Customer Service as a Product (CSaaP)
A few months ago, I bought seats to Hamilton on SeatGeek. When we arrived at the show, we discovered the tickets were fakes - the guy working the ticket booth told us they’d been resold 30 times. Obviously, we were disappointed to miss the show, but relieved when Jack Groetzinger from SeatGeek offered to refund our purchase and buy us tickets to a future show. Last week, Emily and I returned to the Richard Rogers Theater to see Hamilton, courtesy of SeatGeek, and it was wonderful.
The experience described above is an example of great customer service that goes above and beyond into "surprise and delight" territory. Refunding the cost of the fake tickets may have been enough, but going the extra mile and buying us tickets to a future show (at a significant cost) made me a loyal customer for life. Prices actually doubled from the time we originally purchased to the time we returned since the original cast announced their upcoming departure. Despite this unexpected development, Jack honored his word and for this, I am grateful. The experience and SeatGeek’s response converted a negative customer experience into one that was overwhelmingly positive.
For consumer-centric businesses, customer service matters immensely. In many cases, the experience you deliver is your product. Zappos pioneered this approach a decade ago with their 365-day return policy and this is well-regarded as a contributing factor to their success. More recently, Slack publicized their policy of automagically cancelling and refunding per user fees for inactive users on enterprise accounts. They don’t need to do this, but it engenders enormous goodwill and probably generates more new revenue over the long term than it costs via refunds. One of our companies, JackThreads, recently launched 'Try-Ons’ as a way to allow customers to “try before they buy” for seven days before agreeing to pay. Early metrics suggest that customers love it as they’ve shown significantly increased purchase intent. Last week, I had drinks with Joe Fasone of Pilot Fiber who explained to me the value he sees in answering every customer service call themselves before the third ring. Joe's competitors - Verizon, Time Warner and others - deliver an experience that most people find far worse and so, Pilot Fiber shines brightly in comparison. It’s no surprise that Pilot customers enjoy working with them vastly more than their competition and are switching over in droves.
There are lots of legacy businesses out there who still haven’t grasped this concept of Customer Service as a Product (CSaaP) or aren’t willing to invest dollars towards improving (or even reconsidering) their product experience. I believe, on average, these businesses will struggle to keep up and gradually be eclipsed by more forward thinking companies offering better experiences. CSaaP is a powerful concept that will continue to define and power the great companies of the next era.