I Promise . . .

Photo Credit: Becky Holt

Sometimes, as I’m reading through the many blogs and periodicals I follow every day, a piece strikes me as so completely relevant to a topic I’m thinking about that I can’t help but write about it. Friday was one of those days. I came across a story about Amazon customer service representatives. What struck me about the story is how well it dovetails into an idea I’ve been trying to turn into a good post.

The concept: Do you promise trouble-free results or rather, do you promise there will be problems? And more importantly, do you promise your company will always be there to get through the issues and see the customer successfully to the other side? I argue for the latter, and that is what this article on Amazon talked about.

“The answer then, is to promise problems.”

You’ve heard it so many times it can make your head spin: “Installing and implementing this product is simple. You won’t have any problems and you will be up and running in no time! I promise, no problems!” Sometimes, it’s like we just can’t help ourselves. What inevitably happens? The process is more complicated than the customer thought it was going to be. Or there are delays. Or something doesn’t go quite right because of an incorrect setting, or a bug, or some other issue that has to be fixed. You didn’t intend to jinx the process when you said it, you just wanted to reassure the customer that everything is going to go off without a hitch.

Instead of promising rainbows and unicorns, what your organization should be saying is this: “Yes, there are going to be problems during the install and implementation. There will be more problems as you use the system and inevitably stretch it to new heights. In fact, I promise you there will be problems. More importantly, though, I promise that our team is committed to your success. So when we encounter problems, we’ll get through them together.” I learned this years ago at a company I was with at the time. This was the president’s go-to reminder at every all-hands meeting. Promise problems and then promise we’ll be there to help customers get through them.

That’s exactly what Jeff Bezos and Amazon realize. And it is exactly what they practice. In the article, which can be found here (http://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/the-view-from-inside-amazon-customer-service-center-in-kent/), Bezos talks about how problems are inevitable but that focusing on resolving them with low negative response rates (NRRs) is the focus. They don’t worry about how long the support calls go, nor do they continue to promise problem-free futures. Instead, Bezos has his teams laser-focused on successful resolution of customer issues.

What an important lesson! I’m not saying we don’t all want trouble-free, hassle-free, no problem implementations and installations. We never want bugs or defects or problems to arise with our products and services. But when they do, how are they handled? That is what defines customer satisfaction.

The answer then, is to promise problems. And then focus on the one true metric that matters (and that Amazon has figured out): how effectively you actually resolve the issue. The lower you are able to keep the NRR, the better your company will score on satisfaction surveys. And let’s face it, even Jeff Bezos and Amazon would agree — we can all do something to improve that score!

Note: Earlier in this article I mentioned seeing this piece in a blog I follow. The blog to which I’m referring is Kevin Coupe’s “Morning News Beat” and is predominately focused on the retail grocery industry. Having said that, I highly recommend it even if you’re not directly in the retail grocery industry. The perspectives, viewpoints and content he shares are helpful to just about anyone in the business world. You can find his blog here: http://www.morningnewsbeat.com/

With more than 20 years of experience in the leadership and management of operations and customer service, I’m happiest when working to bring out the best in people and organizations. I’m deeply committed to coaching and mentoring and I’m a lifelong learner inspired by curiosity. I’m a passionate advocate for leadership, social responsibility and making a real difference in the world. If you would like to learn more about how to grow as a leader or work with me, check out my LinkedIn profile and drop me a note.

This article was originally published at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/i-promise-scot-barker?trk=pulse_spock-articles on December 7, 2015.