So me and my wife had a babby recently. Unfortunately my wife had some preterm labor around week 33 and we had to spend about 10 days in the hospital. Don’t worry, everything turned out all right (see perfection below), but I was pretty burnt out after the 10 days in the hospital. My wife was happy with my performance during our mini-crisis and she told me to go indulge a little. I’d been super excited about the iPhone 5 release, so I went and picked one up.

Perfection Perfection

Fast forward a few weeks and a couple things started going wrong with the phone. The first thing you can probably see from Elle’s picture. Let me blow it up for you…

That’s not a birthmark, something was wrong with the camera. It showed up the week my wife was due. I had slightly more important things happening so it just went on the ever growing pile of stuff I needed to do later.

Then right after the babby was born another problem popped up. I was talking to my sister on the phone at CVS and the receiver just cut out. Tried calling back, no dice. The speakerphone worked and if I used the headphones I got sound but the receiver was completely borked. But then a day later I picked up the phone and called someone and voila the receiver was working again. Weird. Cut to a few days later and it was out again. So the problem was intermittent.

I’d never had a problem with an Apple product before, so I had no idea how their customer service was in situations like this. I assumed the worst. I worried they were going to tell me it was my fault and they had never seen problems like this and if I want to get it fixed it’d cost ${hefty sum}. So as I usually do when I think I’m going in against a company that’s going to try to screw me I went about building my case.

I started searching around for problems like mine. I found a couple threads talking about the earpiece problem. So it wasn’t just me or my phone. I fired up my iPad and loaded up those bookmarks in safari and headed to the store. I didn’t have a plan for the camera discussion, but the earpiece case seemed pretty strong. I figured I’d lead with that, then throw the camera problem in later.

I drove to the store, steeling myself to deal with crappy customer service and a maybe dim/maybe dumb rep. Went over the plan in my head a couple times and thought about how to deal with refutations. I arrived, walked up to the genius bar and made an appointment. They told me it’d be an hour so I cruised around the mall for a while and came back. I bellied up to the bar to meet my genius with my first rehearsed line on the tip of my tongue ready to start sparring.

She asked me what the problem was and I demonstrated it for her by pressing play on one of my voicemails and holding the phone up to her ear. “See, no sound.” I said. Then before I was able to say anything else she whisked my phone away into the back and came back a minute later. “Yep. I confirmed there was no sound. We’re going to go ahead and replace your phone.”

But…but…I had all my plans to deal with a crappy customer service rep and get outraged about some ridiculous policy. I practiced arguments. I didn’t even get to show you my links!

I had dealing-with-bad-customer-service-blue-balls. I was so ready for an argument that just never materialized. So what do you do when you get what you want? YOU SHUT UP and let them give it to you. I almost made it but broke while she was setting up the new phone. I tossed out a “Is this kind of thing common? I read about it on blah blah blah” nonchalantly, half making conversation but mostly just needing to get out some of that pent up preparation frustration. I picked up my brand new working phone and headed out happy as a school girl.

Compare and Contrast

A few days later I picked up Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. This isn’t usually the kind of thing I read, but I was really impressed with a guy I learned about named Apollo Robbins. It was reported he was enamored with the book so I grabbed it on my kindle and started reading.

Chapter 1 of this book talks about a bunch of stuff, but the thing that caught my eye was the contrast principle.

{% blockquote Robert B. Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion %} There is a principle in human perception, the contrast principle, that affects the way we see the difference between two things that are presented one after another. Simply put, if the second item is fairly different from the first, we will tend to see it as more different than it actually is. So if we lift a light object first and then lift a heavy object, we will estimate the second object to be heavier than if we had lifted it without first trying the light one. {% endblockquote %}

So What’s The Point?

OK, so I’ve had you reading this pedestrian story about increasing the planet’s population, things working out splendidly at the Apple store, a cool video on the internet and a 6 year old book for 13 paragraphs now. Here’s the point:

Having good customer service is even more powerful than you think.

I know…that came out of nowhere, right?

Things go wrong with company’s products. This makes customers worry. Not just because the thing they have is broken, but because there’s so much bad customer service out there and they now have to go interact with it. Cable companies, utility companies, these guys, the MTA, and the DMV are all out there creating bad customer service experiences.

When something goes wrong with your product your customer gets worried. They’re primed by all the bad customer service experiences they’ve ever had and they call you up or walk into your store. At this point you have a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of the contrast principle. They’ve presented themselves with all the bad service they’ve ever gotten worrying if you’ll be the same. They’re aiding and abetting your success before they even talk to you. Present them with just adequate service and because of the amplifying effect of the contrast principle they’ll think you’re the greatest thing since that last thing that was so great.

Now imagine how over the moon your customers will be when you empower your customer service team to go the extra mile and literally do everything it takes to make them happy…