It is 104 degrees. I am wearing a blazer in Las Vegas walking into an office building. I have brought my team here for an offsite which just means — we are going to go eat and drink on a corporate card for a few days.
This is 2011, and if you are in Vegas and work in customer service you go visit the Temple — Zappos. The late great Tony Hsieh was in rare form. His team showed us and told us everything. Zappos was on another level of customer service and every other company on earth wanted to be like them.
At the time, they said they did as many as a dozen tours daily, they gave the tours even to their competitors!
Why isn’t Zappos worried about sharing all of their secrets to the world and even competitors? Is it because they are secretly a socialist company impervious to competition? Is it because they want their competitors to catch up to them?
Go on Amazon and there is a book detailing step by step how the handful of legendary customer service companies do it. Yet look around you has this copying worked? Service is getting worse. Why aren’t there a bunch of Zappos popping up every month? They have shared their secret sauce after all.
If your goal is to be the very best and you devote time trying to copy from another company you have already failed. You see what Zappos knew was that, while you can get pretty good by copying Zappos, you will never be Zappos. You will never fly in the rarified air of the legends of customer service.
The secret to legendary never starts with the How, it always starts with zealotry. An unquenchable desire to understand customers, then a strong desire to be legendary at customer service by one Man or Woman in charge and an ability to inspire others to be that crazy. The kind of crazy zealotry that inspires others. Once that seed is planted the how will follow. The how will make you do crazy things like let people return used shoes after 364 days. One that understands that service is a people business.
If you do not have this unhealthy desire to be that legendary, you can only expect to be really good. No matter how talented Lebron James is, he can not become Michael Jordan by simply copying his moves. He too has to have a maniacal zeal for it, once that fire is burning. The how will also follow. If you want legendary service, step one — look around the room for that uncompromising maniac. Without that, the best you can hope for is to be a little bit better than your competitors.
I am meeting with one of those maniacs this afternoon, she asked me what it will take to prevent every single customer inquiry, she wants her customer service to operate like the Minority Report movie. She is a maniac. She doesn’t care about benchmarking, she has zero interest in the mean, she wants extraordinary. She may not know it yet, but she is on the way to legendary.
As always criticisms and other thoughts are welcome.