People Want Better Human Service

“By far, the most requested improvement from customers was “Better Human Service” - “The Cost of Poor Customer Service” by Genesys Global Survey, 2009

Until machine learning and AI get good enough, nothing is more important than the quality of your people. Many business leaders overestimate the effect new tools and underestimate the value of those using the tools, leading to disappointment after the implementation of new systems. Give me the best baseball bat in the world and I still won’t be able to hit a real fastball. Having great service staff truly matters.

People want better human service because they want real service. They want to feel cared for and attended to. They want their problems solved. Self-service is great for common problems, temporary problems, and a lot of other things, but it can never replace a great service experience with a real person.

Here’s a common example from mobile gaming:

John has experienced a bug while playing your game and he chooses to do a search through your FAQ. He finds that the bug is common and that it will be fixed in a patch that will be “coming soon.” After reading it he closes the game. He might have his answer, but he most likely doesn’t feel good about it.

Jane has a similar experience, but instead of going to the FAQ, she decides to contact your service staff immediately. She reaches an agent through your service chat and after a polite and informative conversation, the agent offers to send her a small gift for the inconvenience. Jane accepts, logs back into the game, and finds the gift waiting for her. She feels great and decides to keep playing around the bug.

One experience builds positive associations and goodwill towards your brand, the other is neutral and potentially negative. The difference is the human element behind it, the technology is exactly the same. Putting the emphasis on the tech without the people to use it is a sure way to continue your service failures. Tech is important, but not as much as your team.

Feelings Matter

70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. - McKinsey

We are both rational and irrational creatures, simultaneously guided by head and heart. Feelings matter and, in contrast to marketing and advertising tricks, treating someone with warmth and respect is the right thing to do. It is also profitable for a business to pay attention to the feelings of their customers.

So, how are you taking into account the feelings of your customers through their entire experience with you? Let’s do an exercise, shall we?

Starting with the idea that feelings matter, put yourself in the purchase experience of your customers and consider everything. They must receive signals that you genuinely care for each person that has contact with your business. Here’s an example of what this exercise looks like in the world of mobile gaming:


  • Accessibility - many companies hide their contact buttons or information. I’m an advocate for giving them premium positions in the User Interface. I want people to reach my service team whenever they want without leaving the app to search for some obscure email address that no one answers.

  • Ease of Use - designing UIs is difficult work and should be vigorously tested from a customer perspective. Sometimes what makes sense for your production team isn’t what makes sense for your audience. Anything unclear or painful needs to be fixed. Nailing this and being able to optimize it with player feedback shows you really care.

  • Clarity - I once consulted a team that ran sales with in-game signs that read “70% OFF!”, but when purchased the discount was only 30 percent. In their minds it made sense to highlight that items were now 70 percent of their original cost - extremely confusing in a global marketplace. Proofread and edit your copy like crazy. If in doubt, remember the 3 C’s: Clear, Concise, Cogent.

  • Purchase Feeling - Every game I’ve worked on I’ve pushed for awesome purchase feeling. The visuals, animations, sounds, content of the purchase, and first player experience after purchase must make me have a digital OH-BABY-YEAH!

  • Monetization - Everything must be obtainable by grinding. I’ve received a lot of pushback from this idea since day 1 in gaming, but have never heard a convincing argument otherwise when it comes to F2P. Even if you do this, you’ll inevitably hear cries of P2W, but this can always be countered somewhat if you remember the golden rule of F2P - Time vs. Money. Skill is a completely separate issue, which needs to be a part of game design from the start.

  • And much more….

My example above is by no means complete, but should be enough to give you the idea that no detail is too small to consider. Design to delight.

How to Learn from Failure: 3 Tips

There is tremendous value in failure if you focus on learning from them. I hear a lot of talk these days about people and even organization embracing and loving failure. Without context, however, the idea leaves us in a strange limbo between the let down and the next steps. Today’s post is mostly about how to process failure so that this space feels more like transition rather than confusion and can be adapted for personal or professional use.

  1. Write down everything that went wrong. This will help you with honesty and accountability for the next steps, but only if you put every possible point of failure down. Carefully consider everything. It will hurt, but it’s necessary.

  2. Keep all the information from your failures in one digital space that all stakeholders can access. This will ensure that everyone understands the failures to the same degree.

  3. Plan your changes to address all your failings. Depending on the problems, your implementation can be separated into several parts. It is rarely advisable to change everything at once unless you’re wiping the slate clean.

In today’s world of constant measuring we tend to only look at traditional success indicators, which will only give us a narrow view of how we’re actually doing. For a more comprehensive view, study your failures to stay hungry and ahead of the pack.

Jamba Juice: Apples and FAIL!

Policies have their purposes, but one of them should not be to make customers angry. Properly used, they are guidelines that help an agent navigate the many situations they'll face on a daily basis. If you stick to them without thinking, however, you will inevitably lose a customer.

I visited a Jamba Juice a while back and wanted to order one of their green drinks with kale. The employee kindly informed me that they ran out. I asked if they could substitute spinach. 

"Sure, but what will be an extra dollar."
"That kinda sucks, it's not my fault you ran out of kale."
"Yeah, but that's our policy."

If I wanted to add fresh produce to my order, sure, I get that, but I wanted something for which you are missing a key ingredient. Why not inform me of the policy, but provide the substitute at no additional charge? I can either buy an expensive smoothie for which you will still make a profit or leave without a drink.

Seeing the discomfort on my face, she asked her managed who only mindlessly repeated the phrase, "it's our policy." 

I left. No sale and this story.


3 Ways to Build Purpose in Your Team

Every service request is an opportunity to build a relationship with a customer. Too often, service staff see big complaints as annoying and unpleasant parts of the job. Difficult cases are passed off because “out of sight, out of mind”. This vision of handling customers is rubbish, but understandable. Afterall, it can be unpleasant to interact with upset people all day, even more so if companies offer no incentive to make customers happy.

So, how do you turn it around?

Leading employees from negative knee-jerk reactions to a positive brand-building outlook requires that they first understand and embrace their purpose in your organization. They are not just there to answer tickets, emails, and phone calls. All service professionals are to provide genuine care for customers, to delight them, and should be given the appropriate time and resources to accomplish this purpose. This can often lead to extraordinary measures, outside of standard practice.

But if we’re looking to create the absolute best experience for our customers, shouldn’t we go beyond the expected?

Here are 3 ways to share and build purpose with your team:

  1. Put the writing on the wall - you will need to come up with something that is easy to remember and broad enough to encompass the variety of ways your team can provide service on and off the clock. (i.e. The happiness of the customer comes first.)

  2. Publicly reward those who understand and fulfill their purpose - most companies have a variety of propaganda floating around the office, but like politicians, very few mean what they say. You have to mean it and one way to show this is to consistently recognize and rewards those that practice what we preach.

  3. Empower your team for success - make everyone responsible for their work and give everyone the authority to do what is right for the customer on the spot. Your employees are not children (I certainly hope not) and should be treated with respect, dignity, and love. Invest in them, give them whatever tools and resources necessary, and train each of them to potentially replace you in the future. Those who only hire down have small minds and will find their teams incompetent by default.

How to Turn Complaints into Profits

Resolve a complaint in the customer's favor and they will do business with you again 70% of the time. - Lee Resources

If you follow procedures mindlessly, you will miss opportunities to grow love and loyalty for your company. Before you refuse the request of a customer for the hundredth time, please ask yourself the question, “is this how I would want to be treated?” Often, those who do not understand the power of exceptional service are stingy in the name of protecting company profits. This is shortsighted and does not take into account future purchases made by repeat customers.

Resolving a conflict in favor of a customer has a cost, but it is far outweighed by the repeat business that overwhelmingly comes from such generosity. Acts of kindness tend to bring about more kindness and has been wired into human beings as a survival behavior since our earliest communities. It is petty to risk losing a customer due to profitability of a single transaction and miserly organizations will find themselves struggling to survive in a competitive market.

Be generous, it pays.