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SETH'S BOOKS

Seth Godin has written 12 bestsellers that have been translated into 33 languages

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Bonus stuff!

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all.marketers.tell.stories

All Marketers Tell Stories

Seth's most important book about the art of marketing

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free.prize.inside

Free Prize Inside

The practical sequel to Purple Cow

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linchpin

Linchpin

An instant bestseller, the book that brings all of Seth's ideas together.

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meatball.sundae

Meatball Sundae

Why the internet works (and doesn't) for your business. And vice versa.

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permission.marketing

Permission Marketing

The classic Named "Best Business Book" by Fortune.

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poke.the.box

Poke The Box

The latest book, Poke The Box is a call to action about the initiative you're taking - in your job or in your life, and Seth once again breaks the traditional publishing model by releasing it through The Domino Project.

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purple.cow

Purple Cow

The worldwide bestseller. Essential reading about remarkable products and services.

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small.is.the.new.big

Small is the New Big

A long book filled with short pieces from Fast Company and the blog. Guaranteed to make you think.

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survival.is.not.enough

Survival is Not Enough

Seth's worst seller and personal favorite. Change. How it works (and doesn't).

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the.big.moo

The Big Moo

All for charity. Includes original work from Malcolm Gladwell, Tom Peters and Promise Phelon.

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the.big.red.fez

The Big Red Fez

Top 5 Amazon ebestseller for a year. All about web sites that work.

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the.dip

The Dip

A short book about quitting and being the best in the world. It's about life, not just marketing.

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the.icarus.deception

The Icarus Deception

Seth's most personal book, a look at the end of the industrial economy and what happens next.

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tribes

Tribes

"Book of the year," a perennial bestseller about leading, connecting and creating movements.

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unleashing.the.ideavirus

Unleashing the Ideavirus

More than 3,000,000 copies downloaded, perhaps the most important book to read about creating ideas that spread.

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v.is.for.vulnerable

V Is For Vulnerable

A short, illustrated, kids-like book that takes the last chapter of Icarus and turns it into something worth sharing.

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we.are.all.weird

We Are All Weird

The end of mass and how you can succeed by delighting a niche.

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whatcha.gonna.do.with.that.duck

Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck?

The sequel to Small is the New Big. More than 600 pages of the best of Seth's blog.

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THE DIP BLOG by Seth Godin




All Marketers Are Liars Blog




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Member since 08/2003

What is customer service for?

Customer service is difficult, expensive and unpredictable. But it's a mistake to assume that any particular example is automatically either good or bad. A company might spend almost nothing on customer service but still succeed in reaching its goals.

Customer service succeeds when it accomplishes what the organization sets out to accomplish. Google doesn't have a phone number, doesn't want to engage with most users. McDonald's doesn't give you a linen napkin. Fedex used to answer the phone on one ring, now it takes 81 seconds for them to answer a call. None of these things are necessarily bad, they're merely examples of alignment (or non-alignment).

Organizations don't accidentally run ads, don't mistakenly double (or halve) the amount of cereal they put in the box. They shouldn't deliver customer service that doesn't match their goals either.

Here are some uses of customer service:

To create a significant competitive advantage by engaging with customers in a way that others can't or won't. This is what the over-the-top customer service approach of Zappos did. They went from being a commonplace (you can buy shoes from anyone, we're anyone) to a customer delight company that happens to sell shoes. Rackspace does the same thing with technical support. 

To streamline the delivery of inexpensive goods produced in an industrial way: This is the model of most fast food places. Deal with the exceptions quickly and well, and keep the line moving. Part of this mindset is to not make it easy for people to complain, and to treat every complaint in just about the same way. When you get a bag of rancid nuts from Planters, sure, you can visit the website, click a bunch of times, fill in a form and let them know, but they don't use it as an opportunity to earn your loyalty.  "Here, take four coupons, each good for a dollar off one purchase, thanks, we're done."

To lower expectations and satisfy customers by giving them exactly what you promised, which is not much: This is the model of automated customer service at most big web companies. They'll do just about anything to avoid an interaction with a human, and they're clear about this, meaning that they should only end up with customers who are okay with this.

To raise expectations and delight customers by giving them way more than they hoped for, which was a lot: This is a truly difficult promise to maintain (Apple did it with the Genius bar, but they rarely surprise there any more). The secret is to find a focus, a budget and a scale where you can actually deploy talented individuals to keep this promise.

To dance with customers in an act of co-creation: This is part of 37Signals' secret. From their book to their blog to their clearly stated point of view about platforms and the way they do business, they invite customers to debug with them in an ongoing dialogue about finding a platonic ideal of utility software. They don't promise perfect, they promise engagement. Over-inform. Speak with respect. Be clear about the invitation. This is a very special sort of customer service, and companies often think they're doing this but end up cutting corners and are merely plodding along, disappointing those that would have preferred to engage instead.

To diminish negative word of mouth: Many large organizations resort to this, the last step in a sad journey. As soon as a wheel gets squeaky, they grease it. But that's all they do unless pressed. The problem is that many of your unhappy customers are too busy to get squeaky, they merely go elsewhere, and the ones who you finally do try to help are so pissed off it's too late.

To build extraordinary trust: This is the initiative taken by an institution to do far more than is expected, at a human level, to earn the privilege of serving again. This is the banker who visits you in the hospital, merely because she heard from another customer that you were ill.

To treat different people differently: One way to reward your best customers is to treat the best of them substantially better than others--the word will spread, others will want to join this group, and those in it will be hesitant to switch to a competitor. But if you make that promise, you need to double down on it substantially, continually improving how you treat your favorites.

To race with competitors to lower customer service costs just a bit more than they will: This is the current progression we see among industrial titans who see customer service as a cost, not a profit center. When you measure this, you can't help to want to drive the cost down, and you will do it just a bit faster than your competitors, because to do it too fast is to risk condemnation. Alas, in just about every industry that the internet has sucked the profits out of, we see this cost-cutting race to the bottom. It's not going to end well.

Because you can: This is awfully rare among public companies, but there are many organizations that treat people as they'd like to be treated. Not to grow market share, but because it's the right thing to do.

So it's clear that good customers with urgent problems left on hold by Fedex is a mismatch between what they built customer service for and what they're doing with it. And that a busy startup that doesn't invest as much time as they could in co-creation communication is not serving the goals of the beta fully. On the other hand, the novelist who doesn't invest time in answering reader mail is probably doing good customer service, since reserving her best efforts to write another great novel is precisely the promise she has made.

Every single person who makes budget decisions, staffing decisions and customer service decisions must to be clear about which strategy you picked, needs to be able to state, "we're doing this because it's congruent with what we say customer service is for."

Obviously, you can mix and match among these options, and find new ones. What we must not do, though, is plan to do one thing but then try to save time or money and do something else, hoping for the results that come from the original plan without actually doing it.

Customer service, like everything an effective organization does, changes people. Announce the change you seek, then invest appropriately, in a system that is likely to actually produce the outcomes you just said you wanted.

Make promises and keep them.

Of course it's difficult...

Students choose to attend expensive colleges but don't major in engineering because the courses are killer.

Doing more than the customary amount of customer service is expensive, time-consuming and hard to sustain.

Raising money for short-term urgent projects is easier than finding support for the long, difficult work of changing the culture and the infrastructure.

Finding a new path up the mountain is far more difficult than hiring a sherpa and following the tried and true path. Of course it is. That's precisely why it's scarce and valuable. 

The word economy comes from the Greek and the French, and is based on the concept of scarcity. The only things that are scarce in the world of connection and services and the net are the things that are difficult, and the only things that are valuable are the things that are scarce. When we intentionally seek out the difficult tasks, we're much more likely to actually create value.

Things we don't see that much any more

Wine coolers, Julia Roberts movies, fondue, Geocities pages, baby on board signs, a line at the Krispy Kreme...

Ubiquitous doesn't mean forever, and popular isn't permanent. Someone is going to fade, and someone is going to be next to take their place.

The tyranny of random numbers

Is that iPhone game really conspiring to put blue squares up at the last minute, just to foil your attempt at a perfect score?

Human beings are story-making engines, and when we're confronted with randomness, we make up an egocentric version of what happened, and it involves us.

So when things randomly go well, we give ourselves a pat on the back, a reminder of why we deserved it. And when they don't, we seek out the ghost in whatever machine did us wrong and come up with a reason.

Here's the truth: There is no reason. That's why we define it as random.

All the time we spend inventing reasons is probably better spent responding to what occurs.

Companies don't care about you

Brands don't care about you...

Institutions don't care about you either.

The only people who are able to care about you are people.

The question, then, is this institution owned and organized and run by people who will allow the people who work there to care?

Generally, the answer is 'no', because caring is unpredictable, hard to command and regulate and sometimes expensive in the short run.

What a shame.

How long is your long term?

A simple question with an answer that's difficult to embrace.

What are you willing to give up today in exchange for something better tomorrow? Next week? In ten years?

Your long term is not the sum of your short terms.

The difference between commitment and technique

We spend way too much time teaching people technique. Teaching people to be good at flute, or C++ or soccer. 

It's a waste because the fact is, most people can learn to be good at something, if they only choose to be, if they choose to make the leap and put in the effort and deal with the failure and the frustration and the grind.

But most people don't want to commit until after they've discovered that they can be good at something. So they say, "teach me, while I stand here on one foot, teach me while I gossip with my friends via text, teach me while I wander off to other things. And, sure, if the teaching sticks, then I'll commit."

We'd be a lot more successful if organized schooling was all about creating an atmosphere where we can sell commitment (and where people will buy it). A committed student with access to resources is almost unstoppable.

Great teachers teach commitment.

Spring forward

Sometimes, it takes some prodding to make a leap.

For the next 48 hours (through Friday, March 20), the five-copy pack of my new book is on sale.

Use the discount code spring to save 40% off the discounted price, and get the books for about $8 each plus shipping.

Along for the ride

Like the pilot says, "sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight."

When you're on one of those Disneyland boats, it takes you where Disney wants you to go. That's why you got on. And so you are lulled, a spectator, merely a tourist.

So different, isn't it, from driving yourself, choosing your own route and owning what comes of it?

How long have you been along for the ride? When is your turn to actually drive?

When push comes to hug

This is a much more stable response than pushing coming to shoving, because shoving often leads to something unsustainable.

Hugging is a surprising and difficult response to pushing, but it changes the trajectory, doesn't it?