As a person who has traveled all over the world and grown up in the hospitality industry, I know brilliant customer service when I feel it in my bones. Well, that’s what I experienced in Key West, Florida, with my bride. Everyone went out of their way to make sure we enjoyed our visit, and it didn’t take the jaws of life to pry open our wallets to spend money. They Sparked Customer Love. 

After witnessing a splendid sunset wedding on the Hyatt Centric’s seaside dock and a fun reception on the Marquesa Veranda, we started making plans for the next day’s adventures. 

We had seen the nicely maintained Old Town Trolley Tour buses rolling through America’s Paradise at the southernmost point of the U.S. and a stone’s throw away from Cuba, just 90 miles south.  

Nevertheless, the next day we purchased two tickets for a total $105.74. We were picked up at Trolley Stop #2 and then headed to the Historic Waterfront, Cuban Coffee Queen, Half Shell Raw Bar, and a host of shops. In fact, we purchased our tickets in Mac’s Sea Garden gift shop (208 Margaret St.). The owner was friendly and said, “Welcome to Key West!”  

Within five minutes of purchasing our tickets, we were picked up by Old Town Trolley Tours ( with a driver named Karl.

Here’s what he did to Spark Customer Love:  

  1. He greeted us with a smile and welcomed us with, “I am so glad that you are here.” I showed him our receipt as proof of purchase. He took it and folded it in half. He said we wouldn’t need it for the rest of the day, since our peel-off adhesive decal was proof enough. However, if we lost it, then just show our ticket. 

Key lesson: Take the time to care and give us the details.  

  1. He then waited for us to be seated, along with an estimated 16 other passengers, then gave a cheerful safety briefing with a smile. How often do you hear a safety message that is boring and dry as toast? Despite having probably said it for the tenth time that day, when Karl said it, there was humor and care. 

Key lesson: Speak from the heart instead of your head. If it doesn’t move you, then it won’t move your listeners.  

  1. As we he preceded with our tour, he highlighted all of the interesting sights: Key West Lighthouse, Harry S. Truman’s Little White House, Bahama Village Market, The Hemingway Home and Museum and, of course who could forget, Sloppy Joe’s. Karl provided the backstory for each of the sights with inside information that clearly said he studied beyond the script. He was passionate about his job and all things Key West. It was easy to discern that this wasn’t just a job for him, he loved his work as he safely navigated the trolley bus. I think what we appreciated the most was when he went off script by sharing that he was a combat medic specialist. This important detail shed light as to why he thoroughly showcased Key West.  

In fact, there was a guest on the trolley tour who wanted to see the Southernmost Point. When we arrived at the next Trolley Stop, Karl suggested to the guest that he disembark and walk five blocks straight ahead. This would save the passenger time, instead of going all the way around on the island tour. The guest thanked him and decided to take his advice. 

Key Lesson: Principle #3 of Be the Spark – Five Platinum Rules for Creating Customers for Life® states to anticipate the needs of customers through listening and observing. That’s exactly what Karl did.     

  1. The beauty and benefit of the Old Town Trolley Tour is that you can hop on and off throughout the day. This saves time and money instead of waiting around to be picked up by a rideshare service. We did this five times in a six-hour tourist experience. My wife wanted to try the lobster rolls at DJ’s Clam Shack, which had been featured by Guy Fieri on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. It was totally worth it. However, I digress. When we boarded at Trolley Stop #13 (Upper Duval Street shopping), the driver was bland. He didn’t have that Karl spark. It was just a job.  

Key Lesson: One of the principles that we teach in Be the Spark – Five Platinum Service Principles for Creating Customers for Life® is to See them as Guests and Commit to Connect. You only have three to seven seconds to make a first impression. That’s how quickly it takes for you to know if you know, like, and trust the brand that is serving you. We don’t even remember the driver’s name. That’s how emotionless he was. Get on the bus. Have a seat.  

  1. We were scheduled to experience a Sunset Island Adventure Eco Tour by Fury Water Adventures, but it was canceled due to the weather. We decided that we would hop on the Old Town Trolley Tour #3, crossing our fingers that we would see Karl one last time. As fate would have it, he was our driver. As he drove us for four more stops, we could still hear the joy in his voice as he drove in the rain. At one point, he said thank you to all of the passengers for buying tickets. He made a point to share that 80% of the economy in Key West is generated by tourism dollars, and that was his way of saying, “Thank you.” How powerful is that, my friend? I don’t know if that was in his script or not, but my wife nudged me to give a generous tip when we disembarked.  


We didn’t want to say goodbye, but we had to. I said to Karl, “Let’s take a quick selfie.” He obliged. Karl Sparked Customer Love, and we will never forget him. He is the edge for this destination that has over one million visitors a year. Key Lesson: If the service you give customers is unforgettable, then it’s memorable; and if it’s memorable, then it’s repeatable. Customers will Yelp about your brand without anyone asking. You brand the moment in every interaction.  

Sparking Customer Love is more than doing the job you were hired to do. It’s finding a way to go the extra inch and to think about how you serve customers instead of being mechanical and rote.  

Sparking Customer Love is memorable. It’s the emotional tattoo that is left on customers’ heads, hearts, and hands after experiencing someone who cares.  

Sparking Customer Love is being the living, breathing embodiment of your company brand without someone from the mother ship (aka Corporate Office) hovering around you.  

Sparking Customer Love is the new rallying cry for brands that are shaking off pandemic fatigue and winning customers by reinvigorating employees through loving, caring, and serving.  

If you’re wondering whether I satisfied my sweet tooth in Key West, the answer is yes.  

Be the Spark: Five Platinum Service Principles for Creating Customers for Life

Customer service is a department. Platinum service is a mindset, and it starts with love. In an age of social engagement and diminishing attention spans, excellent service is no longer a luxury, but an expectation. How do you exceed expectations and create customers for life? This book will teach you how. Order here.