How to Deliver Great Customer Service

What do a blog platform, affiliate marketer, event ticketing service, and social bookmarking company have in common? Typically very little other than each trying to carve out a piece of the online revenue market.

However, my personal experiences over the past ten days with each one of these four completely different types of companies has given new meaning to the term “customer service”.

More Than a Customer

I discovered a new social bookmarking application called Rapportive [since purchased by LinkedIn] that works alongside Gmail like this: whenever you open an email message a new column appears off to the side that displays relevant social media information about the email sender (selected LinkedIn profile info, recent Twitter posts, etc.). It’s a great way to see information about your contacts. I find myself often saying, “Oh, so that’s what so-and-so looks like” or “that’s what they’re passionate about” – especially since in my business I deal with many people I’ve never actually met in person.

Apparently Rapportive is a hot Silicon Valley company that is blowing up like crazy. So, imagine my surprise when I ran into an installation issue and sent them an email asking for help – and got a response within two minutes. Minutes. “Hey Anthony, it’s a really easy fix – just change [details]. Please let me know how you get on. Conrad.”

TicketLeap allows people to sell tickets online for their events. One of the hottest startups in the Philadelphia region, TicketLeap has been doing incredibly well. Unfortunately, I ran into a snag trying to secure a ticket to an upcoming investor event in Philadelphia. So, I sent them an email and got this prompt response: “Hi Anthony, I understand completely [what I was trying to do]. Here’s how to register your colleagues. [details] Let me know if you have any questions! Best, Lee.”

So, companies like Rapportive and TicketLeap obviously treat their customers as being very important. But, here’s the thing – I’m not a customer.

At least, not in the typical sense. Their services don’t cost any money. I’m not intimately familiar with their business models, and I’m sure they make money in other ways. But, not by charging users to consume their services.

So they are providing this amazing, virtual high-touch service for people that aren’t even paying.

Is it a PR ploy? Highly unlikely. Rather, I suspect it has everything to do with extending their passion.

Extending Passion

Whenever you ask someone to speak on a topic for which they are incredibly passionate, what do you get? Usually their eyes light up, they slide forward to the edge of their chair, the pace of their words quickens, and you feel their palpable energy. This is something they really believe in, and love sharing with others who are interested.

And I believe this is what makes for great customer service. That the people involved are so passionate about what they are doing that they love sharing it with others.

A friend of mine started an affiliate marketing business to help “mommy bloggers” make money from their blog posts. It’s called 123LinkIt [since purchased by NetLine] and the technology is pretty clever. Essentially, the software they’ve written scans your blog posts, identifies certain key words or phrases that readers might want to link to for more information, and then automatically inserts those links. While I’m not a “mommy blogger”, I thought I’d give the software a try.

Unfortunately, I hit a snag with one of the links. Now I should preface my forthcoming comment with this: oftentimes when I’ve approached this friend in the past for assistance in other matters, the response may take hours or days. But, when it came to my problem with 123LinkIt, the response came within one minute. In order to boost revenue? Nope. Because the founders and software developers are incredibly passionate about their product? Most definitely!

Extending Passion to the Nth Degree

What could possibly be better than dealing with a company that has an awesome product for which all the employees are incredibly passionate about it?

Answer: having a product where the users are so passionate about it that they, too, want to help other users. Apple is perhaps the brightest star in this universe. But, there are many others.

I recently installed a Woo WordPress theme on my site. The WordPress platform costs $0.00, as does the theme. After installing the theme, I had a nasty problem in which I couldn’t get more than one post to show up on my home page. I tried every setting imaginable. I tried recoding some of the PHP scripts. I searched and read through every Google search result imaginable. Nada.

I wrote a very short entry on the WordPress Support bulletin board explaining my problem. 29 minutes later, a response post appears as follows: “alchymyth the sweeper: in home.php, remove the break; statement”. 29 seconds later, all my blog posts are showing up. I have no idea who this alchymyth person is. I’m fairly certain I will never meet her/him. What did that person have to gain by posting that response? Certainly not money. PR clout? Probably not since my “thank you” response post went uncommented upon.

Alchymyth did it because (s)he is passionate about WordPress (or its Woo themes) and would like others to benefit from her/his passion.

Becoming Remarkable

So, is there a secret to great customer service? No secret. Just amass people that love the product and want to use it to touch others.

An interesting corollary here is that if you don’t have employees (and a community) that are passionate about your solution, then perhaps you either need to change your employees or change your product. Are you listening AT&T?

To those great companies I’ve mentioned (and the many others like you), thank you for helping me redefine customer support. Keep extending the passion.

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