When to Correct Your Customers

Always doing what’s in the best interest of your customer is always the right thing to do. 

And I’m not talking about morally “the right thing.” I’m talking about it’s the right thing to do for your business.

For example, my wife and I were shopping at Costco this week. In the bakery we saw some bags of particularly good-looking bagels. It was slightly more than I wanted to pay, but the options were enticing. Cinnamon raisin or parmesan encrusted? Should we get sweet and traditional or savory and stylish?

I looked at my wife, and she looked at me. Tension thick in the air. I swallowed hard. Beads of perspiration formed on my brow. I had heard the woeful tales of bagel regret and now it was staring me in the face. Our bready enjoyment for at least the next five days hung in the balance. 

We played it safe and got cinnamon raisin.

Later at checkout, as the cashier was ringing up the bagels he said, “Did you know you get two bags of bagels for this price? And you can mix and match. Did you want a second bag?”

My wife and I shared a look of surprise and delight. Hallelujah! Costco snatched us from the jaws of bagel regret. Because there would have been that little voice whispering in the dead of night, “I bet the parmesan encrusted bagels were better.”

Question. Did the cashier have to inform us that we were about to overpay for our baked delights? No. He could have let us go on our way and Costco would have made a better profit than expected on that sale. But that’s not how Costco trains it’s employees. They have a culture of doing what’s in the best interest of the customer. Because ultimately, it’s also what’s in the best interest of Costco.

The tempting thing is to not correct a customer’s mistake when the mistake is more profitable for the business. The reasoning goes like this, “I didn’t trick my customer. I wasn’t trying to deceive them. They should have been paying better attention. My win.”

But it’s not a win. Not in the long term. Because the companies that always do what’s in the best interest of their customers are the ones that have real staying power.

Now, how do you make sure you can afford to always do right by your customers?

We’ll talk about that next week.

– Zac Smith, VC  

[ keep reading ]

How To Quickly Catch Logic Gap

Logic gap happens when you (the writer) are so close to the subject matter (what you’re writing) that your brain automatically fills in words or ideas that aren’t there. Logic gap smooths out the message. It makes one idea perfectly transition into another. Through your eyes, anyway.

In real life, logic gap can leave your reader or listener perplexed or pull them out of the message. Making them scratch their head or miss the point of what you wrote.

How do you combat it?

The usual solution is to read what you wrote to another person in order to get their outsider’s perspective. But there’s a danger even in this. Some logic gap is so bad that, without realizing it, you can add words as you read.

To quickly catch logic gap, have a second person read back to you what you wrote.

This works wonders because your test reader doesn’t have all your ideas and predilections swirling around in their head. They also don’t have the inflection or cadence you’ve been imagining for your words. All they’ve got is what’s on the page.

Happy logic gap hunting.

– Zac Smith, VC  

[ keep reading ]

Get Your Customers to Improve the Customer Experience

Southwest Airlines did the impossible with their customer experience. Just not in the way most people think.

Yes, they have impeccably trained staff. Yes, they get you to your destination on time and without losing your luggage. Yes, they have the best ticketing policies in the industry.

But that’s not what I believe is the real magic.

Look, every airline would agree, there’s one touch point they have no control over. And that’s how their customers treat each other.

Despite their best efforts at staff training and friendly policies, all it takes is one jerk on the flight to ruin the experience for everyone else.

An average airline says, “Nothing we can do about it. We’ll just keep doing our best and the customers will see that we didn’t do anything wrong.”

An exceptional airline like Southwest says, “Let’s get in front of this problem and stop it before it happens.” And so they did.

Like magic, all your fellow travelers become courteous and helpful. Instead of tapping their foot and huffing impatiently while you struggle to stuff your bag overhead, it’s likely the person behind or in front of you will offer to help. Same goes for exiting the plane. When the “fasten seatbelt” light dings off, instead of being the starting gun for a mad sprint to be first off the plane, everyone happily takes their turn.

Southwest took the two most stressful parts of flying, getting on and off the plane, and made them pleasant experiences that’ll restore your faith in humanity.

How’d they do it?

By harnessing the power of the Benjamin Franklin effect.* Which, in short, is a cognitive bias that causes people to like someone more after they do that person a favor.

Southwest starts before you even get on the plane with their boarding process.
Click here to watch a short video explaining how they board.

Here’s what’s important in that video. They only have one numerical marker for boarding positions every five numbers or so. (1-5 here, 6-10 here, and so on) Which means you have to interact with your fellow flyers by asking them what number they are to figure out exactly where you belong in line.

This accomplishes three important things:

  1. You have to acknowledge and speak to your fellow passengers. Looking someone in the eye and engaging them makes them human. And it’s much harder to be rude later.
  2. By asking a simple favor, “What number are you?” your flight mates are now more predisposed to like you.
  3. The person next to you in line will be the same person you’re in line with until one of you takes your seat. Which means all through the boarding shuffle this unspoken relationship takes root and waits to manifest through courteous actions.

So, what’s the take away?

This won’t replace good old fashioned customer service procedures. But if you’re looking for the advantage in your category, this is the kind of thing that’ll edge you ahead. 

If you can figure out even the smallest way for your customers to do a favor for one another, you’ll control the impossible. Your customer experience ratings will soar. And you’ll bring just a little bit more magic to the world.

– Zac Smith, VC 

[ keep reading ]