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 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. I did receive a response from Zappos. More about that after the letter. A Complaint Letter from the Author of, The Squeaky Wheel

Dear Tony,

I am a Zappos customer, a psychologist and author of the just published The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships and Enhance Self-Esteem. The book is the first to examine our complaining psychology and its impact on how we complain as consumers, as well as how our negative expectations and beliefs about complaining influence our interactions with customer service representatives and the customer service industry as a whole. Since I believe our complaining psychology is a single construct, the book also examines how these issues come to play in our relationships and how our complaining behaviors impact our self-esteem and mental health. 

 My "complaint" is that Zappos seems to be doing everything right in terms of complaint management and service recoveries. In fact, I’m pretty sure your outstanding customer service practices are empowering customers to speak up and tackle their complaints when previously, they might not have. This is a terrible turn of events! True, it is exactly what my book advocates consumers should do and yes it can create a shift in the public’s perceptions of complaints in just the way I think would benefit society best but if that happened, The Squeaky Wheel would be entirely moot!   Do you see my problem? My ideas about how our complaining psychology impacts our quality of life in significant ways, my pleas for people to be more proactive in pursuing their complaints so they can reap the self-esteem rewards of doing so, and especially my heart wrenching stories about the trials and tribulations of customer service representatives at the hands of hostile consumers, are all in peril because you and Zappos insist on providing a top notch customer experience!   How am I supposed to position my book as compelling and relevant if your amazing customer service employees keep making customers delighted and changing their consumer psychology by doing so? How am I supposed to convince people they pay a psychological and emotional price when they avoid pursuing their complaints out of fear that doing so would be too difficult if you keep making such endeavors so easy for your customers?   Surely it would not be asking too much for your contact center employees to screw-up once in a while. Perhaps a designated few could practice disconnecting a few customers, placing them on hold and ‘forgetting’ about them for a couple of hours. Maybe you could ask some of them to speak in thick foreign accents that are impossible to understand or even better, train them to sound irritable or bored, preferably as soon as they answer the call. Would it kill you to have a few broken links on your website? I just need you to maintain the perception that companies don’t care about their customers’ complaints for a few more months, until my book is in every household in America. After that, you can go back to your award winning customer service ways and none will be the wiser.   I hope my plea for help reaches you, Tony. My book cannot change how our society perceives consumer complaints if you and Zappos insist on doing it first. After all, you’ve already had a bestselling book, it’s only fair to give somebody else a chance.   If you refuse to make any of the changes I suggest in this missive, the least you could do is allow me to send you a copy of The Squeaky Wheel so you can see for yourself the contribution the book could make to society if Zappos’ customer service representatives could be just slightly less excellent.   Please let me know where I can send you my shattered dream, eh, I mean a copy of The Squeaky Wheel.   Yours,

Guy Winch Ph.D.

The Response from Zappos:

I charming assistant, apologized for Tony not responding to my email personally and assured me he did read it. Given the man gets 2000 emails a day, reading them alone is quite a feat, responding to them is certainly impossible. Here's why I believe Tony Hsieh read every line in my email. The assistant writes:

"Tony enjoyed your email so much that he forwarded it out to the rest of the company!  "The Squeaky Wheel" sounds fantastic; don't consider it a shattered dream, even in jest!"

He then provided me Tony's address at the company. I was already aware Tony has sent out my letter to the entire company as I began receiving Twitter messages from Zappos contact center employees asking about the book and commenting on the letter, several hours earlier.

For me it was yet further proof that complaining 'the right way', even if the right way is in jest, always gets results!

Copyright 2011 Guy Winch

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