Customer-Centric Culture

Make money by being human

Chronicle claimed to be a found-footage (think: Blair Witch Project) superhero movie. That pitch sounded to me like a lame studio trying to capitalize on the superhero craze with a crappy, low-budget movie. As a lifelong comic book fan, I decided not to support this atrocity. Because, in short, of the marketing.

Then, a few months ago, I discovered a video on YouTube. The writer of Chronicle basically drinks whiskey and rants about The Death of Superman, a 90’s comic book plot arc in which Superman dies and then a bunch of people claiming to be him show up. It’s old news that most people don’t care about, but I had been really into that series at the time…so I watched the whole thing.

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Customer satisfaction isn’t just about answering email, it’s also about croissants

The other week I left UserVoice HQ and walked to La Boulange bakery, as I do many mornings, for a veggie tart and a chai (yes, I clearly work in live in the Bay Area). I arrived at 8:30am and discovered a line out the door. Frustrating, but I was craving my chai so I stayed in line.

As I waited in line, I noticed a cashier who wasn't manning a register or getting food for customers. Odd thing during their rush, right? Shouldn’t they be trying to help with the immense line?

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Empower your customer service representatives, win like Zappos

This is part of our ongoing series on Scaling Customer Service, based on our Customer Service Scaling Timeline. This month we're covering Stage 6.

come in we'll break a rule to please youWhen your company is small, it’s easy to improvise to delight your customers. You know most of them. You remember them. And you know each member of your customer service team well (and could probably hit them with a paper airplane from where you’re sitting). Joe from Company X wants a discount? Sure. Fred from Company Y is going to be in town? Have him come by for a beer!

But once your company gets large, this is a much bigger challenge. You don’t necessarily know the Freds and Joes. You don’t even know all your customer service agents, and they may know you as a boss, not as a person. You’ve put customer service training & guidelines in place to ensure quality. But how do you ensure that you’re creating customer delight?

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Community Manager Appreciation Day cards

This coming Monday, January 23rd, is Community Manager Appreciation Day: a celebration of those who keep our customers happy, engaged, and in love with our products. We celebrate every year, but we wanted to do something extra-special this year.

We’ve lovingly crafted …

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Being a Jerk is More Work

We all act like jerks sometimes. Often it’s because someone is pestering us with something that isn’t our responsibility, and we hope being firm will make them go away. “I don’t have time for this. I’m not in the billing …

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Can you make a big company be nice?

At my Social Media Week talk a few weeks ago, I declared that Community Managers (or really, Chief Happiness Officers) should be the 3rd employee at a company, because it’s “hard to change an organization after it’s set in its …

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Why Community Managers Won’t Exist in 5 Years (and why that’s a good thing)

That sure got your attention, didn’t it?

Last Thursday I gave this presentation as part of Social Media Week. A lot of people came to the event skeptical, or a little angry. What I hope became clear to them is that I’m not announcing our extinction or irrelevance in 5 years, but rather a need to mature into a larger role. Yes, there will always be a need for people to manage online communities. But if we are taking our goal of creating happy customers seriously, we need to step up and move beyond our social support.

Why? Check out the presentation:

So, what do you think?

Where will YOU be in 5 years? Do you think Chief Happiness Officer is the correct role, or a bunch of hooey? This is only my opinion, so I want to hear yours!

This presentation is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0), which means you should feel free to share it, use parts of it, and remix it as long as a) you’re not using it for commercial privileges and b) whatever you’re creating is licensed the same way. Because sharing is awesome.

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Stop being a jerk, and start making money with your support team

The greatest failures in the world happen because we use something for the wrong purpose. The purpose of government is to ensure the safety and success of it’s citizens, but some officials see it as a way to accomplish their own goals and end up hurting our trust in government. Twitter is meant for conversation but is seen by some companies as a place for broadcasting loudly and blindly, hurting the legitimacy of the company doing so. Treadmills are meant for running, but then someone puts a skateboard on them…

Most companies are currently using support teams for the wrong purpose. They should be using them for revenue generation rather than cost prevention. They should be focused on customer happiness.

Many companies seem to see customer support as a necessary hassle. They deal with the hassle of support because they know that not providing support could mean mobs of angry customers hurting the bottom line. So instead, these people build up anemic support organization, designed to avoid spending much money by getting rid of the customer through satisfying them just enough that they won’t complain in public.

Let’s break the cycle. From now on, the support team is focused on customer happiness. Hear me out, oh fearful CFOs. This isn’t some community manager hippie idea here. This is a profit equation, plain and simple.

sudoku puzzle that spells out I heart revenue

Here’s the traditional equation for a support team:

Cost of lots of people complaining in public > Cost of fewer people complaining in public + Cost of support efforts

It’s a losing equation, because however you cut it there is cost involved. You never really know what the cost of people complaining is, and you never really know how much support you must provide to prevent it, so you can never feel confident about this equation.

With a customer happiness-focused support center, the equation is this:

(Number of users leaving the support experience happy * Average revenue from a return customer) + (Number of users leaving support center who say they will absolutely refer a friend * Average revenue from new visitors) – Cost of support efforts = Revenue

That’s not only doable, it’s making money! Between internal analytics and exit surveys of customers who used your support center, you can actually put a dollar amount to the happiness you’re creating. Scope out our blog post on the metrics Zappos uses in their call centers for some tips.

napkin with lovely coffee, thank you written on itBonus round: This’ll also mean less turnover on your support staff, because instead of being jerks all day, they’ll get to be human beings. It’ll also mean nice reviews or shout-outs when you end up helping someone with publishing clout, leading to more new customers. Also? It just might be easier to sleep at night knowing you’re helping your customers.

How can you do this?

1. Throw away your cost-prevention metrics, start using customer happiness metrics
2. Stop having the support team report to the CTO or product manager. They’re not a development-focused team, they’re a customer-focused team.
3. Read Delivering Happiness, by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. What he did with Zappos is not a miracle. If you focus on customer happiness, you can achieve it (and make a ton of money).

Does your support organization already think like this? Let me know in the comments and I’ll write about you! 


Sudoku image courtesy of YourDoku

Napkin photo courtesy for James Morrison

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The Top 10 Ways to Celebrate Community Manager Appreciation Day

Happy Community Manager Appreciation Day! It's pretty clear that we love anyone who cares about customers, and so we're happily celebrating this wonderful holiday.

And while we're much bigger fans of Conan than Letterman, we couldn't resist providing our Top 10 Ways to Celebrate Community Manager Appreciation Day:


10. Swing by the NYC, Bay Area, or many other celebrations

9. Catch up on this blog, or scope out some of our favorites

8. Buy your favorite community manager a beer (they're known to like these)

7. Don't have a community manager? Hire one!

6. Sign up to attend one of the Social Media Week events, like the SF Community Management Afternoon or our talk on why community managers won't exist in 5 years (and why that's a good thing)

5. Dance the Manta Ray (I have no idea if other community managers like this song, but I do, so it goes in the list)

4. Update your Twitter account with the following: “I <3 community managers! #CMAD”

3. Give your community manager a raise (not that I'm biased or anything)

2. Do what every community manager does: spend some time making your customers happy. Only good things can come of doing that.

1. Go get 75% off of any UserVoice plan – one day only, for any community manager. You're welcome.


Happy holiday!

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