Fly-Fishing for Customers

Very big disclaimer!  There are parts of a fishing metaphor that do not work when it comes to great customer service—like bait, hook, catch, or reeling in.  But, regular fishing is to fly-fishing what whittling might be to scrimshaw; or grilling might be to gourmet confectionary baking!

Successful fly-fishing starts with a deep understanding of the fish.  Regular fish might be attracted to any old slimly worm on a hook, but a rainbow trout is very particular.  Buying or crafting a tiny lure that looks exactly like the insect the trout enjoys is an art in itself.  It means gathering up-to-date intelligence on the trout’s preferences and requirements.

Then, there is presentation.  In fly-fishing, you don’t just throw a line in the water and wait for the cork to go under.  You present the lure to the trout in a fashion that is appealing and animated.  Are you starting to see how this fits customer service?  Fly-fishing takes enormous respect for the trout and special patience to get what is offered to precisely fit a trout’s interests.

But, the key difference between regular fishing and fly-fishing is what happens after the trout accepts your offering.  Regular fishing requires you set the hook and reel in the fish.  If you did that with a fly line as thin as a thread, the weight of the fish alone would snap it allowing the trout to escape.  Just like customers, you land a trout, you don’t catch one.  The fish remains in the water until it can be gently led into a dip net.  And, then the most important part--the experience of the trout after it has been landed.  Granted, some end up in the frying pan (that part should never fit customers!)  Fly-fishing typically involves the use of a tiny barbless hook aimed at causing zero harm to the fish as it is released with minimal physical contact.  Give a rainbow trout a great experience and it will taste your lure on a future fishing trip.

Customers are particular about your offering and require a tailored offering and appealing presentation uniquely suited to their interests.  It means going to school on customers just like anglers carefully study fish.  Once a customer has accepted your offering, provide an experience that remains customer-centric from start to finish.  But, gaining a customer is only the beginning.  The goal is to get customers to return and bring their funds and friends.  How are you preparing to provide a service offering and experience that ensures your customers will want to continue to “taste your lure?”  Let’s go fishing!

© Chip Bell Group, 2023.  Courtesy of John R. Patterson (  Permission is given to download and distribute this article as long as it contains this copyright notice.