Beware Reasonableness

reasonablessness

Here is a customer experience story for you. Today, I had given my car for servicing at my regular service station. As usual, there was a delay when I went to pick it up at the scheduled time. The car was still being washed. Post the wait & settling the bill, I finally got the car. I was keen to get home & avoid the evening traffic snarls. To my surprise though, I saw that the car was still dirty at many places.

On further inspection, I discovered it had not been washed at all. Not only was I charged for it, but I was also made to wait long for the wash. Obviously, I was furious and frustrated. I made a complaint to the managers. And I was on my way out after agreeing for a wash the next time there.

That’s it? Nothing more? Why didn’t I make a bigger issue of it? Why settle so quickly?

Beware the soul sucking force of reasonableness.
– Chip & Dan Heath

Inspite of the service station being clearly at fault, the reason I did not make a mountain of the issue was probably what had happened at the service station earlier in the day. Several acts that defied business reasonableness.

  • Early in the morning when I was dropping the car off, I had met the service manager. He wished me as soon as he saw me & ensured someone was attending to me at the earliest.
  • During both my visits on this occasion, I was offered drinking water (such a relief in Indian summers) & hot beverages.
  • Even more important, the person serving the water & beverages was genuinely smiling at customers. He seemed keen to serve & not just going through the motions.
  • And there was more than one person smiling at visiting customers, trying to make them feel comfortable & ensuring they were attended to quickly.
  • Even when the issue was discovered, there was no attempt to avoid the issue or blaming on lame excuses. All three levels of managers (service advisor, service team manager & the service station in-charge) –  acknowledged the issue, took responsibility for the same and apologised.

Decisions to the do the above acts could’ve all faced the challenge of corporate reasonableness. It is reasonable to save money by not giving free packaged water or beverages? Smiling, making customer feel comfortable & well attended to – this is a car service station, not a hotel for god’s sake!

The reasonableness defying acts were them building up their equity by take the initiative to give, give & give (the job jab jab in Gary Vaynerchuck’s terms). They cashed in their equity (the right hook) when they asked me to excuse them for their obvious mistake.

Highlights of Jeff Bezos buying The Washington Post

JeffBezos-WashingtonPost
(Photo courtesy CNNMoney)

The news world is abuzz with news & conversations about the Jeff Bezos buying The Washington Post. Here are a few points in the announcements that caught my attention:

  • Bezos’ first communication to The Post’’s employees elaborated clearly where the priority lies – the customer.
    • The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners.
    • We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about – government, local leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, businesses, charities, governors, sports – and working backwards from there.
  • How often do we get to hear about an individual’s decency as a deciding factor in world of mergers & acquisitions? In the case of Jeff Bezos, it seems quite often.
    • From Donald Graham’s statement: “Jeff Bezos’ proven technology and business genius, his long-term approach and his personal decency make him a uniquely good new owner for The Post.
  • As seen in earlier cases earlier (like when Zappos was acquired by Amazon), values finds multiple mentions in Bezos’ communication.
    • When a single family owns a company for many decades, and when that family acts for all those decades in good faith, in a principled manner, in good times and in rough times, as stewards of important values – when that family has done such a good job – it is only natural to worry about change.
    • The values of The Post do not need changing.

It will indeed be interesting to see how Bezos will try & innovate The Post out of its financial misery. What kind of innovations will we get to see in the world of news publishing? After the medium, is it now the turn of the content to play a role in Bezos’ & Amazon’s vision?

Suddenlink | Customer Experience Lessons

CableGuy
(Photo courtesy flickr | Dex Encarta)

In his post FastCompany | 7 Timeless Ways To Improve Customer Satisfaction, author Drew Neisser filters out the following success factors for customer (satisfaction or experience – call it what you may) initiatives based on Suddenlink’s success. In a struggling economy & in an industry with a questionable reputation for bad customer experiences, Suddenlink has shown improvements in multiple industry measures – $ terms & otherwise. 

  1. Put someone in charge – having someone responsible for customer interest makes customer initiatives more focused
  2. Measure. Measure. Measure. – rely on multiple measures of how your business has performed in the customer’s perspective
  3. Fix the real issues – measuring is a starting point; addressing issues that are identified as part of the measurement is the REAL deal
  4. Link metrics to evaluation – to make customers a priority, link metrics to performance evaluation & even compensation
  5. Detractors are an opportunity – unhappy customers or detractors should be viewed as an opportunity for positive conversion
  6. Use social media to understand & serve customers (not sell more) – social media is a great listening tool to understand needs & respond to issues
  7. Continuous improvement – customer initiatives should never have an end, they are always work in progress to achieve even better customer outcomes

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Related Posts:
~ Amazon – World’s Most Customer Centric Company
~ Tony Hsieh – Delivering Happiness
~
Volvo’s Quest For Customer Centricity
~ Customer Service Champs 2010

Tony Hsieh – Delivering Happiness

With Tony Hsieh’s new book Delivering Happiness hitting the stores today, there is a buzz around about Zappos, Tony & his book. One of the first write-ups I have read about the book is a Fast Company blog post.

The Happiness Culture: Zappos Isn’t a Company — It’s a Mission

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Some quotes I like from the write-up are as follows:

But today Zappos has an employee culture that seems very much of one mind, focused on customer service and not in some sort of cookie-cutter corporate way. Zappos really cares that you’re happy, and it’s baked into their beliefs, their customer interaction, and even the way they hire.

“It’s not me saying to our employees, this is where our culture is. It’s more about giving employees permission and encouraging them to just be themselves.”

As you read Delivering Happiness, it’s clear that Hsieh is talking about customer happiness, but also employee happiness, and even his happiness. He says the goals of Happiness aren’t mutually exclusive.


“There’s three types of happiness and really happiness is about being able to combine pleasure, passion, and purpose in one’s personal life. I think it’s helpful and useful to actually think about all three in terms of how you can make customers happier, employees happier, and ultimately, investors happier.”