Word of mouth builds the business: staffing your store to spread the word

This is a guest post from Jeanne Bliss — customer experience expert and author of “I Love You More Than My Dog.” See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on her blog.

Amy’s Ice Creams in Austin, Texas, is beloved for two things: the ice cream and the floor show. They are the ice cream equivalent of Seattle’s “flying fish.” Ice cream scoops are thrown from one worker to another and caught in cups balanced on their chins . . . while standing on one foot . . . hopping. You’ll see ice cream slingers sliding across the counters on their knees and bellies. It’s a carnival ride in there.

Finding people who are fearless and creative enough to come up with stunts like flinging ice cream balls across a room just can’t happen in the normal interview process. How exactly do you ask, “Are you a little bit nuts?” You can’t. So, at Amy’s applicants receive a white paper bag. It must be brought back within a week turned into a creation that tells Amy’s about who they are. From this white paper bag, Amy’s finds the personalities to fill their shops.

Without the right people, this is just great ice cream

By using a plain white paper bag as its job application, Amy’s gets to know the creative soul lurking within the teenaged candidate standing before them. This idea began with an applicant who was given the bag instead of the boilerplate job application because Amy’s had run out of the forms. The applicant floated the bag back into the store with helium balloons; inside the bag were items about her life. She got the job. Now for all applicants, this is how Amy’s fills their shops with people who make getting an ice cream like going to the circus.

Revel in “being real”

Amy’s exceeds $5 million in gross annual sales and 1 million ice cream servings. The Amy’s Ice Creams website says, “Amy’s looks at ‘going out for ice cream’ as a total sensory experience that can revitalize a less-than stellar day.” Part of the joy of going to their ice cream shops is wondering what kind of floor show you’ll be greeted with.

Getting the right people to work at Amy’s has spurred their growth from a single location in 1984 to over 14 stores today.

Like many of the beloved companies, Amy’s Ice Creams doesn’t advertise. Word of mouth builds the business, and they redirect marketing money to community development, which fuels more word of mouth. Amy’s represents the power of the small business owner and how service and exceptional experiences can build their business.

Amy’s Ice Creams prospers because it revels in being real. In being their kooky, nutty selves. That people love. This translates even to the Amy’s website, where the front page welcomes you with, “Life is uncertain, eat dessert first!” Sound advice.

Go try this

Get “REAL” in how you hire and bring people into your company

– First, define the core values of people you want to fill your company.

– Next, determine the personality of your company. Are you serious and deliberate? Are you whimsical? Have you thought about it?

Next, EXAMINE your current hiring process:

– Are you deliberate about selecting people who will deliver your dis­tinct personality to customers?

– How would our customers say you are doing?

– Do customers rave about how unique you are today?

– Do your decisions for selecting people earn you “be­loved” status today?

– Are you selecting “memory makers” or filling slots?


– What’s YOUR version of a white paper bag to select people who will become your company to your customers?



About Jeanne Bliss

As “Chief Customer Officer” for Lands’ End, Mazda, Coldwell Banker, Allstate, and Microsoft, Jeanne got “customer” on the strategic agenda, earned 98% loyalty rates, and changed experiences across 50,000-person operations. Jeanne now runs CustomerBliss to create an actionable path for profitability and business growth -- through earning customer and employee raves. Her best-selling books are Chief Customer Officer and I Love You More than My Dog: Five Decisions that Drive

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  1. Michelle Vandepas

    Love love love this

  2. jeanne bliss

    So glad this story struck a chord! Amazing how a simple thing can make such a huge difference, isn’t it?

  3. Elaine Fogel

    As always, Jeanne, brilliant! 🙂

  4. jeanne bliss

    Thanks you fellow zealots! We need to stick together and spread the word!!!

    Hope everyone’s doing great out there!


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