The Cherry On Top

Who doesn’t like an old-fashioned ice cream sundae? They’re guaranteed to brighten the day of any child and to bring out the child in any adult—especially those, unlike this author, who can eat them without worrying too much about their waistline.

In my opinion, the best ones had scoops of ice cream, chocolate syrup, peanuts, whipped cream, and of course, the cherry on top. While the cherry may not have been the dominant component of the sundae, it might have been the item that was missed the most if it wasn’t included.

Just imagine your disappointment if you were served an ice cream sundae and it didn’t come with the cherry on top. My guess is that you’d ask the server where it was. You might even wonder if the miss was intentional on the part of the person who built the sundae or just a mistake on the part of the person who served it.

Your questions might even go deeper as you wonder if the ice cream shop is trying to save money by leaving off the cherries. Or if one of the employees intentionally removed the cherry and ate it themselves!

Before long you could find yourself checking the contents of the entire sundae to see if anything else is missing. If they’re not including the cherry, then maybe they’re not being as generous with the peanuts, the chocolate, the whipped cream, or the ice cream.

While a simple missing cherry might seem like an insignificant thing at first, it could quickly become a reason not to patronize that ice cream shop in the future. You might pass along your experience to your friends—and maybe even on social media (to people you’ve never actually met). It makes you wonder about the true cost of a missing Maraschino cherry.

Thinking along these lines, what is the cherry on top for your customers? Do your people know what it is? How diligently are you delivering it?

I know a high-level executive whose cherry on top for his customers is to respond to every phone call and every email before he leaves his office on the day they’re received. That’s a pretty high bar! He’s a busy guy who runs a large organization, so responding frequently takes him into the evening hours. When I get one of his responses it lets me know how important I am to him, and it reminds me that I have no excuse for not responding myself in just as timely a manner.

The same principle applies whether you’re a business owner, a manager, or a frontline worker. You should always know what your customer’s cherry on top is and then go to great lengths to deliver it. This includes both internal and external customers. It usually isn’t expensive to deliver, but more often it revolves around communication, anticipating their questions or needs, thoughtfulness, or how you make them feel.

The not-so-humble Maraschino cherry that graces the top of an ice cream sundae is not the most expensive part, but it sure is missed when it’s not there.

The cherry on top that you provide to your customers is rarely the most expensive part of the service, but it’s surely noticed when it’s not there, although we may never know the true cost of leaving it off or the significant value of including it.

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