Customer loyalty and advocacy: what can we learn from Jonathan Ive and Zappos?

Customer focus: no progress in ten years?

In a recent post on CustomerThink, Bob Thompson shared his experience with AT&T and Colin Shaw made the following comment:

“No progress in ten years…

I am sorry to say Bob but this doesn’t surprise me. I used to work for BT before setting up Beyond Philosophy ten years ago. In that ten years I don’t see a lot of progress on being more Customer focussed.

We have recently undertaken new research in Telecoms. The biggest surprise to me was when we asked Telecoms companies “Which Telecoms company do you most for CE ?” There was a deafening silence.

I can totally appreciate your feeling of ‘doubt’. This, unfortunately is a common emotion that organizations generate. Do you think this is what they want to generate? Obviously not, but their actions have led you to feel this way. In my view there is a massive opportunity for someone to get the CE right in the CE space. But they will need to look outside of their industry for examples.”

Why has there been no progress?

I say that the reason so little progress is due to the lack of genuine care for people (customers, employees, suppliers, community…) as fellow human beings.  When we label a customer as an asset we have turned our fellow human being into an object, equipment, a resource for our purposes.  HR tells us all that you need to know about the relationship between the Tops and everyone else in the company: human resources – equipment, tools, resources that come in a human form.

Human existence, being-in-the-world, is characterised by CARE. We care about how our lives turn out – we are designed to survive and we strive to flourish.  Care gives rise to and is tied up with CONCERN – we have concerns that we have to address if we are to survive and flourish.  John Bowlby pointed out that we  need ‘SECURE BASES’ – people, places, organisations, communities where we matter, where we feel cared for, where we can count on others to care for us and what matters to us.

What can we learn from Jonathan Ive of Apple?

I was reading this article on Jonathan Ive (Apple’s design guru) and the following jumped out at me:

“I think subconsciously people are remarkably discerning. I think that they can sense care.”

One of the concerns was that there would somehow be, inherent with mass production and industrialisation, a godlessness and a lack of care.”

“I think it’s a wonderful view that care was important – but I think you can make a one-off and not care and you can make a million of something and care. Whether you really care or not is not driven by how many of the products you’re going to make.”

“We’re keenly aware that when we develop and make something and bring it to market that it really does speak to a set of values. And what preoccupies us is that sense of care, and what our products will not speak to is a schedule, what our products will not speak to is trying to respond to some corporate or competitive agenda. We’re very genuinely designing the best products that we can for people.”

Is there any doubt that the people who run Apple care, deeply, about making great products that generate a great user experience?  And if care is the access to breakthroughs then why is it that more companies do not care the way that Apple cares?  Is it because it really takes something to genuinely care when we swim in a culture that does not embrace and encourage caring?

Lets just get present to what ‘care’ involves and why it is so important

We use words automatically and without really getting present to what they signify, what they point at/towards, what they make present/available to us.  So here is definition that I find particularly useful as it is a rounded definition:

care/ke(ə)r/

Noun:
The provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something.
Verb:
Feel concern or interest; attach importance to something: “they don’t care about human life”.
Synonyms:
noun.  worry – concern – attention – solicitude – trouble
verb.  mind

Zappos: a great example of a company based on and operating from a context of authentic CARE for people as fellow human beings

The results that show up in the world are always in line with and bounded by the context which gives rise to these results. If your organisation operates from a context of ‘not caring’ or plain ‘indifference’ then this will shape what occurs and how it occurs.  With this kind of context it is possible that people who do care may from time to time do stuff that is characterised by care and shows up as care in the world of the customer.  Yet, this will not cultivate loyalty between the customer and the organisation.  Why?  Because this act of caring will been seen as an exception when compared with the lack of caring in all the other interactions with the company and its people.

Zappos is the poster child for the customer-centric orientation and great customer service.  Why?  Because the Tops have intentionally created and operate from a context of caring: caring about their people; caring about their customers; caring about suppliers; caring about what they do; caring about what they stand for.  What is this context?  “Delivering Happiness”.  Two words, they say it all, and for many companies these would simply be empty words.  Not for Zappos because they were not crafted for brand messaging nor for brand positioning.  No, these words, are an expression of the philosophy of Tony Hsieh and the founders/senior leadership team of Zappos.  The other point worth noting is this: how many of us would stand up and argue against a philosophy and a stand centred on “Delivering Happiness”?   Do this not meet/ address a fundamental need of human beings?

Zappos and Tommy Walker: an awesome experience of caring for the customer

Tommy Walker, host of “Inside The Mind” a show about online marketing strategy.  Here is his story, in his words:

Just over a year ago I bought a pair of sneakers from zappos and was very excited to get them in the mail.  However, after about a month and a half they fell apart.  After wearing other inferior footwear, I settled upon wearing my indestructible work boots for the rest of the year, and while they did make me a little taller, they weren’t terribly comfortable and started to cause me pain.   And just when I thought I had enough, I got an email from Zappos that essentially said:

“Hi Tommy, you bought these shoes a year ago and we wanted to say thanks, and remind you that we have more of the same. If there’s anything we can do to improve our service, please don’t hesitate to let us know!”

To which I responded:

“Hey there, thanks for reminding me :-).  Though I have to admit, these shoes only lasted me a month and a half.   I’m not overly hard on my shoes but for some reason, these just fell apart.””

What happened next?  How did things turn out?  What was Tommy’s experience?  If you want to find out then click here.

In a world of indifference, authentic caring is the difference that makes the difference

You want your customers to care about you.  Do you really care about your customers?  If you don’t genuinely care about your customers, as human beings, then how/why do you expect them to care about you?  What is so remarkable about Zappos other than the genuine context/culture of caring about people  and “Delivering Happiness”?  What is so special about Apple other than the care that goes into envisaging and making products that customers will love and find useful.

And finally you may wish to consider and act on the following:

CARE:  Customers Always Remember Empathy

CARE:  Customers Are up for Reciprocating Empathy

CARE:  Customers Always want to Reward Empathy

Posted on May 23, 2012, in Case Studies, Customer Experience, Customer Insight (inc VoC), Customer Philosophy, Customer Service, Customer Strategy, Leadership / Change / Transformation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. adrianswinscoe

    Hi Maz,
    Tommy’s story is a great one and a testament to how Zappos views and treats their customers. What’s absolutely clear and is central to Zappos strategy is that they care about their customers but also that they care about what their customers say about them and that is central to their whole growth strategy. They have built their company on care and understanding that the service and care they deliver drives their word of mouth.

    Adrian

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    • Hello Adrian

      Strategy is calculation. I am not sure that the Zappos folks did a calculation and figured out that was the best or even the right route for success. That approach is the approach of mind and it has no heart in it. It is also why a strategy is dropped for another one when it no longer delivers the required revenues and profits.

      Having read “Delivering Happiness” and studied Tony Hsieh I am clear that Tony and his top team made a philophical commitment to certain of being in the world that is simply an extension of who Tony is naturally. And along with that the vision that Tony and his team embraced wholeheartedly is being the brand which is famous for great service. This vision is just a natural expression of Tony – his makeup, his orientation as regards what matters in life.

      To sum up, I find myself not being in agreement with you. Zappos is still led/managed by its founder/s and these folks are simply living their philosophy and the vision that arises out of that. It is a phenomenon of the HEART. Strategy and strategic thinking is a distinct phenomenon – that of the MIND. If being Zappos is merely strategy then ask yourself why haven’t other companies followed the Zappos path?

      At your service
      maz

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  2. Maz,

    I don’t think it is about Care, I think it is about Guts

    It is a brave man who automatically refunds the price of a year old pare of shoes.

    Everybody will want one, and then where would your shoe business be?

    James

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    • Hello James

      If I am of the view that my fellow man is essentially a “liar, thief, cheat” then I say that it does take guts.

      On the other hand if I stand in the ground called “My fellow man is fundamentally decent and can be trusted to be honest and helpful” then I will have no issue in making that refund.

      Chris Zane (owner of Zane’s Cycles) when speaking goes into the audience with a bowl full of quarters and invites people to take what they want. Only one person has ever taken the whole bowl – most people only take one or two quarters and they have to be encouraged to do so.

      Chris also share in Reinventing The Wheel that only one customer has abused his policy of replacing an old bike with a totally new one if it is defective.

      I know of a big brand that has a generous returns policy and keeps this in place despite their awareness that it is open to abuse. Why? They know their customers – some 99% are honorable, trustworthy, honest and reciprocate the trust placed in them. Then there is the 1% who do abuse that trust. And the way to deal with them is to use internal systems to identify these people and deal with them.

      Maz

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      • Maz, I agree, and if our logic holds true then we could deduce that the majority of people who run large banks, retailers and manufacturing companies regard their customers as “liars, thieves, and cheats”

        James

        Like

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