Zappos Service is for Zappos, not You


We’ve all heard the stories of famously customer focused organisations where staff have gone wildly above and beyond customer expectations to create raving fans.

At Zappos, one famous (albeit perhaps apocryphal) tale is the story of a customer service person having pizza delivered to customers who were sitting online talking to their contact center.

Another is the Nordstrom’s employee, who provided a refund for a set of car snow chains when the company didn’t even sell snow chains.

Immortalised in books and customer service meetings these stories are legendary but should you be trying for this level of service?

Probably not.

Customers don’t really want it

If you’re looking at it in customer satisfaction (or Net Promoter) terms, it doesn’t really pay off.

It’s not the level of service that is important in a business but the level of service relative to expectations.

This is the reason why a McDonalds franchise and a top flight restaurant can both score 10s in their customer surveys; completely different experience, completely different expectations, same high score.

Customers want you to deliver exactly what you say you’ll deliver and maybe just a little bit better. Typically, there’s no expectation that you will substantially over deliver on what you’ve promised.

We see this time and time again in our analysis of customer feedback. Almost without fail, when we analyse what drives customer loyalty, “do what you say you will do” ranks in the top three.

Notice it is not “do more than you say you will do.”

Besides, just deliver what you promise and you’ll already be ahead of many of your competitors.

You Inflate Customer Expectations.

Speaking of expectations, remember, all that over-delivery drives them up.

If you massively over deliver to a customer this time, then it will lift expectations next time, for a never ending spiral of costs.

I’m sure you have bought that special someone an extravagant gift and know how “over delivery” this time sets you up for next time. The next gift giving occasion is so much harder, on both sides.

It’s Impossible to do Consistently

Perhaps the most problematic element of stellar over delivery is consistency. In practice, it is impossible to put this type of customer service into any kind of process or training.

You just can’t write, coach or teach any consistent structures or design approval limits that will have a front line person consistently delivering pizza to customers while on hold.

Actually, I think it’s quite selfish for superiors and managers to exhort their staff to provide unspecified WOW customer service.

It’s easy for managers to flash up a PowerPoint slide at the annual planning meeting or in the new employee induction session. But it has no real definition and no way for an employee to reliably deliver.

If you can’t reliably deliver a service attribute, across all employees, it’s not particularly useful.

Finally, Those Stories Aren’t Even Directed At You!

But here is the real reason that Zappos service is not for you: you’re not the audience for those out of the park service stories and neither is your company.

The audience is not even Zappos or Nordstrom’s customers.

The actual audience for these tales of customer service daring do are the staff of Zappos and Nordstrom.

These companies have explicitly chosen to compete on exceptional customer service. Having made such a decision they need a way to drive that culture deep into their business.

One of the ways they do that is by telling stories; tales of magnificent customer service with customer facing staff as the heroes.

Management encourage these stories and employees understand that great feats of customer service are highly valued by the organisation. They become the role models to which everyone aspires.

These stories are very important for employees, but only Zappos employees not yours.

Here’s The Service You Should Deliver

Unless your organisation has decided to compete on outstanding customer service, Zappos like customer service is not for you.

It is unlikely to be supported by senior management. They will try to write rule books on what is and is not acceptable, which, of course, totally defeats the idea.

My suggestion, and the way organisations like Amazon deliver, is to deliver just a little bit better than what you said you’d deliver for the customer.

I know when I go online to Amazon and purchase something, I’ll get exactly what I asked for.

I’ll probably get it a day or two before they say they’re going to deliver it, my deliveries are to Australia so overnight is not an option. But I’m essentially getting exactly what I want, when I asked for it, and how I’ve had my expectations set.

If you’re looking to deliver good service, that’s a great start: do what you say you will do.

It will put you ahead of many organisations and you don’t even have to buy pizza for everyone.

Image credit: Flikr



[Guest Post] Employee NPS: An Early Warning System for Managers


employee-net-promoter-scoreI’ve talked before about Employee NPS (eNPS) as a great way to collect feedback on how your staff feel about the organisation.

However, as I’m not an expert in organisation design it’s been difficult for me to muster the arguments for replacing or even augmenting the existing very long annual employee engagement surveys so often used by organisations.

But recently I was chatting to Beatrice Hofmeyr, who is an expert in organisation design, and she was just as keen about eNPS, and for the same reasons!

Beatrice agreed to discuss using eNPS and how/why it is so effective. [Read more...]

Most People Don’t Understand Sample Size


bigstock-young-business-man-holding-his-53002933You’ve spent weeks working through the numbers to unpick what customers are saying. After checking through the data and analysing a range of root causes, you have created a really practical plan to solve a key customer issue.

The PowerPoint presentation you’ve created nails each of the points you want to make. It starts right up front with the bad news: Net Promoter data for the business group in question.

Before you walked in, you were fully prepared for this meeting, so how is it that 3 minutes in you’re under attack on the very first slide? A senior manager is pointing accusingly at the screen: “I don’t believe that NPS – you don’t have a big enough sample size.” [Read more...]

Surprise: Rob Markey and I agree on Net Promoter® Benchmarking


delight-the-customerAnyone that has been reading this blog for more than a couple of weeks knows that the subject of Net Promoter benchmarking gets me fired up.

In talking to clients and prospects the question of “what’s a good Net Promoter score” almost invariably arises. Many times I have had to choose my words carefully when I tell people don’t waste your time on external Net Promoter® benchmarks.

I’ve also been careful to explain that not everyone agrees with my views on this topic.

One of the people who disagrees with me is Rob Markey (Bain Partner and co-author of The Ultimate Question 2.0). Clearly he knows something about the subject.

Well, recently when chatting to Rob for one of his Net Promoter System podcast interviews he took me to task on my anti-benchmarking views and, surprisingly, we came away in a violent agreement.

He outlined the specific scenarios where Net Promoter benchmarking is useful and I agreed with every one of his points.

[Read more...]

[Guest Post] 4 Insights Into Building a Better Organisational Structure With Customer Feedback


Auto_mechanic_toolsThe only reason we collect customer feedback, including Net Promoter ® is to understand how we can improve the customer experience and lift profits. Often this impacts the organisational structure, but driving change in this area can be difficult.

Beatrice Hofmeyr having identified this issue and is doing something about it. She is currently collecting practical, best practice techniques from real Australian organisations. In today’s guest post Beatrice provides some great early findings from the project.

Please welcome Beatrice Hofmeyr…

[Read more...]

The Practicalities of Giving Frontline Staff Net Promoter Targets


bigstock-Dart-in-bulls-eye-of-dartboard-16555100“If you don’t give us a 9 or 10 on the survey you receive it will mean we have failed”. On the surface it was an odd way to end my check out process at a well known hotel chain but one I suspect that many of us have experienced. It’s called score begging and it’s an indication of poorly set front-line customer satisfaction targets.

One of the critical success factors for NPS or customer feedback success is ensuring that everyone in the organisation has the score in their personal goals. But applying that idea to front line staff is difficult and if done poorly, as you can see, it drives the wrong behaviours.

To me it is clear that you must link NPS/CSAT to performance review outcomes at least as strongly as you link other hard metrics: revenue, average handle time (AHT), etc. If you don’t staff, quite rightly, deduce that NPS is nice but what you really care about is AHT and sales at all costs.

Not having a strong CSAT/NPS goal is at the heart of many issues in the customer experience. If you’ve ever been relentlessly handed off between operators in a contact centre you have felt the effects. You know they have a tight AHT goal and it’s more important to keep their personal AHT down by shuffling you to another operator than to solve your problem. [Read more...]

[Guest Post] Can Technology Delight Customers? Yes and No.

Bob Thompson

bigstock-Social-media-on-smartphone-60749657Like it or not, the world is going digital. Websites were just the beginning. Now we have social media, smartphones and so on. The only conclusion I can reach is that more of our lives will be spent interacting with technology of one kind or another.

The conundrum: People are more likely to create memorable experiences, which is essential to drive genuine loyalty. In CustomerThink’s research, we find that friendly, well-trained, and knowledgeable employees are key factors what customers perceive to be excellent experiences. Only humans can express empathy and solve problems creatively, so it’s not surprising that interactions with people are more memorable.

New technology can be a positive surprise — I still think it’s amazing that I can buy and receive a Kindle e-book from Amazon in less than one minute. But as Jon Picoult of Watermark Consulting notes: “When technology helps fuel a delightful customer experience, it usually doesn’t take much for other firms to copy that technology.”

More typically, automation is used to make customer interactions more efficient, consistent, and less memorable. So if you’re not careful, you can automate your way to a faceless company with no personality whatsoever!

The solution is to understand the three important roles that technology can play in delightful customer experiences. Let’s use the analogy of a great movie, where the audience experience is delivered by the star, supporting actors, and a “key grip” to manage lighting and camera movements. Obviously only the actors are seen on screen, but without great support behind the camera, a film won’t be delightful to watch. [Read more...]

You Unconsciously Resent Your Customers


bigstock-Close-up-portrait-of-a-serious-54544025Recently, while pondering the surge in discussion about customer centricity and customer focus over the last 10 years, I wondered: do employees in most organisations subtly resent their customers?

It has always struck me as just a little odd that commercial enterprises must explicitly say that they are customer focused and create programs and approaches to instil employees with a zeal for serving customers.

After all the only function of a commercial enterprise is to serve customers. It has literally no other reason for existing.

Perhaps I’m being naïve but stating that we are “customer focused” or “we put the customer first” seem just a little absurd in this context. If you are not putting the customer first then who is first?

That truly innovative product that R&D has just developed is worthless without customers to buy it. No matter how great your supply chain management process runs, if it’s not supplying customers it’s just a bunch of idle trucks and conveyer belts.

So why are organisations not more naturally customer focused? Many big (and small) corporations seem to spend most of their time ignoring customers and even actively doing the reverse of what customers really want when it’s customers that they are there to serve.

[Read more...]

[Guest Post] 6 Ways to Improve Your Customer Testimonials Today

6 Ways to Improve Your Testimonials Today Image 3

Today we welcome a guest post by Sam Johnson. Sam is the Founder at Feedback Loop – An Australian Software Company that helps businesses get the best testimonials on their website.

Extending your customer feedback process to also capture testimonials is a relatively simple task. You already know which customers are advocates of your brand from the feedback. Now all you need to do is ask them for a testimonial.

I’ll let Sam take it from here on some great ways to improve your customer testimonials.

Customer testimonials are one of the most powerful forms of marketing yet there are a few common mistakes that you can fix to quickly increase sales on your website.

[Read more...]

The Perfect Net Promoter® Survey Design

Blueprints and drawing tools concept for construction or development

Blueprints and drawing tools concept for construction or development“The one number you need to grow”: who’d have thought that such a simple statement would cause such a fuss.

Some people actually believe that you only need one question in your Net Promoter Survey. But of course that doesn’t work: so let’s review the anatomy of a perfect Net Promoter Survey.

Your Survey Design Goals

When you design anything you need to have goals to focus you on what you are trying to achieve. A Formula 1 car and an SUV are both cars but they have very different design goals.

So it is with surveys. Get your design goals wrong and your Formula 1 survey could seat eight and have a maximum speed of 80 mph.

A lack of design goals is why so many surveys seem to have a split personality. They ask a few market research questions then a few customer feedback questions and even toss in a couple of marketing pushes.

So what should the design goals be for your Net Promoter Survey?

[Read more...]