores and less low scores. What really matters in creating great customer service is not the lofty goal found in a mission or value statement but the tiny changes and decisions employees make every day.

Here are a few additional thoughts:

Don’t stop at just creating the lofty statements

Corporate level service statements are a long way away from the boots on the ground interaction and the resulting Google and Yelp scores. But the yarn bomber does suggest that you start with a goal. Service companies devote a lot of time to setting up a great mission, value and general corporate statements. They have meetings upon meetings to formulate these beliefs and then often have a company-wide meeting to roll them out.

Here are a few examples of these statements:

Marriot value statement says “Take care of your employees, and they’ll take good care of your customers. It’s about quiet luxury, intuitive service, crafted experience.”

American Express says, “We’re a global services company that provides customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success.”

Nordstrom states “We’ve been committed to providing our customers with the best possible service—and to improving it every day.”

This is all good at a high level. Don’t just leave your value or mission statement posted somewhere. Let your employees know what it means each and every day. Let them know why it is important. Make that value statement meaningful and fully explained. Just like the yarn bomber, start with that big lofty goal first. Better review scores always start by clear, well communicated goals from the top.

Next, get some yarn – suggest 5 or 6 concrete actions

When the yarn bomber wanted to create some art, he started with some yarn and one stitch. To infuse your team’s integration of great service in everything they do, let them know your vision of “the basics”. At Walgreens everywhere, they say “Welcome to Walgreens”. That’s ok. They are right at the front of the store. A nice hello is fine. At times, it sounds robotic but it does give them a chance to maybe connections and it might lead to someone asking a quick question. You can tell that employees have been asked to say it, but it is a start.

At Chic-fil-a, team members always say “It’s my pleasure”. That’s ok too. It’s one of the basics and employees really sound sincere when they say it.

So, yes. Have 5 or 6 key service details in mind that you want your customer to experience each and every time. Just like artwork, start to create that great experience. Set up the concepts so that they happen most of the time. Creating great service takes time and effort and is the only way to have truly better Google and Yelp scores.

Let lose! Turn your yarn into the art of great service!

Don’t’ settle on the just the basics. Let your team members free form. Let them think up their own ideas on how to break up the customer experience into small chunks and improve it! Each customer and interaction is different. I was at Kroger just yesterday and heading to the grapes. The employee was restocking them and said “Would you like to pick out one out right out of the box? They’re really fresh!” And he stepped out of the way so I could see for myself. He didn’t need to say it and he didn’t need to step out of the way but it was a so nice. That one offer completely changed the tone of that Kroger visit. He was free forming!

Examples of service changes

For Marriott, it means each employee making that extra effort to make eye contact and simply say hello. If they see on the customer’s face that they might need something, just asking is a start. Don’t leave it just at that. Go ahead and help them with the small things. Hold the front door open for them. Pick up something if it drops. Say a quick hello. Ask if they had a nice trip.

For American Express, when a customer is planning a vacation it might be as simple as offering interesting suggestions or tell them about what others found interesting and fun on that trip.

American Express…

In the article “American Express’s Customer Service Approach: What Customers Care About Today

 from Forbes Magazine on December 17, 2017, the Raymond Joabar, EVP, Global Servicing Network, American Express Company, discusses examples of small important ways to service customers. The article recapped the following experience, “One time, a hotel café manager [an Amex merchant] alerted my team that he had accidentally sold a display cake with harmful chemicals and needed to find the customers before they ate it.  Obviously, there’s no procedure for that, but our team took ownership of the problem. They gathered all the information they could from the record of charge, identified 21 Card Members who used their cards at the café during that timeframe, reviewed the accounts to find the right match, and then called the Card Member in time before they served the cake at an anniversary party.” The employees took what might have been general guidelines and made small changes. By doing so, the team member completely satisfied not only the merchant but the end customer as well.


And finally, for Nordstrom, the small step might be a simple hello and can I help you find something and possibly walking with them to that area. See if they want you to pick some things out. Don’t give up. Watch what is catching their eye. Don’t be pushy but see if they want some suggestions or to find a new size. Keep researching, talking and thinking about how you can find that perfect item for them. In an article from Fortune, “Nordstrom Is the First Retailer That Actually Understands What We Want” By Thomaï Serdari, September 15, 2017.  He writes “With its mission and now its new concept store, Nordstrom is asking us this: “Who wants to feel fabulous?” Traditional retailing has been based on simpler questions. The following questions are good examples of older types of retailing.” He follows up by saying “Retailers chasing the next technological platform or alternate retail format need to be reminded that the shift on how value creation is delivered is real and deeply rooted in human emotions.” Nordstrom wants to make small changes that create the emotion of “fabulous”. To accomplish this goal, it will take not only that goal but each employee making small improved changes.

Here is another example of how Nordstrom makes service happen. In the Forbes article “Three Wow Customer Service Stories From Zappos, Southwest Airlines And Nordstrom” by Micah Solomon August 1, 2017, Mr. Solomon wrote “Nordstrom Salvages My Wet-Shoe Situation. Do you know who’s legally responsible if a common carrier (UPS, FedEx, et. al.) leaves your Nordstrom delivery in the rain and your $200 shoes are ruined? Well, the responsible party might be you or it might be the trucking company, but it’s absolutely not Nordstrom.  Yet, when this happened to me, not for an instant did my salesperson (Joanne Hassis at the King of Prussia, PA Nordstrom, by the way) consider saying “You need to file a claim with the trucking company.”  She instead told me, without hesitation, the following: I’m so incredibly sorry that happened, and I’m bringing over a brand new pair of shoes–will you be home in forty-five minutes?

It was easy for the rep to take a company goal and wrap it into things she can say and do for the customer. How important was the verbal apology? I would argue it is what differentiated this experience. It made it a sincere experience, not just a requirement.

Leave Space for the art of service with new technology

Make no mistake, enhancing service through technology is essential. We really need to keep testing with new service delivery solutions. But, with each of these changes, take a minute with your team and “restart” what service means. Maybe short term you are explaining the change to customers until they get used to it. Maybe it frees staff up to be laser focused on customers while technology automated the easy stuff. In any case, continue to apply the yarn bomber’s steps as part of your implementation.

Over time, it will become easy

When the Ted Talk author, Stephen Dunier, wanted to learn to speak German, he knew he had 45 minutes each day commuting that he usually spent listening to music. So, he bought a program and loaded it on to his device. But, knowing that he might revert back to his music, he deleted the music off his phone. That one small change made all the difference. Over time, he listened to all the tapes during his commute and when he visited Germany he was able to converse.

To summarize, take some advice from The Ted Talk author, Stephen Dunier “How To Achieve Your Most Ambitious Goals” and apply it to providing a better customer experience. He gives examples from his own life and others on how to reach a goal by simply breaking it down into small pieces and just slightly improving the process and, before you know it, your goal will be met.

For service, always begin by having that lofty, corporate-wide service statement and communicate it well. Then, let your team members know of some 5 or 6 key customer interaction recommendations that will best exemplify that service objective. Let them practice with that as a start. These recommendations will give them the right concepts to use a base. It will set the tone for a focus on the customer.


And finally, let your team members free form. There has to be an emotional connection and this is where it has to start. Just like the yarn bomb and how art connects with you, create your own art of service. Let them find small ways to make the experience better for the customer. These should be authentic and from the heart, not forced or rehearsed. At the end of the day, it really is up to them to make that vision happen. Encourage them to find small ways every day to enhance customer service.

Mary Furrie, CEO, Quality Assessments Mystery Shoppers, “Great service is an art, not a given”, www.qams.com

Experience the art of great customer service.

SCAM ALERT: We are not involved in any shopper business that requires you to send money anywhere.