What Is The Price Of Great Customer Service?

Doing great customer service is difficult, don't let anyone fool you. For one thing, the service is performed by human beings, and human beings make mistakes. You can have great employees and systems and checklists and great technology, and all those will reduce the mistakes, but they still happen. You fight fanatically for perfection, and still you (and your company) can fall short. And, of course, when you do, you'll hear about it. Get things 98 percent correct and that's what's expected. That's what the customers are paying you for. What you're going to hear about is that two percent of the time when you (or your employees, or your systems, or your technology) fail. 

So what would it be worth to have a story about your incredibly great customer service seen by half a million people? Would it be worth $25.13? That's what it cost Amazon.com. (Hat tip to my son Max, who brought this article to my attention: "It reminded me a lot of what you talk about.")

The Grand Piano Is Gone

Every now and then some famous person dies, someone you did not know personally, and when it happens you feel a slug in the gut, and the tears spring to your eyes, revealing (perhaps even to yourself) just how much that person meant to you. I remember reading this from Carrie Fisher: 

"Years later, while I was in Australia doing some terrible film, they announced on the radio that Cary Grant had passed away. And I remember getting this pain—the kind you get when you experience a body blow. Or lose something essential."

That's how I felt when I heard that Steve Jobs had died, expected as it was. I was surprised by the intensity of my emotional reaction, at the grief I felt. Judging from the news stories, I was hardly alone. I don't want to write too much about Jobs, because I will be doing a podcast this week with my friend and colleague Victor Medina on this very subject. but I did want to share the Fisher quote, because it captured so perfectly my own reaction — and also to quote Nicholson Baker in The New Yorker:

"I was stricken. Everyone who cares about music and art and movies and heroic comebacks and rich rewards and being able to carry several kinds of infinity around in your shirt pocket is taken aback by this sudden huge vacuuming-out of a titanic presence from our lives. We’ve lost our techno-impresario and digital dream granter. Vladimir Nabokov once wrote, in a letter, that when he’d finished a novel he felt like a house after the movers had carried out the grand piano. That’s what it feels like to lose this world-historical personage. The grand piano is gone."

Amen and rest in peace, Steve.