FOWA: Customer Service is the New Marketing (Lane Becker & Thor Muller) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session with [Thor Muller]( and [Lane Becker]( of [Satisfaction]( They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.*

FOWA 2007 71

The sacred hospitality code: serve people food and welcome them in before you ask them their name. A drink before introductions. Let’s look at customer service from that point of view.

Amandari, Bali: 8 waitstaff per guest

Great approach to customer service, but unfortunately doesn’t scale very well.

Different approaches to customer service:

– customer-focused (Four Seasons, [Zappos](, [Craigslist](
– product-focused (Apple, Google, most web startups)
– infrastructure-focused (telecoms…)

The best way to deliver excellent customer service is the stop trying. Because trying looks like robots in cubes answering the phone.

FOWA 2007 77

[Funny Dell Customer Service Call YouTube video.]( In the US about 3% of the population is employed in related support roles.

“Customer Service from ValleySchwag” on Flickr.

Secrets of the Concierge (hotels):

– they talk, get to know people
– they have little control, but a lot of influence
– smashing the silos

Enter the Cluetrain…

“Customer interactions are our best branding opportunities” Tony Hsieh, Zappos. Call centre, with no scripts, and no metrics for call length. Just do everything it takes to make a happy customer. A bunch of concierges rather than robots.

Online: how do you make conversation central? Look at the guys doing [30boxes]( With their previous company, had so much success they couldn’t really keep up with their customer support. Worked from a business perspective, but they weren’t very happy about it. So with 30boxes, they set up [a forum]( Went to 50% questions unanswered (previous company) to 50% questions answered by other customers.

Once you start building a community, customers want to start telling you lots of other things. Lots of valuable stuff.

Disconnected support tools => disconnected customers. Contact page, FAQ, Trouble Tickets, Forum, Wiki… But they don’t produce and engaged experience, and it’s disconnected from the service that we’re offering. The common thing here is *conversations*, except with Trouble Tickets (separate).

With a trouble ticketing system, Customer Service is often a firewall between the company and the users. When you make the conversations public, everybody inside the organisation gets much more exposure to the problems, questions, suggestions… Your successes are magnified too.

Dell IdeaStorm. Digg-like thing for their more loyal customers.

Dangers: the Digg revolt. (“The numbers.”)

These conversations are happening somewhere. Better be somewhere you can engage in them.

In your hands, but out of your control. [JetBlue YouTube video]( (CEO speaking).

Don’t create systems that place constraints on customer interactions. (Time per call: don’t talk to people, avoid interaction… which is actually the wrong thing to do!)

[Ning]( Putting out major product releases on Fridays, as the only people who would be banging it around during the week-end would be their more rabid users. So they’d get feedback etc. from them, and by Monday the release would be nice and clean for “normal users”.


Think of your story as your customers’ story. They’ll put the word out for you and defend you in the marketplace.

Danger: people are messy.

**Smash the silos**: think like a network. Companies think of themselves as silos. Our customers are in a lot of different places. “It’s not our problem” is a problem. When something breaks, it can be hard to know who to call (ie, cellphone not working). People get bounced around from company to company. So, put the customer in the centre. All the stuff we’re building on the web is very interdependent. So, for customer support, we need to stay focused on the customer.

E.g. [Dopplr](, a web application that you can use all over the place without ever going on the website. Widgets, API, integration. But a customer support nightmare.

Growing belief that nobody is really in charge anymore. There isn’t necessarily one person/entity to go to. Participate in the larger conversation that’s going on.

Danger: competition? It’s difficult to speak about competition in an environment where everything is networked. Some companies don’t want forums because they don’t want customers talking about other products on their site.

“What would a concierge do?”

Genius Bar in Apple.

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3 thoughts on “FOWA: Customer Service is the New Marketing (Lane Becker & Thor Muller) [en]

  1. Hi Stephanie,

    Glad to see some good live notes from FOWA. I was stuck in the back and missed a few bits during the presentation. Thanks for posting ’em.

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