When you read about companies that have great service, such as Zappos, you read about passion, and a desire to put the customer first. I've heard Tony Hsieh says Zappos is a customer service company that happens to sell shoes. If you want to grow like crazy and have your customers love you, you have to do the right thing - set up your company and corporate culture to focus on service from day one.

It's not easy. You're out making your products, raising capital, or finding the right supplier or accountant, and sometimes the customer problems seem like, well, problems. That is exactly where a leader steps in and declares problems to be opportunities.

For example, our lawn service recently burned our lawn and our neighbor's lawn with chemicals. We had to argue that they had done it, and that they should make it right. The clue was the fact that the brown streaks stopped at the property line with a neighbor who doesn't use that service. There was an opportunity for the owner to apologize and immediately make things right. He eventually did, but you can be sure my neighbor is already talking with other lawn companies, offering them not one but two new customers for next year if they can give us a good deal. And we'll be looking for customers who've used them and getting recommendations.

Today I'm off to cover the Blog World Expo in Vegas. I needed reprints of my business cards. I contacted the firm I used the last time, which I won't name, but which promises a quick turn around. They delivered on time, but the cards were all cut wrong, with a 1/16 or 1/8 inch white line in the colored bar at the bottom of my cards (see photo).

I've spent several hours via email arguing that they should reprint and overnight them. They want to charge me for the overnight shipping. I say, correct your mistake and make me the customer advocate. If they did that, their name would be here in the column and they would look like heroes.

I was recently at a client's site, and their customer service manager told me "We think of every problem reported as a gift. It is an opportunity to make our products better, and to keep a customer." Wow. I want to work there, don't you? It is one of the best things I've heard in a long time. Of course, I don't know how it plays out in real life, but noting that this company is in a highly regulated industry where their problems are tracked by government agencies, I suspect it is more than lip service.

Who gives you great service? What do you do to make sure your customers are happy? Share your ideas below, please.

Published on: Oct 14, 2009
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