The 5 Most Read Customer Service Articles of 2011

Five articles were read by more readers of this blog than any of the other thirty-something I posted in 2011. Following are the articles, their intros and my thoughts about why they might have been so popular. Also, my thoughts on why the least read article of the year was so…unread. Feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments section. The Squeaky Wheel Blog’s Most Read Articles of 2011:

1. The Heavy Metal Price of Bad Customer Service

A few days ago I received an email from Mike, a Cisco customer who had a complaint about the company. His story started innocently enough—he purchased a router that did not work properly out of the box and called Cisco’s technical support hotline to complain. What followed was an unfortunate illustration of why having bad customer service procedures and neglecting the importance of open communication with customers can cost a company’s bottom line.

My Thoughts: This case study was mentioned in at least one high-level Cisco conference as well as a marketing Key Note Address. Mike (whom I’ve never met) wrote a great song, thousands of Youtube views and even a good response (eventually) from Cisco. It’s a happy story all around.

2. Learning Customer Service from the Visually Impaired

“You are about to enter a different kind of darkness—a darkness so pitch black, you will not be able to see a thing. Place your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you. We will walk slowly. Ready? Now, follow me, I will show you to your table.” So began one of the most interesting and memorable dining experiences I’ve ever had.

My Thoughts: I’m in the dark about why this post did so well (Thank you, I’ll be here all week!). If I had to guess it was because the idea of dining in total darkness has very broad appeal.

3. My Letter to Tony Hsieh

I’ve heard numerous stories about CEOs who are reputed to read every email they receive and have generally taken such claims with a grain of salt (if not many, many grains). But a recent experience with Zappos customer service left a sufficient impression on me that I felt moved to chuck all skepticism aside and write a personal email to Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO and author of Delivering Happiness. Here is the letter I wrote.

My Thoughts: Who knew that my efforts to get the CEO of Zappos to read my book would turn out to be so popular? Although to be honest, its popularity was probably due to the popularity of Tony Hsieh.

4. Does Your Company Know How to Apologize Correctly?

Most customer service representatives are trained to voice apologies when handling complaint calls but they are rarely trained to do so correctly.

My Thoughts: This post did so well it was even adopted as a White Paper by the good folks at Stella Service (.com). It still amazes me that companies regularly botch something as basic as an apology, but yet those that don’t are still exceedingly rare.

5. The Psychology of Customer Loyalty

Loyal customers are those who feel a strongly held commitment to re-buy or re-patronize a specific product, service or company. They are considered a company’s biggest asset as besides providing repeat business, loyal customers spread positive word of mouth that can be up to twenty times more powerful than regular advertising.

My Thoughts: Here again, it’s shocking how often C level management in large companies ignore basic information about customer loyalty, especially as it pertains to complaint handling.

Least Read Article of 2011:

My Session in the Recording Studio

Last weekend I spent 14 hours in a recording studio taping the audio-book for The Squeaky Wheel. It was my first visit to a recording studio of any kind and as might be expected I was nervous. “You’ll be recording in that booth,” the director said, pointing toward a glass window through which I could make out a broom-closet sized room with a small desk, chair and a microphone. “Won’t the back-up singers feel cramped in there?” I asked jokingly. The director didn’t respond. I turned and saw she already had her earphones on and was busy flipping switches. I decided to ditch my ‘Let’s take it once more from the chorus!” joke I was saving for later.

My Thoughts: Okay, I thought my description of recording the audio version of The Squeaky Wheel was both funny and charming. Readers apparently did not. Most people hope to learn something new when they read a blog and yes, it’s possible my struggle not to burp after taking a lunch break was not sufficiently informative.

Please visit again as there are many more articles to come in 2012!

Copyright 2011 Guy Winch

Follow me on Twitter @GuyWinch

My Session in the Recording Studio

Last weekend I spent 14 hours in a recording studio taping the audio-book for The Squeaky Wheel. It was my first visit to a recording studio of any kind and as might be expected I was nervous. "You'll be recording in that booth," the director said, pointing toward a glass window through which I could make out a broom-closet sized room with a small desk, chair and a microphone. "Won’t the back-up singers feel cramped in there?" I asked jokingly. The director didn't respond. I turned and saw she already had her earphones on and was busy flipping switches. I decided to ditch my ‘Let's take it once more from the chorus!" joke I was saving for later. Feeling no less nervous, I assumed my position in the tiny room and waved my hand to let the director know I was ready. "Just talk,” she said. “I can hear you." Her voice came through speakers that hung above the window. I promptly gave myself a metaphorical smack on the forehead. Of course she could hear me! I’m sitting in a recording booth! "Let's take it once more from the chorus!" I quipped before I could stop myself. Not even a giggle came through the speakers. I looked up and realized the director had removed her earphones and was busy shutting the double doors that separated our two rooms.

The director returned to her seat, put on her earphones and pointed at me with her finger—which even I understood meant that I should begin. I was taken aback. Were there no sound checks? "Just start reading?" I asked. "That's how it works," she responded. "No sound checks?" I inquired. "Can't really do those until you read something," she explained patiently. I quickly gave myself another metaphorical smack on the forehead and began to read.

Four hours and two chapters later, we broke for lunch. It turns out lunch can be a problem when recording audio books. Not the meal per se but rather the gastrointestinal process that follows it. Our digestive systems make tiny sounds while breaking down say, a California wrap with chicken, avocado, roasted peppers and greens. My stomach was making very faint ‘eep’, ‘broop’ and ‘wromp’ noises and my saliva glands were still set to ‘high’. Consequently the next hour featured me trying to read and the director interrupting every few sentences with comments such as, “stomach noises, do it again”, “nope, too many smacking sounds” and “don’t burp into the microphone”.

The next morning I arrived at the recording studio slightly panicked. Seven hours of reading the day before had left my vocal chords feeling sore and scratchy. We got right down to business before I could voice my concerns. Much to my dismay, my voice kept breaking at the end of random sentences and going into high pitched falsetto. It made me sound like I was whining…or going through puberty. Neither option felt especially appropriate for a book about complaining. I found it really annoying when my voice broke while reading the word ‘squeak’. It made it seem as though I was trying to incorporate ill-conceived sound-effects.

Worried as I was, my director remained calm and professional throughout, not to mention tactful. “You’re sounding a little froggy,” she commented after a couple of unfortunate squeaks. “That can happen on the second day. Your voice will get better as we go along,” she reassured me. Although I am not an expert on frog biology, I doubt many of their mating calls involved high-pitched squeaking sounds. But I didn’t argue the point. Sure enough, within thirty minutes, my voice stabilized and we continued the read.

Despite my initial nervousness and the intensity of concentrating for hours at a stretch, I found the process of recording the audio-book tremendously enjoyable. It had been many months since I had delivered the completed manuscript to Walker & Company and I had not seen the text in quite a while. Reading the book anew got me back in touch with how excited I feel about the publication date drawing ever nearer. For me, January 4, 2011 cannot come soon enough.