Category Archives: customer service

Vinny the Linchpin won’t let you make a waffle

(Seth Godin’s new book, “Linchpin – Are you Indispensible?” just hit the New York Times bestseller list. It’s an amazing, life-changing book and my review is coming soon. If you don’t know the term Linchpin yet, you will. Until then, read this. Now, on to Vinny)

You don’t have to be an artist or a musician or a creative to be a Linchpin.

Sometimes all it takes is a waffle.

My client Altec Lansing is based in Milford, Pennsylvania and when I’m there, I stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Matamoras.

There is a self serve breakfast buffet just like at every Hampton Inn & Suites. Except this one isn’t like every one. And Vinny makes it so much more than self-serve.

I’ve only met Vinny three times but it only took once to realize what kind of guy he is. He waits on you hand and foot, transforming the experience from a self-serve breakfast buffet into a four-star restaurant.

Every time, Vinny enthusiastically lets me know what the hot dish of the day is. Sometimes it’s pancakes, sometimes it’s a eggs on a bagel sandwich. Vinny sells it and somehow, I’m always convinced it’s a good choice to start my day.

Vinny makes small talk if you’re interested but it’s never probing or bothersome.

Vinny insists on making your waffle for you, even though the machine is self-serve.

Vinny bustles around, making sure every item at the buffet is stocked completely at all times.

Vinny always wishes everyone a wonderful day but it’s his actions that ensure they start the day delighted.

Vinny doesn’t do his art only on good days. He does it every day.

It’s pretty clear Vinny doesn’t do this job for the money. He does it to give a gift and because he enjoys making people feel special.

To be a Linchpin, location doesn’t matter. Neither does title or how big your office is.

If Vinny can be a Linchpin working at a Hampton Inn & Suites breakfast buffet in Matamoras, what’s stopping you?

Your new competition

Quick. Take 30 seconds and list your main competitors.

(don’t worry, I’ll wait)



Sorry, but your list is wrong.

Unless of course, you listed Zappos, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Trader Joe’s, Wegman’s, Netflix, The Container Store and Apple.

Your customers are doing business with these companies, who are constantly raising the bar on engagement and customer delight.

Every time your customer’s online order arrives earlier than expected from Zappos…

Every time your customer chuckles at a Southwest flight attendant who weaves humor into the emergency exit script…

Every time your customer feels a human connection with a checker in line at Trader Joe’s…

Every time your customer is glad that there are so many helpful colored shirts at the Apple Store…

It’s happening right now. Your customers are experiencing this kind of interaction (notice I didn’t say transaction) today.

The bar has been raised.

What are you going to do?

You need a David

David makes passengers laugh.

David makes passengers applaud.

David makes passengers safer.

David gives people a story to tell their friends.

David makes it fun for his colleagues to come to work.

David loves his job.

David makes more people fly Southwest Airlines.

David’s video has almost 2.5 million views on YouTube but even without the internet, the story spreads. Social media just helps it spread faster and further.

Your organization needs more people like David.

Do you know how to look for Davids?

Do you know how to hire Davids?

Here’s a secret…

We all have more David in us than we think, it’s just buried beneath years of “you can’t” and “you shouldn’t”.

Does your company culture enable and encourage people like David to be…….like David?


Customer Engagement at the DPHA

Axor Starck

On Saturday, I finished up a two-day presentation / workshop gig at the DPHA conference, the annual conference for the Decorative Plumbing and Hardware Association.

Decorative plumbing and hardware includes luxury hardware for bathrooms and kitchens: high-end faucets, shower heads, sinks, bathtubs, lighting, mirrors, tile, etc.

The DPHA is made up of three primary groups:

1) The hardware manufacturers (like Hansgrohe, Rohl, Kohler and others)
2) The independent reps, who sell the manufacturers’ product lines to…
3) The dealers & showrooms, who sell to architects, builders and the end consumer, the homeowners

Everyone from the DPHA was extremely nice and generous.

Everyone from the Broadmoor, the beautiful, luxury resort where the conference was held was amazing.

Just one example of the Broadmoor’s outstanding service:
My good friend Al Pittampalli was also speaking. Al is a nutrition expert and he is testing a unique new diet to control the pH of his bloodstream. As a result, he needed lots of avocados and lemon. The Broadmoor concierge brought up 12 perfectly ripe avocados within minutes of Al calling. I can’t usually find 12 perfectly ripe avocados at Fairway Market or Whole Foods.

My presentation outlined how customer engagement is the new marketing and covered the three components that make up customer engagement:

Company Culture
Having spent two days last week inside Zappos, I confidently said that customer engagement is only as good as the company culture behind it. Every employee must be respected, empowered and inspired to make each customer interaction a delight.

Customer Experience
Stores like Stew Leonard’s, IKEA and Apple provide unique and remarkable customer experiences. In preparation for the conference, I had toured a few high end showrooms. While they were very clean and professional, they weren’t extremely remarkable. During my presentation, I proposed some promotions that could increase the ‘story’ factor for the showrooms:

“Halloween Light Night” promotion
Stay open two hours later than usual. Hire a local author to read ghost stories to the kids while you take customers on a tour of the lighting section of your showroom with all of the other store lights off, creating a dark, Halloween atmosphere but showing off your best product in the conditions they would actually be used in.

“Come Shower With Us” promotion
Sounds like something dreamed up by Hugh Hefner, right? That’s exactly why people would talk about it. Setup portable locker rooms and let customers pick out which shower heads they want to test. This would also give showrooms an opportunity to demo new product lines of high-end soaps and bathrobes that many are exploring.

At the very least, it would be a story that spreads and as we know, stories that spread, win.

Carpe Defect
As I explained in an older post, Carpe Defect (Seize the Defect) is a term I came up with for taking a bad customer experience and making a customer for life. This blog and many books focus on providing amazing customer service, but we’re all human and mistakes happen. Customers generally understand that and don’t expect perfection, but it is in HOW companies deal with those errors that determine which story gets told.

A big mistake isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is an opportunity to make a customer for life. Instead of just making the customer whole and fixing the problem, you need to go over and above so that the customer has a positive story to tell.

Social Media
As instructed by the DPHA executive committee, I only briefly touched on social media near the end but attendees seemed very interested. Many had open ears and open minds and wanted to better understand how social media and customer engagement can help their industry in what is currently a difficult market for luxury goods.

I would like to thank the DPHA for having me and thank the Broadmoor for outstanding customer service.

Most of all, I would like to thank those attendees who asked questions about how to improve their corporate culture, their customer experience and Carpe Defect. You can’t control the luxury spending trends but you can control how you make the customer feel.

[NB: As requested, I will be posting my slides from the presentation on SlideShare soon.]

Zappos Insights – Day 2


After a fun dinner at CEO Tony Hsieh’s house last night, today was another amazing day at Zappos headquarters.

My tweet-summary from Day 1 is here.

For more, check out the hashtag #zapposlive.

@ZapposInsights 10:15:01 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: @zappos_alfred talking about difference between information and wisdom (insights) Discussing all sorts of growth. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:20:14 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: How do you grow bother personally and professionally? Can’t grow professionally unless you invest in yourself and grow too. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:22:04 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: The typical planning process for business growth metrics ends up with the same results. Need to involve more ‘How’ and ‘Why’. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:22:59 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: What are going to be the ‘Inputs’ that will help make your company successful? Typical strategies are mostly ‘Outputs’. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:24:01 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: You can’t necessarily control the ‘Outputs’, but you can definitely control the ‘Inputs’ to guide the way. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 10:26:37 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Most companies plan to grow all areas of the company, except they forget to plan to grow their company culture #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:28:39 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Building teams that have all three types of people, can help make any process/goal become a reality. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 10:35:47 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Three type of people on team to build successfully – visionary, artist (creative), scientist (numbers) #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:29:55 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: What is your Vision? Zappos started with selection, then service, and eventually found that culture was a big part of the vision #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:30:35 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Delivering happiness is overall vision. Your vision can evolve/grow, too! #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:31:56 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Focus on the core, the mix of 1) what you can be the best at, 2) you are passionate about, and 3) drives your economic engine. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:33:59 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Get Alignment. Get everyone to row in the same direction. Over-communicate by 10-20%. Make sure everything is explained in full #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:36:06 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Have a higher purpose. Fight for a cause/Find you calling. Make sure everyone in the company understands the purpose. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:38:25 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Large meetings work for communicating certain things, some are better suited to a smaller setting, to make it personal. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:44:26 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Come up with whatever metric makes sense, then be willing to change it over time. Can’t use the same measurements over time #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:58:38 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Daily sales report is sent to all Zappos employees, and 1500 brand partners. Open communication benefits all parties. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 11:03:41 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: When we hire people, we want to raise the bar for the team. We look to find people who can really make the team better! #zapposlive

@Scott_Allison 11:17:10 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: – Advice from @zappos_alfred CFO/COO. Really understand your talent & fill any gaps with your team. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 11:26:38 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Dave @dave337 INC 500/5000 speaking how he got “zapped” #zapposlive implemented culture in his company

@ZapposInsights 11:27:01 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: ‘Virtual Bench’ of non-hired potential employees who keep in touch with company because the culture blew them away. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 11:31:57 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: @dave337 is talking about dropping cash bonuses and putting together a 101 dreams list. Employees help each other meet goals. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 11:35:35 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: @dave337 switched to all google apps to make it easier to connect with everyone #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 11:40:55 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: “It all kind of snowballs once you get a few people on-board with it”. @dave337 on growth of culture at ARS. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 11:40:57 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: @dave337 talks how Faceball one way to create fun in the office #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 11:44:12 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: “Official site” on how to play Faceball #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:05:05 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Help Desk is our ‘Concierge service on Red Bull’. Want to make sure all interaction here is as enjoyable as it can be! #zapposlive

@Scott_Allison 12:12:49 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Watch this amazing video which describes how Zappos grow and develop staff and the company for the future #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:24:48 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Roger: We want everyone to realize what it means to really be a service company. Everyone does 40 hrs on phones. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:27:04 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Maura: Everyone is trained on the phones, everyone helps on phones for holiday/busy season (even Tony!) No seasonal hiring. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:31:08 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Hollie: Performance reviews are always evolving. Half of review is based on core values. Technical performance is other half. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:34:26 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Maura: QA and Metrics. We score calls – a lot is put into PEC (Personal Emotional Connection). Customer-facing time . #zapposlive

@jessicalawrence 12:43:21 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Zappos hires less than 1% of all candidates who apply. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:47:51 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Roger: Make sure the values are evident in everything that you are doing. Make sure they are incorporated in it all. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:51:17 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Dave: Allowing team members the freedom to say ‘Lets try this….’ can really push them to succeed, their input is valued. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 14:26:25 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Lots of WOW! in action. @zappos_drob is explaining how we are going to keep in touch and try our best to help after #zapposlive events!

@ZapposInsights 14:37:25 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Up next: Leadership training with Dr Vik. – Pygmalion effect.. People are only as good as you expect them to be. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 14:41:56 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Dr. Vik is explaining how to ‘Spin it and Win it’. Take a positive approach to any situation. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 14:43:27 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Benefits of coaching. Employees have a positive attitude, are acknowledged and recognized, resist negativity and are empowered. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 14:50:41 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: People can talk their way around a situation and work out good solutions, just by having a place to discuss it and work it out. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:10:46 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: “How can we get a coach on-site without having the extra $$?” – Just do it. Find someone who is trusted in the company. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:11:27 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Coaching can be spread out between a group of people in the company. It doesn’t have to be a single coach. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:13:24 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Next question – “How can you afford NOT to get a coach?” What line item is more important than the growth of the employees? #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:14:44 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Coaching position will pay for itself from the productivity of the employees who are empowered and growing. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:30:36 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Leadership vs Management: No one likes to be ‘managed’ or bossed around. We prefer to manage business and Lead the people. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:34:54 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Leadership at Zappos sits in the open. Many people can walk up to key leaders and bring ideas/have discussions. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:36:13 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: “The time we are here is not just to get emails cranked out and work on projects, it’s to be open and available.” @zappos_fred #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 15:37:14 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: via Fred Mossler – Zappos keeps flat level biz, Sr Execs sit among all other employees because that’s where best ideas come from #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:38:02 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: 68% of relationships are broken because? One word. Indifference. Customers come back because of the personal relationship and service. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:41:24 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Customers dictate what your brand is. Take them very seriously. Brand and culture are two sides of the same coin. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:42:54 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Even though roughly 95% of new orders are placed online, customers will contact us at least once in their time with us. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 15:43:54 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: You can no longer hide behind marketing campaign in this transparency world customer determines your brand via Fred Mossler #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:44:27 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: “We don’t tell people what to do, we just let them know what needs to be done.” -Dr. Vik #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:45:18 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: There are a lot of things that exist that were never planned. We give the employees the freedom to pursue their passions. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:47:29 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: In 2006 UPS trucks saved 28,541,472 million miles and 3m gallons of fuel by reducing the number of left turns taken. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:17:08 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Have you ever told the person (who’s name you wrote down) and told him/her the impact they made in your life? #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:27:58 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Talking about Tribal Leadership: Explaining different stages of company culture. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:28:12 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Stage 1 – Life sucks. Stage 2 – My life sucks. Stage 3 – I’m great. Stage 4 – We’re Great. Stage 5 – Life is Great. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:28:48 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: What stage do you think you are in? You can only upgrade one stage at a time. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 16:30:16 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Tribal Leadership – Most organizations never make it to Stage 5 – Life is Great! need to help people move up one stage at a time #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:33:34 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: What keeps people from reaching goal? Fear of failure, Not enough time? Lack of a sense of urgency. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:35:19 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Sense of Urgency: It Must be done. It must be done NOW. Gets things done. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 16:39:33 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: If you could talk to yourself about your goals in a month, what would you say? You can! Go ahead and write yourself a letter. #zapposlive

@Zappos_DRob 19:50:46 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Had an amazing time with the Zappos Insights LIVE crew this week! It’s a new batch of culture gurus ready to change their world. #zapposlive

@rachelcosgrove 20:05:40 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Thank you @zapposinsights! Awesome two days of letting us get infected by your culture. Learned lots & met some amazing people. #zapposlive

@jessicalawrence 18:25:11 Friday, Oct 16th 09: One major takeaway from #zapposlive? Remarkable marketing won’t make up for an unremarkable product. Thanks @clayhebert!

@KillerChef 20:26:19 Friday, Oct 16th 09: Thanks to everyone on the #zapposlive team for their hospitality and openness. Looking forward to our 1st class reunion. (hint, hint, hint)

Zappos Insights – Day 1


Wow. What an amazing day. My head is literally spinning. Anyone who has followed this blog knows I’ve been a big fan of Zappos for a long time but today I got to experience it in person, through the Zappos Insights program.

Zappos Insights is a live event where people can come and learn about how Zappos built their culture and company and values. I learned so much and am really looking forward to Day #2.

Here is a tweetstream of consciousness of the top takeaways from Day #1. For more, search the hashtag #zapposlive.

@jessicalawrence 23:40:38 Tuesday, Oct 13th 09: Who’s at #zapposlive ? The founder of this company: The author of this book: And more!

@ZapposInsights 09:58:52 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Great Start! Teams are presenting their super heroes and powers. Team Foresight, can see 1 minute into future. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 10:01:42 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: team Mucho Oreja’s power is to be able to hear what all the customers are saying about them. #zapposlive

@clayhebert 10:24:54 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Learning Zappos culture (and dancing) at @ZapposInsights #zapposlive (@ Zappos HQ in Henderson)

@ZapposInsights 12:27:55 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: #zapposlive – Showing off their mullets!!

@ZapposInsights 12:30:42 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: “You can talk about culture all day long, but to really feel the vibe, was really cool” – Paraphrase. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 12:35:42 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos tours Mon-Thurs Jan-Feb did 200 tours,haven’t toured this incredible company, you’re missing a major Vegas attraction ;-) #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 12:38:28 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: People get emotional seeing on the zappos tour an actual company with real culture is a reality here #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 12:44:37 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Tony learned through lesson at Linkexchange that culture is #1 priority so you still enjoy going work when biz grows #zapposlive

@jlajoie 12:45:51 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Tony giving us the story at #ZapposLive

@eldridge2m 12:48:05 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Great book via Tony Tribal Leadership Free download #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 12:50:21 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: What’s the larger vision and greater purpose in your work beyond money and profits? – @zappos speaking at #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 12:53:54 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos Tony against bonus plans, it creates wrong results – HR studies rank money as #4or5 is easy but not best way to reward #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 13:07:24 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: @zappos explains that field of ‘Happiness’ says that people are very bad at predicting what will make them happy. #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 13:16:19 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos goal: employees want to be working there ten years from now, helps them grow both personally & professionally #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 13:16:19 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos will offer a class for employees on the Science of Happiness. @zappos talking about Maslow’s Hierarchy. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 13:18:55 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: 3 types of happiness: Pleasure (Rock Star), Engagement (Flow) and Being part of something Bigger (Meaning/Higher Purpose). #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 13:20:05 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Rockstar is very short-lived happiness. Flow is second longest, Meaning/Purpose is longest lasting type of happiness. #zapposlive

@Zappos_DRob 13:24:11 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: What % of your time do you spend learning about the science of happiness? What will make you happy? Study. Learn. Grow. Be Happy. #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 13:34:56 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: @zappos If you hire people who’s values are aligned with the company’s values, there is no need to change people’s values. #zapposlive

@heif 13:40:08 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: @zappos tony says amzn acquisition will be like having a new board of directors (& a board that understands retail) #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 13:57:09 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos Core Values established 2005 #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 14:04:26 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Core values become a blueprint for employees to use when making day-to-day decisions. #zapposlive

@clayhebert 14:24:30 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: @Zappos_Service Having a blast! I didn’t know I could hula hoop at all. I guess I can (a little). Thanks! #zapposlive

@clayhebert 14:27:22 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Just listening to Tony Hsieh ( @zappos ) explain HOW to develop core values. Should be an essential exercise for any company. #zapposlive

@clayhebert 14:31:16 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: “Don’t chase the paper. Chase the dream.” P-Diddy to B.I.G. in Notorious (as told by Tony Hsieh @zappos) #zapposlive

@clayhebert 14:33:26 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: “Don’t worry about MOTIVATION of employees v~fear or money. Focus more on INSPIRATION, then motivation will take care of itself” #zapposlive

@clayhebert 14:36:51 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: A happiness framework from Tony Hsieh @zappos 1) Perceived Control 2) Perceived Progress 3) Connectedness 4) Vision/Meaning #zapposlive

@clayhebert 14:38:07 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: “Are you committed to your core values? Really committed? Are you willing to hire & fire people based on them?” @zappos #zapposlive

@Scott_Allison 14:54:23 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: RT @eldridge2m: Great book via Tony Tribal Leadership Free download #zapposlive

@jessicalawrence 15:01:49 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: #zapposlive Great morning. Love Tony’s interest in happiness research. New book on “to read” list: Happiness Hypothesis

@ZapposInsights 15:12:57 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Make sure your values are action-able. How do you set values that can become verbs? no cookie-cutters here. #zapposlive

@jessicalawrence 15:13:33 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos cares about your pee: #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 15:15:24 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Values. What do values look like? Generosity: Sharing, selfless, kind, giving of time.. How do we make that actionable? #zapposlive

@clayhebert 15:53:23 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: No scripts. No call times. Taking the phones with Holly at the @zappos call center! #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 17:03:02 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Great WOW service sitting listening in with Josh on Zappos CLT, he ROCKS! Best customer service in the World!! @zappos_service #zapposlive

@ZapposInsights 17:15:30 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: @zappos_drob really likes matching handbags to shoes, apparently…. ‘it has to fit my wallet, my cell phone and my gun….’ #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 17:36:34 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Dr. Vik’s daily blog – employee’s look forward to the daily coach keeping them grounded #zapposlive

@eldridge2m 17:17:49 Wednesday, Oct 14th 09: Zappos reps rarely ever have to go to manager because it wouldn’t be good customer service, reps are empowered! #zapposlive

@knacion 00:38:07 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: First it begins inside your heart. Something moves. Then opens. Then frees itself. A rhythm breaking its silence. This is good. #zapposlive

@magazines_jay 09:00:44 Thursday, Oct 15th 09: Great dinner last night at the home of Tony Hsieh of Zappos. Not only great with customer care, but also great with hospitality! #zapposlive

More coming tomorrow!

Book Drips – I Love You More Than My Dog by Jeanne Bliss


What make companies like Zappos, The Container Store, Harley Davidson, Netflix, Rackspace, Umpqua Bank, LUSH, Threadless, USAA, Trader Joe’s, Apple, CD Baby, Southwest Airlines and many more so beloved by their passionate fans?

Jeanne Bliss’s new book explains exactly how.

In her new book, “I Love You More Than My Dog“, Jeanne reveals the five key decisions that beloved companies make to drive customer loyalty. The book isn’t even out until Thursday (you can download the first chapter and pre-order here) but in a moment, I will tell you how to get a copy FREE.

Jeanne devotes a chapter to each of the five decisions that companies make to become beloved by customers. She ends each chapter with an excellent summary of the necessary decision and challenges companies to analyze themselves on that axis, hitting on the questions below.

    1. Decide to BELIEVE.

    Do you believe:
    – In the good judgment of the people you hire?
    – That trust is reciprocated by customers?
    – In the truth of your customers’ words?
    – That trusted and prepared employees grow the business?
    – In more trust than rules? In more training than policies?
    – How would your customers describe your trust in them?
    – Would your employees say you honor them?

    2. Decide with CLARITY.

    Do you have clarity about:
    – The memories you want to deliver?
    – The type of people who belong in your company?
    – How to steer decision making?
    – The experience you are all working toward?
    – Are your decisions directed toward executing tasks or achieving a purpose?

    3. Decide to BE REAL.

    Do you:
    – Touch a cord with customers?
    – Encourage personality and creativity of employees?
    – Communicate personally, without the corporate veneer?
    – Make decisions by envisioning customers in their lives?
    – How would customers describe who you are as people?
    – How do employees describe your company personality?

    4. Decide to BE THERE.

    Are you there for your customers?
    – Do your customers’ lives inform and inspire the behavior, the actions, and the operation of your business?
    – Is your operating plan based on your priorities or customer priorities?
    – Can customers easily tell the story of the experience you deliver?

    5. Decide to SAY SORRY.

    When you apologize:
    – Are you genuine?
    – Do you restore confidence in being associated with you?
    – Do you honor those impacted and resolve their problem?
    – Do you deliver your apology swiftly and with humility?

I love examples, so I love that Jeanne fills each chapter with very specific, concise examples in one-page vignettes of how each company chose to decide using a consistent format that explains each company’s

    1. Decision Intent
    2. Motivation and
    3. Impact.

If you have customers, you need to read this book.

If you are a customer, Jeanne is your advocate.

Read more about Jeanne and watch videos of her on her website,

Jeanne was kind enough to give me three copies of her new book to give away. To get a chance at one, you must take the following two actions:

[full disclosure: I borrowed / stole this “comment + tweet” idea from my friend Michael Hyatt. If you don’t already read his blog, I highly recommend it.]

1. Leave a comment below. Tell me why you want this book. Be creative.

2. Tweet a link to this post. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use Facebook.

On Thursday, October 15th, I will select three winners, whom I will email directly. If you don’t hear from me, you can assume you didn’t make the cut.

Question: Why do you want a copy of this book?

How easy do you make it?


Equinox, a national chain of health clubs, understands that that thrilled members help spread their story.

The economics of health clubs is fairly simple. The many paying members who belong but don’t frequent the clubs subsidize the few that go often. Just like airlines oversell flights, health clubs oversell workouts. If even half the members of any given health club showed up at the same time, gridlock would ensue.

To compete, top health clubs invest heavily in flashy marketing and fancy club amenities designed to sell as many memberships as possible but beyond that, don’t go out of their way to encourage usage.

Enter Equinox. Instead of offering better soap in the locker rooms, Equinox proactively invested in the development of a super slick iPhone app and a mobile website that allows members to:

    – find clubs via GPS
    – find classes by club, category or instructor
    – learn more about the class or the instructor
    – maintain a MY EQ favorites list
    – track workouts and set goals
    – send VIP invitations to friends
    – reserve a bike for studio cycling classes

Equinox not only made it easy for customers to use their clubs, they gave members a story to tell and made it easy for them to tell it. Brilliant.

How easy do you make it for your customers to use your product or service or tell your story?

What you don’t need


Don’t listen to all the people who tell you what you need.

You don’t need a million dollars in funding.

You don’t need a fancy building.

You don’t need a high-foot traffic spot on just the right corner.

You don’t need expensive ads.

You don’t need a celebrity spokesperson.

You don’t need neon signs.

Last night, on the recommendation of @JamesFowlkes, we went for some authentic Philly cheesesteaks at Dallesandro’s, the legendary dive located on a nondescript corner in the Roxborough neighborhood of Philadelphia.

The pictures below tell Allessandro’s story. They have all they need:

Polite but quick

Seven barstools and some haphazard card tables and folding chairs (it was nice so we took our sandwiches to the grassy field across the street)

A delicious (oversized) cheesesteak.

The Zagat sign is from 2000-2001 but as we waiting for our order, we talked to the people in line next to us. The woman hadn’t been to Dallessandros for 40 years and was thrilled to be back.

They usually have a line out the door and make money hand over greasy fist. If they wanted to expand, they certainly could have but they decided to stay small, which is fine.

You don’t need much.

It’s OK to start small.

The important thing is to start.



Sandwich with Peppers

Stacy’s scraps

Stacy's Pita

Stacy Madison and Mark Andrus were fresh out of graduate school and wanted to open a restaurant in downtown Boston, but the zeroes on their student loan debt and a lack of capital put a hold on that dream.

So they bought and opened a food cart, serving healthy sandwiches on rolled up pita bread. The cart was popular and lines grew longer everyday.

THIS was the magic moment. And Stacy and Mark didn’t even know it at the time.

Stacy and Mark decided to find a way to keep the customers waiting in line happy. So they baked the fresh pita bread into different flavored chips. The customers loved the chips and convinced Stacy and Mark to sell them in stores.

Stacy’s Pita Chip company was born.

By 2006, Stacy’s was generating about $60 million dollars a year in revenue and was sold to PepsiCo.


We can all learn a lot from Stacy & Mark:
1) If there is a roadblock to your dreams, you can either jump over it, plow through it or change course.
2) Keep your customers happy. The million dollar business wasn’t in the pita sandwiches, it was in the simple chips they gave customers waiting in line.
3) Listen to your customers. They said the chips would sell in stores. They were right.
4) 100 true fans will get you 1,000. 1,000 true fans will get you a million.

Get better at better (airlines)


This is the first of a series of posts where I evaluate companies and industries who strive to serve their best customers better.

First stop, Gate 36C at O’Hare.

Are airlines doing better well? Could they be doing better better?

Very few companies execute better effectively. To truly treat their best customers better over the long term, the service has to meet three criteria:

1) Significant – The better service must be significantly better, not marginally better.

2) Consistent – The better service must be consistent. The best customers always get the better service. (NB: The ability to occasionally break policy in order to delight a customer is a power that every employee should have – it needs to be built into the company culture. Here, I’m not referring to occasional delights but how to treat long-term customers better.)

3) Transparent – The better service should be transparent. Both the best customers and the not as good customers should know what level of service they are getting and why.

All three are critical.

Let’s look at airlines. Almost every airline offers some sort of frequent flyer program with multiple tiers. Let’s evaluate:

Significant – The difference between sitting in first class versus coach is significant. The chairs are designed to comfortably hold human beings and you get free drinks. The food is significantly warmer, if not significantly better. Other perks like priority boarding and Crown Room access are also significant.

Airlines make it obvious whether you can use certain services based on your status. From the big signs at the ticketing lines to the boarding priority announcement, to the little luggage tags denoting ‘diamond-encrusted platinum’ customers, it’s usually pretty obvious who has status and who doesn’t.

It is even most obvious (if ridiculous) when the flight attendants announce that those seated in coach may NOT use the first class cabin lavatory.

This is where the airlines blow it. There are limited first class seats. Understood. So if you are Diamond, but so are 18 other people on that particular flight, you might end up sitting in 38F. This isn’t the end of the world, but here is where airlines screw up.

From the minute you step in the airport, Diamond is treated as Diamond. Faster ticketing lines. Better baggage policies. Crown room access.

But once you’re on the plane, if you don’t get one of the first class seats you effectively lose your status for the rest of the flight. They use the curtain, not the status, to determine how to treat you.

In coach, your Diamond status disappears. It doesn’t have to.

The airline knows your status and they know where you’re sitting. So why don’t they bring all Diamond members free noise-canceling headphones or two free drink coupons? It’s an easy (and cheap) way to say, “We know you didn’t get 1A this time, but we still value you as a premium customer.” It also tells a story to those passengers sitting nearby, “Get status, and you too will be treated better, regardless of where you sit.”

Marketing execs at any major airline will tell you this is too expensive and too complicated. They’re dead wrong.

In future posts, I’ll look at other companies and industries and how they can “get better at better.”

If you have an industry you would like me to profile, mention it in the comments or email me.

You don’t control your brand

United Airlines screwed up bad.

In the spring of 2008, Dave Carrol flew United Airlines to a gig with his band, Sons of Maxwell. His expensive Taylor guitar ended up broken at the hand of United employees and the airline.

At that point, they had two options:

Option A – Seize the defect
Cost: $3000 and a nice follow up phone call or email.
Impact: Create a positive story and a customer evangelist.

Option B – Ignore it. Offer no compensation or explanation. Hope it goes away.
Cost: $0. Lots of time spent responding to repeated complaints.
Impact: 3.2 million views of a hilarious, viral video trashing United’s brand.

There are two lessons here.

1) Put the customer first, like Zappos, JetBlue and Disney.
2) When you make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. But seize the opportunity. Rectify the mistake, quickly and generously.

You don’t control your brand, but if you take care of your customers, they’ll take care of your brand.


You can’t hurry love


Diana Ross and the Supremes had it right back in 1966:

You can’t hurry love
No, you just have to wait
She said love don’t come easy
Its a game of give and take

Customer engagement is the new marketing. Repeat customers and viral recommendations are based on love.

People love companies like Zappos and JetBlue because they keep the love going, dripping it even after the honeymoon of the initial ‘wow’ customer experience has worn off.

Customers return the love in the form of word of mouth recommendations and over time, everyone wins.

What’s your weakness?

Chain Link

When is the last time you held a meeting to discuss your biggest weakness?

If a competing firm wanted to steal (or even market to) your customers, where would they focus?

Could they treat your customers better?

Ship faster?

Provide better technical support?

How easy would it be for them to make your customers feel better than you do?

Identify your biggest weakness and eliminate it before your competitors exploit it.

United irony

This commercial for United airlines is now 20 years old. Although the technology and tactics have changed, the message remains the same: customers want to feel taken care of.

Top execs at United would do well to watch this commercial on loop and reevaluate their own customer service.

When this commercial aired, United offered two free checked bags, free snacks and free meals on longer domestic flights. In coach.

Today, United charges $20 for the first checked bag and $30 for the second bag. Not only are there no free meals in coach, they charge for those little cheese & cracker snack boxes. Last August, United was the first domestic carrier to eliminate meals on some international flights.

Understandably, times are tough. Costs are up. I understand that. Most customers do too. It’s not about the microwaved chicken kiev and free peanuts.

It’s about feeling treated like a human.

Similar to the customer in the ad, I fired United a long time ago.

Don’t give your customers a reason to fire you.


What would people love?


Innovate, don’t imitate.

The problem with taking someone else’s idea and doing it a little better is that it’s just as easy for the next company to improve it a little bit more. Cheaper labor. Faster machines. The improvement becomes a linear asymptote, until making any further improvement is costlier than the benefit gained.

Instead, dream up what people would love. Then create it.

I say dream it because nobody will ask for it. Before they existed, nobody asked for:

– the iPod
– Build a Bear workshop
– Blue Man Group
– online check-in
– Twitter
– FedEx
– The W hotels

Nobody ever said, “wow, you know I really love writing extremely short blog posts. I wish there was a website that limited mine to 140 characters or less. THAT would be great.”

Doing something just a little better can make a few dollars in the short run but if you can tighten the screws, someone else can tighten them a bit more.

Zappos didn’t sell shoes online just a little bit better. If that was the plan, they could have stopped when they offered more sizes, colors and styles than anyone else. They dreamed that customers would love the best customer service they’ve ever experienced, online or in person. They were right (and did over $1B in sales last year).

Whether you are thinking of starting a new business or improving your existing business, ask yourself, “what would people love”?

Then build it.

A sip of Rome

In the book, The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary, Joseph Michelli outlines how the Howard Schultz built an empire around delivering an experience, not just coffee.

Along the way, many small mom & pop cafes were closed. By being remarkably unique, this is one cafe that never has to worry about the Big Green Coffee Monster.

Basilio Inside

Caffe Latte
When you walk into this small cafe in Dobbs Ferry, say hi to the owner, Basilio. He’s the handsome salt & pepper-haired Italian man who is always behind the counter. He has a knowing smile and a charm about him that makes you feel like you’ve known each other for years.

His small cafe seems fairly nondescript until you notice the small details. The American magazines and Italian newspapers scattered haphazardly at the counter by the front window. The ever-present table of Basilio’s Italian friends cramped at a table just out of the way. The small vase of fresh cut flowers at each of the five small tables (and two more outside when it’s warm enough). The simple vinaigrette on the simple caprese salad. The art, posters and Italian bricabrac that adorns the walls.

Most impressive? The ballet that Basilio dances as he effortlessly handles multiple orders to multiple customers.

And then it hits you. You’re not in Dobbs Ferry. You’re in Rome. Even if just for an hour.

Basilio is a consummate Italian. He’ll make you a damn fine cappuccino, but don’t hurry him. Sit. Relax. Read a magazine. Let Basilio’s calmness be contagious. Enjoy your coffee and the perfect little chunk of biscotti that Basilio puts on the saucer.

Enjoy Basilio’s Italy.


On this particular day, some of Basilio’s regulars brought in two bottles of wine from a recent trip to California. One for Basilio and one for them to share. Beautiful.

Stores up and down Cedar Street have come and gone but Basilio has been going steady for 15 years because he delivers an experience Starbucks never could; Italian vacations, one cup at a time.

Are you smarter than a 5th grader?


1997: Maxine Clark opened the first Build-a-Bear workshop in a mall in St. Louis.
1999: Raised investor money and opened 10 new stores.
2001: The National Retail Federation names Build-A-Bear the Retail Innovator of the Year.
2002: Build-A-Bear Workshop celebrates the 100th anniversary of the teddy bear along with the opening of its 100th store.
2008: 346 stores and $470M in revenue – a huge success.

Maxine did a lot of things right.

She sold an experience, not a product. (The bears are free. Parents and grandparents (happily) pay for the experience of creating them with their child.)

She built a Purple Cow, a remarkable product that people would passionately tell their friends about.

She made it extremely easy for the idea to spread. The concept is perfect for groups (i.e. birthday parties). In recent years, she has expanded the empire with smart licensing deals.

But Maxine did another thing right. She built an advisory board for feedback and decision input. The board members? High paid MBAs or marketing consultants? Surely they would know the market trends and forecasts better than anyone, right?

Wrong. The Cubs are a group of 20 boys and girls 8-14 years old who review new products and suggest additional ones. It meets with Clark and her team 3-4 times per year. Clark takes the board’s opinions seriously–if the board does not approve a product idea, the company doesn’t use it.

If Maxine Clark is smart enough enough to listen to 5th graders, are you smart enough to listen to your customers?

Listen and learn

Listening to customers isn’t a new concept but (most) companies have come a long way from those comment cards in small wooden boxes.

Dell computers has Ideastorm, a website where anyone can go on and post an idea, suggestion or even (gasp) a complaint.


Starbucks has a similar site at


One customer posted his idea requesting the ability to “buy a friend a coffee” remotely. The idea has 35,450 total points and 272 comments (and counting). There is even an official response from Starbucks letting users know that this idea is now “under rest view” by management.


Sites like Ideastorm and MyStarbucks are brilliant. They push the envelope by not just listening to customers but allowing them to participate in the entire idea generation and implementation process.

Dell and Starbucks now know:

1) What their customers like
2) What their customers don’t like
3) What their customers want that they don’t have

How are you listening to your customers? How are you capturing what might be your company’s best new idea?

Sites of this scale aren’t necessary for all companies but if you have thousands of customers in multiple locations and the only way you “listen” to them is a support email address or a Twitter account, it’s time to upgrade the wooden box.

Richard Pryor and the Verizon queue

Brewster's Millions
In the 1985 movie, Brewster’s Millions, Richard Pryor plays a struggling minor league baseball player who inherits 300 million dollars, subject to specific terms, which form the backbone of the comedic plot. His character, Monty Brewster, must spend 30 million dollars in 30 days, in order to inherit the larger sum of 300 million. Otherwise, he gets nothing.

It’s a good thing Richard Pryor didn’t try to spend his 30 million dollars at a Verizon Wireless store.

[Disclaimer: I am an iPhone user who is very happy with my device, fairly happy with AT&T’s customer service and slightly less happy with the network coverage. Since switching over, I try to avoid Verizon stores at all costs but occasionally agree to assist friends & family members and find myself back in a Verizon store, the fifth ring of customer service hell.]

Every time I have been to a Verizon store, (sample size = 14 stores across Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, San Diego and New York), I was queued up for help on their visible in-store digital wait list. I’m sure this was the concoction of some overpaid, misguided marketing team. “Let’s display our customers’ names, in order, on a big screen. Then they’ll know how long they have to wait! Brilliant!”


Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of transparency. The problem isn’t the screen. It’s the pace at which customers are helped. There is zero correlation between your slot on the list and when you get the chance to speak to a Verizon employee. I have been added to the list in the second spot and still waited over 45 minutes for help.

If I have to call a customer service line and I’m placed on hold, the wait is infinitely more bearable if the phone system tells me, “your call will be answered in approximately 8 minutes.” Great. Now I can go make a sandwich.

If Verizon is only organized to deal with such a limited number of customers, they should put their stores in caves high in the mountains and dress the associates in red and black robes.

The other night, we just wanted to buy a new handset. It should have been the simplest of transactions. Instead, we were stuck waiting, digitally immortalized in the “sales” queue. Sales queue! Oh, the irony. Even if I was Richard Pryor, sitting with a briefcase full of cash, jumping up and down, screaming that I wanted to buy every outdated phone in the store at full price, Verizon didn’t care. I wasn’t going to be helped before Kristen J. and Thomas D.

We waited 35 minutes and then left.

Hey Verizon….can you hear me now?

Baked in magic

Walt Disney didn’t build an amusement park and then decide later to make it magical.

Tony Hsieh didn’t start Zappos and then, in year three, decide to deliver the best service the industry has ever seen.

Herb Kelleher didn’t build and operate Southwest Airlines and then decide to turn the airline industry on its head. (The original flight attendants were chosen by a committee that included the same person who had selected hostesses for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy jet.)

Delivering true magic isn’t something that can be fixed with a half-day training class. Because everyone works in marketing, ‘wow’ has to be baked in to the company’s culture. The larger the company, the harder it is to change the culture.

Frank Eliason and his team are doing great work trying to improve Comcast’s customer service and image using Twitter, but that’s customer support, not magic.

Magic has to be baked in.

Green Tea Ice Cream – to go

We recently ate at Chow Bar in New York City. The dessert I ordered was excellent . . . green tea ice cream on fresh ginger snap cookies. The flavor combination was delectable.

Last night, we had finished dinner and were talking about desserts when we remembered the one from Chow Bar. As I sometimes do, I decided I needed to recreate it at home. Now.

The problem was, it was 8:30pm. The grocery store had ginger snaps but no green tea ice cream. Other markets that stock green tea ice cream had already closed. Sure, we could always recreate the dessert some other night but once the memory was in my head, the taste was in my mouth.

It was now almost 9pm on a weeknight. Where was I going to get green tea ice cream?

Then it hit me. Sushi Mike’s!

I hadn’t yet been to the popular sushi joint on the corner of our street but I assumed they must serve green tea ice cream. Doesn’t every sushi joint?

So I strolled in and calmly waited. I explained my odd request for take out green tea ice cream to the server. She strolled directly over to the restaurant manager who immediately helped pack up a quart in a generic container for me to take home.

This is clearly not a typical transaction for Sushi Mike’s. They sell sushi to be eaten inside their restaurant, not ice cream to go.

Not a word of English was spoken (by them).

She only charged me $3. (So I tipped her $2 more.)

There was never a moment of hesitation or debating whether selling green tea ice cream to go is ‘against policy’.

Because of this level of service, I’ll definitely be bringing friends to Sushi Mike’s again for a big sushi dinner. For 2 minutes of customer-focused thinking, they just gained themselves a repeat customer. And I’m sure my next bill will be well over $3.

When your customers ask for something outside your scripted playbook, do you accommodate them? Does everyone in your organization have the authority to accommodate them?

Ketchup and Best Buy

If I asked you how different your service was from that of your closest competitors, many would say, “we’re pretty much the same.”

It couldn’t be further from the truth.

People buy Heinz ketchup, when it is chemically indistinguishable, from the store brand. Same for C&H sugar over generic. By putting a brand around commodities that people used to buy in bulk quantities, from unnamed wooden barrels in Snuffy’s General Store on Main Street, these brands made billions of dollars.

So don’t think your services are the same. Heinz only changed the label and the packaging but by doing so, they changed the story.

Your service is delivered by human beings, who naturally have far more unique qualities than ketchup labels. The tone of voice they use. The confidence they inspire. The rate at which they complete the job. Or don’t. The story they tell and the feeling they deliver to your customer.

As a consumer, you can feel it. Within one minute of entering a business that provides dynamic service, you can tell. If you’ve walked into a Best Buy in the last couple months, you likely felt it. If you’ve walked into a Circuit City in the last couple months………..

Nevermind. You can’t.

Carpe defect

Defects are not only OK, they are opportunities to make a customer for life.

Your business should strive to deliver phenomenal service but phenomenal service doesn’t mean zero defects. A wealth of opportunity lies in how you handle the defects.

It may not seem like it, but your customers understand that your business is run by humans and that humans aren’t perfect.

Let’s say you own a new trendy restaurant. It’s the honeymoon stage. Things are good. It’s a busy Friday night. Your restaurant is slammed; there is an hour long wait. In the controlled chaos, three orders from a table of fifteen are made completely wrong.

Option A
The server, cowering in fear from the tyrannical owner, tells the kitchen to rush the fix but tries his best to hide the error from management. The diners whine and complain when the red-faced server finally brings the entrees.

Throughout the week, some of the fifteen diners continue to grumble about the delay and the others simply forget it. It’s a non-story.

Option B
The server, understanding the culture of service that the owner has instilled in everyone from the hostess to the bartenders to the busboys, immediately notifies the kitchen and then the owner. Even before the fixed entrees are rushed to the table, the owner comes by to personally and genuinely apologize for the mistake, delivering a self-deprecating remark about the growing pains of a hot new restaurant, comps the three entrees, gives the slighted diners certificates for a free entree on their next visit and buys the table two bottles of wine.

For a couple minutes of time and very minimal cost, the owner has flipped the story upside-down. Now, throughout the week, all fifteen diners get to spread the story of their favorite new restaurant, where the food was amazing, the service was excellent and how they know the owner. They tell everyone they know the story of how well the mistake was handled.

Perfection is a myth. Seize defects as opportunities.

The Leech Lake Knife Company

A great story. A purple cow. Phenomenal design. A Free Prize Inside. An army of customer evangelists. Scarcity.

Pretty phenomenal marketing from a 70 year old who has never heard of Seth Godin.

Don Canney has a superpower. He makes the best fillet knife in the world.

Don is an avid fisherman who has a home on beautiful Leech Lake in northern Minnesota. It isn’t unusual for Don to have filleted hundreds of fish after a day of fishing.

Years ago, Don noticed that his fillet knives got dull very quickly from the initial cut behind the gill. When making this cut you are cutting down into the scales that protect the body of the fish from the razor sharp teeth of other predator fish. With a nod and a wink to Mr. Charles Darwin, Don set out to redesign the traditional fillet knife.

Don used his education in metallurgy and material science to design a high carbon/semi-stainless alloy steel that is then hardened and tempered to Don’s specifications. The blade is extremely thin and flexible but the most unique and effective feature of this knife is really what sets it apart. The top is a sharp hook and top two inches of the backside of the knife is razor sharp.

Don didn’t just redesign a knife, he redesigned the process of filleting a fish.

Don’s Leech Lake knives are not only beautiful and extremely durable, they work unlike any other fillet knife in the world. When a Leech Lake knife owner meets a fellow fisherman, it is impossible not to show and talk about the knife.

You can’t buy Don’s knives on Amazon. Don prefers to sell his knives personally, one by one at the many sport shows he attends every year. This gives Don the ability to hand engrave the blade, “Made especially for your nameyear of purchase“.

Also, each knife comes with a nice leather sheath in which Don puts one standard size Band-Aid. Even though he warns people, everyone forgets and cuts themselves on the sharp upper side of the knife.

With a flexible, paper thin blade, many owners are worried about sharpening it themselves. After reminding you that it should only need sharpening once every couple years, Don offers to sharpen it for free, either at any of the sport shows or by mailing it to him. People that attend sport shows usually go every year, so after using your knife for a year, you go back to Don’s booth and buy a couple more for friends or family.

You can buy a basic fillet knife for $12 almost anywhere. Don’s amazing, hand-built knives cost $90 and are worth every penny. You get a lot more than a knife.

My Dad visited with Don at the Minneapolis Sport Show yesterday like he does every year. Don is getting older and he doesn’t do as many shows as he used to but he was still there, affable as ever, selling new knives and sharpening old ones, adding small but important personal touches that also help owners continue to tell his story.

Want to be on the list?

Take it from Danny Meyer, famed NY restaurateur who has redefined the meaning of customer service for the restaurant industry.


You don’t need to know the chef since middle school.
You don’t need to eat there four nights a week for a year.
You don’t need to tip the maître d’ $100.

You do need to be sincere.

If you loved the dish, ask to meet the chef.
If you loved the service, tell your server (and their manager).
If you loved the entire experience, tell the owner.

And make your next reservation on the way out. By the time you return, you’ll be on the list.

Sincerity wins again.

Everyone is an entrepreneur

lemonade-standWhen you were 4 years old, you were an artist (until someone said you weren’t).

When you were 7 years old, you were a poet (until someone said you weren’t).

When you were 12 years old, you were an entrepreneur with your lemonade stand (until someone said you weren’t).

When you got your first job and your second and your third, you were a salesman. You sold yourself.

So we’ve established that you’re an artist, a poet, an entrepreneur and a successful salesman. The world needs you! What are you waiting for?

The culture of Zappos

I love Zappos.  The way that they are redefining customer service is raising the bar and positively impacting how sell things and how people treat their customers.  I recently wrote a Squidoo lens on Zappos’ story.  You can see it here.
In a slideshare presentation on Zappos, they offered a book outlining their culture to anyone who asked by emailing Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos and the driver behind their customer driven culture.  I sent Tony an email on Tuesday.  My email was responded to on Wednesday and the culture book arrived already today.  In the email, Tony invited me to take a tour of Zappos the next time I come to Vegas.  They even have a shuttle from the airport!

Zappos continues to overdeliver and delight their customers.   Read the email below and strive to treat your customers as well as Zappos does.

– – – – – –


Thanks for your email! We’ll be sending out the culture book to
you right away and you should be receiving it within the next few

Also, if you’d like to learn more about how we manage our culture,
customer service, marketing, training, hiring, and business in
general, check out our new “Zappos Insights” subscription service:

There are a number of free videos if you click on the “Featured
FREE articles” in the left column. You can also see a list of
books we recommend reading by clicking on the “Suggested Reading”

Next time you’re in the Las Vegas area, be sure to stop by our
offices for a tour! Our headquarters are located right next to the
airport. Tours take about an hour and are available on any weekday
(we recommend Mondays through Thursdays when there are more people
in the office), and we have a free Zappos shuttle service that can
pick you up from the airport or your hotel and then drop you off
afterwards. To schedule a tour, just email Jerry Tidmore at:

Hope you enjoy the culture book, and please let me know if there’s
anything else I can do for you!

Tony Hsieh

Inside Zappos at
Follow me at