Long-term thinking and completeness
The Thank You Economy
After reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s book called The Thank You Economy, I think that for me personally, one of the most valuable lessons in his book is the following: long-term thinking and completeness in customer service.
In his book, Vaynerchuk explains how the economies have developed and changed in the last century. Back in our grandparents’ or even their parents’ day, word of mouth mattered. The little local shops with great customer service and excellent product succeeded, since the same customers, and their families, neighbors and friends, kept coming back. (Vaynerchuk 2011, 11-13)
If in those days the small local shop lost one customer due to for example an unpleasant customer service situation, the owner of the shop was in big trouble. That customer might never return and when he tells about the situation to his family, neighbors and friends, they’re going to go to a different shop as well, even if it might be a little further away. Those people were likely to be a big chunk of the customer base of the local shop. (Vaynerchuk 2011, 11-13)
According to Vaynerchuk, word of mouth lost its voice around the time that ordinary people started to buy cars. They had the power to move further away, commute and shop further away. Malls and parking lots were built to the countryside and these years constantly created more and more distance between friends, family and neighbors. At the same time, local shops vanished and big chain businesses arose. This meant that more and more businesses stopped caring about delighting their customers and started only worrying about numbers, such as stock prices. (Vaynerchuk 2011, 13-14)
Businesses didn’t anymore offer the additional things (such as excellent customer service) consumers used to take for granted and told that they’re doing it to be able to keep the prices low. Consumers obviously didn’t enjoy this, but they had nothing they could do. (Vaynerchuk 2011, 14-15)
Vaynerchuk points out that the emergence of the internet made things even worse. It allowed people to isolate themselves more than ever. In addition, it also allowed businesses to be available around the clock seven days a week, but also made it possible for businesses to make it even more difficult to reach them, which of course, was more cost-efficient. Again, consumers had nothing they could do to improve the situation. A corporation couldn’t care less if they lost a customer and a couple of their friends, since they had thousands or even millions of other customers coming in. (Vaynerchuk 2011, 16-17)
After these years came the world we currently live in. The world of social media. The world of connecting with anyone and anywhere. With social media, the isolating and anonymous internet turned into something more personal and connecting. Word of mouth has power again – and now more than ever. (Vaynerchuk 2011, 17-21)
In his book Vaynerchuk emphasizes the meaning of social media for businesses in the modern world. But to me, it is clear, that social media itself is not valuable for any business. Social media is valuable for the consumers – they now have the chance to be heard. For businesses, social media is just a tool to implement long-term thinking and completeness in customer service.
And I think Vaynerchuk agrees with me, since he doesn’t only talk about social media. One of the most important aspects of customer service is the completeness of it. If a business wants to genuinely care about its customers and implement excellent customer service, it is not enough for the CEO to care nor is it enough that some of the sales representatives care. For the company to succeed, the culture of care needs to be adopted completely throughout the company, both internally and externally (Vaynerchuk 2011, 101).
Internal care about a company’s employees matters just as much as external care about the company’s customers. This is something I read from the book and something I can say from my own experience as well.
I’ve been working for a company for almost two years now. In January 2018, my manager changed to a different person. My old manager cared about us. She did everything she could so that we had all the resources we needed to do our job, she cared about how we were doing personally and she managed to arrange all our shifts according to our preferences.
The new manager who started with us in last January, doesn’t care. She quite rarely asks how we are doing professionally or personally, she only cares about when she has a day off or a holiday and our wishes come last.
Actually, just today I had a talk with my coworker that she feels like she also doesn’t care anymore. If the manager doesn’t care about us, why should we care about her? Why should we be flexible if she isn’t? Why would we help her, if she doesn’t help us? Also today, I got a message from my old manager asking how was it at work today and how I am doing. Because she genuinely cares.
In addition to internal care, the whole company including all of its employees need to care about the customers. Excellent customer service has to be implemented in all of its completeness. Excellent service has to be executed face to face, via email, by using social media and in any other ways of communicating with the customers. Multiple excellent customer service situations add up to a special kind of positive picture of the company in the mind of a customer. They will also share this image of the company with their family, friends, neighbors and now also followers – whether there are tens, hundreds, thousands or even millions of those. But, the important thing to note here is that even one unpleasant customer service situation can be enough to turn this positive image into a negative one, and therefore also the image that the person will share with others is negative.
I also have personal experience of this. One of my projects within our team company is designing and selling post cards. We just ordered the first round of those around Easter, but the delivery of the cards was two days late and I decided to contact the company. I sent them a friendly, but disappointed email about the situation, explaining how it had affected multiple people in our company. The response I got was very unexpected.
The company we ordered the post cards from apologized and said that they would give us back the money we paid for shipping. This was all normal and very kind of them. The unexpected part came next: they also sent us a second package, containing the same amount of post cards, for free with a two day express shipping. Both packages came in the mail during the same week.
After this me and my project team were pleased. We have now told the story to our families, friends, business partners and now I’m telling about it to you. The company is called Vistaprint – and they’re getting all this free promo from me just by implementing excellent customer service. They will also keep me as a returning customer.
This is where the long-term thinking comes in. The business lost some money by reprinting and reshipping our post card order for free, but they most likely gained much more as I and most likely people I know will order more from them.
So, in order to implement excellent, caring customer service, do it with the long-term gains in mind and do it in all of its completeness.
Vaynerchuk, G. 2011. The Thank You Economy. United states of America.