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Customer Service

Customer Happiness Is the New Customer Service

Two households, both alike in dignity. Oh wait. Wrong story. And though mine doesn’t take place in fair Verona, it is a love story about two brands. STORY 1: WARBY PARKER I recently received a new prescription from my optometrist. As has become the case over the past few years, the impetus of my visit was mostly about getting into a new pair of Warby Parkers I (pardon the pun) had my eye on. Flash forward a couple weeks, my break-in period doesn’t seem to be letting up. Vision feels awry. One eye feels drunk and wonky. Not good. After a recheck, my doctor convinces me I just need to give it more time. A month goes by. I still feel I’m viewing life through a fish bowl. More troubleshooting ensues, ultimately resulting in a kinder, gentler prescription.

Great. Now I have two pairs of adorable glasses with a bad prescription. What’s a girl to do? Email, of course.

After shooting an email to WP to explain the situation, not only do they happily agree to swap out my glasses, they immediately place an order for my replacement pairs and email me a shipping label to return the old ones. All free of charge. Despite the fact that none of this was their fault, WP made my problem their problem – and bent over backwards to make it right.

STORY 2: MAJOR COSMETIC BRAND A few weeks ago I decided to order makeup on Amazon for the first time. (Because Amazon Prime! Why not?) I’ve been using the same brand forever, so I assumed it would be a safe bet. At the last second, I opted to switch to a newer formulation of the product. When it arrived, the smell was wretched. I don’t know if it was a bad batch or intentionally created to smell like a mix of cleaning supplies and rotten carnations, but either way, it was NOT going on my face.  I emailed the brand to share my thoughts. A few days later I received a form letter notifying me that they would be sending me a gift certificate, along with a note that read: “Please do not respond to this email.” Hmm. Okay.


There is a huge difference between customer service and customer happiness. I was equally pleased with the service I received from both companies, but only one left me feeling happy, connected and affectionate toward the brand once the dust settled.

When brands are in the business of customer service, they aim to provide a simple transaction. That is vital and valuable – don’t get me wrong. But when brands go beyond service and give their people permission to make customers happy, they’re investing in building lasting relationships. How would business change if brands stopped calling people “customer service representatives” and started calling them “champions for customer happiness?”


ps: To Alice at Warby Parker – Thank you! You are the hero of my eyeballs.

Remarkable is in the Details

kimpton hotels dogs Last week I hopped a plane with my family and jetted off to northern California to enjoy a little wine, sunshine and together time. Near the end of our trip, we packed up and headed south to San Francisco. During an afternoon stroll I happened to wander into The Argonaut Hotel, which was right around the corner from mine.

Before I continue, let’s establish one thing. It’s fair to say I am a “dog person.” (Note: this is the understatement of the century.) While I don’t typically travel with my own dog, there have been times in my life when it has proven difficult to find a dog friendly hotel.

Immediately upon entering The Argonaut, I stumbled across this little sign welcoming, recognizing and celebrating the weekend’s four-footed guests. The Argonaut welcomes pets 200 pounds and under (yes 200, that’s not a typo), for free. Pets are treated to free perks like pet beds (available in various sizes), food and water bowls, and treats. The hotel even sponsors an annual “Howl’oween” event.

From their website:

Pet Friendly Hotels In San Francisco? The Argonaut Is A Dog’s Best Friend. We admit it, we wear our puppy love on our sleeves. Can you blame us? Who can resist those big brown eyes and wagging tails? So we know how hard it can be to leave your furry sidekick behind. That’s why the Argonaut Hotel has adopted a pet-friendly policy that not only welcomes your pet, but also includes no size restrictions or extra charges.

It would seem I have returned to Greenville to talk about a hotel where I wasn’t even a guest. Why? Because I believe we could all learn a little something from The Argonaut.

The following is a mashup of wise tidbits from Nelson Boswell, Rick Tate, Gary Comer and Walt Disney. Combined, it forms a pretty profound nugget of wisdom…

“Here is a simple but powerful rule: always give people more than what they expect to get. Merely satisfying customers will not be enough to earn their loyalty. Instead, they must experience exceptional service worthy of their repeat business and referral. Understand the factors that drive this customer revolution. Worry about being better; bigger will take care of itself. Think one customer at a time and take care of each one the best way you can. Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”

Know your customer. And know your competition. When the other guys are focused on simply meeting the basic needs of the customer, aim your energies and efforts on giving them that AND more. Find their sweet spot. Whether it comes in the form of a philanthropic perk with purchase, a dose of humor where it’s least expected or a simple welcome sign celebrating the customers you love (and the four-legged creatures they love)–remarkable is in the details.

Are you in the giraffe business? You should be.

giraffe ritz carlton A couple weeks ago, a pack of BOFers had the opportunity to join our courageous clients at Anytime Fitness for their annual conference in Chicago. I could write ten pages of blog post about how inspiring the event was and still barely scratch the surface, so instead I’m going to share an interesting tidbit that stuck with me.

While in Chicago, we had the opportunity to sit in on a session with Alexandra Valentin, Corporate Director of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. During her talk, Alexandra recounted a customer service story that made all 1,400 people in attendance gasp and “aww” in amazement. After doing a little digging around online, I found a video post from the gentleman who received said outstanding service…and wanted to pass it on. If you don’t do anything else today, take a few minutes to watch this video. It will change how you think about customer service and the customer experience.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we don’t just work in the (insert your industry here) business. We are all in the people business. I wonder what would happen if we stopped treating customers like customers and started treated them like friends and family?

Anyone can surprise and delight. I challenge you to find your giraffe and create a remarkable experience for someone this week.

CHIME IN: Have you ever been on the receiving end of surprise and delight?

Be Remarkable.

Don't live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable. | Wendy Wasserstein Last Friday, BOF kindred spirit (and resident massage therapist) Kim Herbert and I decided to venture beyond our usual dinner dives. Truth be told, Kim had a Groupon for a local Brazilian restaurant, so in the name of couponing, off we went.

The restaurant was modest, but it was filled with families and friends gathering to share a meal together. The staff was friendly, and clearly took pride in sharing the culinary traditions of their homeland.

After we had finished the last bites of our meals, the plates were cleared and we entered that strange post-meal phase when you're not quite ready to wind down the conversation, but feel like you're on borrowed time. Typically, it comes to an abrupt halt when the check is dropped on the table. A polite "you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here" moment. You know the one I'm talking about - it comes with a dinner mint as a parting gift.

Except this time the mints didn't come. We continued chatting away. Eventually, the owner's husband came by to say hello, ask about our meal and inform us that they don't bring checks to the table. Why? Because they don't want to rush people out. They want their patrons to feel relaxed, unhurried and able to enjoy the company of their dining companions.

As delicious as my dinner was, the food isn't what I will remember a month or year from now. What I will remember are the ten extra minutes of unhurried time I enjoyed with a friend. What I will remember is generosity of time and spirit, clearing a space for friendship and conversation. After many a hurried experience, it was - in a word - remarkable.

It was an important reminder that being remarkable doesn't always have to cost a lot of money. It doesn't always require case studies and focus groups. Being remarkable doesn't even have to be a big thing. Many times, remarkability is in the little things. And more often than not, finding your remarkable is as simple as putting the focus on people - your staff, your customers, your fans and your friends.

Or as volunteer firefighter Mark Bezos says, when it comes to being remarkable: "Not every day is going to offer us the chance to save somebody's life, but every day offers us an opportunity to affect one." You can check out the rest of his TED talk below...

Learning to Listen

" Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." | Bill Gates

Before I begin this post, let me state one thing for the record: I love Netflix. I love Netflix to the point I no longer see a need for cable. I have watched just about every documentary in their stash. I love that Netflix knows my viewing habits, likes and dislikes. I love that Netflix knows to gently steer me toward my (apparent) interest in independent romantic comedies with a strong female lead. I love Netflix.

Having said that...we’re all going to learn something today, courtesy of Netflix.

A few days ago I settled in for an evening movie, and loaded Netflix to discover a new interface. It was a bit clunky. It scrolled funny. To be frank, it wasn’t great...or good, even. At first I blamed my computer. But after a few minutes of tinkering, I begin to realize...ick. This change was intentional.

Out of sheer curiosity, I headed to the interwebs to see what the masses had to say about this abrupt change to an otherwise much-loved service. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to step into the middle a firestorm - and what I expect will either become a shining example of hearing (and adapting) to input and feedback from  a loyal and loving customer fanbase or a case study that will go down in the hall of fame as a benchmark in customer disservice.

A few comments pulled from the Netflix blog:

“I would have commented on the Netflix blog, but the comment limit appears to have been reached (at 5,000).. I guess I am not the only one having issues. I read a few pages of the comments. The only one that wasn't wholly negative about the change said that they "will eventually get used to it" - not exactly a glowing endorsement.”

“Netflix, you have so many great ideas, and your old interface was amazing. This new layout makes me feel like I am shopping at a discount Netflix superstore.”

“I for one never asked for any update. This is just like another website where you push consumers the direction you want them to go. If Netflix likes the new design and blatantly ignores its customers than I'm going back to cable.”

"Don't you ever consult your users before you do these things? All that coding effort completely wasted. Your inability to think through the impact of design changes and talk to your early adopters before implementing them is stunningly amazing.”

For the purpose of this post, the design of the interface is really of no consequence. Love it. Hate it. Turn up your nose at it. What intrigues me about this situation is the fact that a very vocal group of users have risen up to voice their opinion - and Netflix seems to have no interest in hearing - or talking - to them.

Netflix VP of Corporate Communications, Steve Swasey did, however, have this to say in an interview: “We’ve tested this extensively, we know the vast, vast majority of people like this. It’s new, it’s easier, it’s cleaner.” He also went on to state that they were "absolutely" keeping the new interface. "We made it and tested it and researched it and tried it out and everywhere we tried it, it had a better reception. Otherwise we wouldn’t have made the change.”

“Change can be unsettling for some, but not the vast majority," Swasey said.

Meanwhile, in another corner of the interwebs (the Netflix Official Blog) 5000+ vocal fans and users beg to differ.

The Learning Opportunity

Three things we can learn from Netflix...

1. Your customers and your fans are your brand's greatest asset. Talk to them. They have opinions. They have thoughts. They have things to say and input to share. And it doesn't always take a fancy study or focus group to tap into their minds, needs, wants and thoughts. Most of the time all you have to do is ask. THEN LISTEN.

The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing.
 | John Russell

2. If you ask them, they will tell you. Don't assume you know what they want. Don't tell them what they want. Ask them what you can do for them...then do it.

Don’t try to tell the customer what he wants. If you want to be smart, be smart in the shower. Then get out, go to work and serve the customer! | Gene Buckley, President Sikorsky Aircraft 3. The ostrich approach may work well for birds, but not so much for brands. It’s okay to make mistakes. Nobody expects you to be perfect. But they do expect you to be responsive, communicative and fix things when they go wrong.

Customers don’t expect you to be perfect.
They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. | Donald Porter, VP British Airways