cultural nuances and communication

Having worked in Europe for seven years I thought that i understood how to deal with different cultures. in the online/games industry people are pretty relaxed too, so you don’t expect scorchers to come across your desk. I received this one yesterday from a German company.

Hello Brendan,

It has come to our knowledge that you have been trying to cheat on our company by breaking common code of conduct in business.

It is not acceptable trying to avoid legal requirements and attempting to get approval by our CEO directly.
Because of this fact we will not continue the negotiations with you.

Please also refrain from contacting other persons at ——.

I think the mixup stemmed from the fact that the agreement was summarised in a letter form (which had been approved by their lawyers. I’ve been on the phone to try and remedy but cant get through to my contact. Its an interesting quandary

The other side of the coin is that we have had someone making cupboards for us. He drove under a bridge with the set of cupboards so they were split, and then said he’d have it for us for last Friday. there was complete radio silence; not answering calls, emails, texts, nothing…
Until today when i got this message;
hi brendon firstly apologies 4 not getn back 2 u guys, wife dropped a bombshell (soon 2 b ex) so wekend went 2 shit, side and base ready by Friday am, really sory haven’t had time to check emails

from a customer service perspective its understandable (and we did sigh with relief.) but its interesting to counterpoint the two against each other and understand that communication is really difficult, no matter where you are (those were my jerry springer final words)

wii is me- a customer service opportunity


(first off apologies for the awful pun)

Ninetendo missed a great opportunity with me. My wii broke within 1 year of purchasing it. I sent it back, and the unfortunately the fan wasn’t covered by the warranty, but they could replace it for a third of the price of a new one. we hadn’t been overly careful with it, so wasn’t too perturbed about having to pay this reduced amount. Last night we went to go and pick it up from the post office and on the way we were excited about getting it back; which games were we going to play first, who was the best player, how the TV was a thing of the past. We had a “kid at Christmas” feeling about the magical wii and what our friends at Ninetendo were going to send us.

And when we got the wii it was stuck in a box with polystyrene chips, with our customer service letter taped to it. They didn’t have a personal note, a n overview of upcoming titles they were launching, no free game, no coupon for money off our next game, no invitation to join the wii club, nowhere to access your saved games and mii’s from our old machine. These are a couple of ways to make us a little more engaged with the product. They missed a golden opportunity to tie us in forever, we are obviously interested, we shelled out money again for a second wii, but at a time when our interest was highest they didn’t capitalize on it.

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Zappo’s

I am a fan of zappo’s
Not of their shoes (they don’t ship to Europe), but of the way they sell their product and run their company. I was looking around for some shoes online (I have a sneaker fixation) and got to the zappo’s site, what I found was; numerous photos from different angles, clear description, nicely laid out page. I asked them if they’d ship to me but the nice lady in their customer service department explained that they were only focussed on the us, unfortunately didn’t ship to europe, but had i tried site x. And that’s the key to what they do, they’re a customer service company (their tag line is “powered by service”)

I’ve kept up-to-date with them anecdotally since then, there was a marketing Sherpa interview with them that highlighted that they don’t believe in marketing, but they do believe in delivering a WOW ™ experience. Jim Sterne talked about buying shoes from them (in a web analytics newsletter!) and seth godin highlighted a story that someone blogged about the customer service they offer. A woman had bought shoes for her terminally ill mother, and she had passed away without wearing them. She got an automatic mail asking her if she was happy with them; zappos has free shipping, 15 days evaluation, and free return shipping. She explained her situation, and zappo’s apologized for bugging her at this time, and then sent dhl to come and pick up the package. They then sent a condolence bunch of flowers the next day. This is the human touch that is lacking in many operations these days, zappos has no kpi’s on talk time or restrictions on what is done to keep the customer happy, but the focus is to keep the customer happy (you’ll see in one of the graphs in the presentation the significant revenues they make from return customers, so this pays off)

They get it; the customer experience is key; and its not for some bullshit reason that they then plan to pr what they do. In this case someone had a blog and talked about it, but there must be many such occurrences which remain undocumented (or spread to a couple of close friends).

Following on from the customer experience being key is that you need the right people on board in order to deliver that customer experience. Which is another innovative thing that they do. Everyone that works at zappos (irrespective of what they will do at the company) has to do a minimum of a week (and 4 weeks for customer service) working on the front line, packing boxes and understanding the nuts and bolts of how the company works. After the first week of this training everyone is offered $1,000 plus their pay-to-date to LEAVE the company; the thinking behind this being that if there isn’t an immediate culture fit, then the person can leave and both zappos and the employee are better off (this $1,000 has increased from $100 to $500 to $1,000, and could be looking at increasing).

Hearing this was pretty groundbreaking to me, and I started to do some online sleuthing into them. I read their ceo & coo blog, watched some movies, and contacted them to get some of their presentations.

So now I know more about zappo’s, and I’m even more impressed; I have an invitation to go and visit them for a tour the next time I’m in las vegas, they’re sending me their culture book (I’ll update you when I get it), and I am a firm believer in their value system and way of running their business.

2008; $1billion revenue, selling shoes & accessories;
2015; Amazon substitute?