Bottom Limits, Top Limits

SkysTheLimit

Treating all customers the same and treating every customer well is putting a bottom limit on frustration – you can’t go too bad if you do it. Treating customers differently gives you the opportunity to make your best ones love you.

In college I only studied Intro to Marketing for one semester, and it was far from my main focus. What I noticed, though, is that all textbooks and materials tell you that the customer is always right, you should always listen to the customer. Well, not always. Not if this customer makes you spend double the effort on him just to not hate you. Instead, you can devote this time to invent something for the customers that love you. As Seth Godin says, they will talk about you and bring many more after them.

Where I come from, in elementary schools they treat all students the same. They put a bottom limit on quality. They ensure that every student is educated and literate. What they don’t ensure is that schools produce geniuses and achievers. For this to happen, you need to remove the top limit, you need to give students the freedom to explore, the resources and the attention.

In my daily job I sometimes come in contact with customers who always complain about something and want a solution ASAP. They threaten to abandon your product and go to the competition. I say let them go. You have two choices to spend your time – convince them they are wrong and your product is good, or work on the product and make it awesome. You could also work on a program to provide benefits to your VIP customers (the ones who love you). This second choice would be a much better investment than the first one.

This could probably be applied everywhere people are involved – HR, education, communications. Don’t introduce bottom limits. Remove the top limits instead.

UPDATE: Here’s a very good article by Seth Godin that I think relates to this post.

Survivorship Bias and Its Cousins in Social Networking

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I was reading somewhere about survivorship bias recently. It strikes me when I think about it, how often it is out there, in the articles you read, the statistics you view and in any written material that you rely on for information. The easiest way to avoid it would be to have doubt in anything you read, any author, no matter how credible and unbiased he may seem; no matter how hard he worked to win your trust. If you ask Jeff, that’s the way to go – be inquisitive and reinvent the wheel, think through every piece of information that is presented to you. But this is not the point.

The point is, every content provider, news agency or service you are using is entitled to bring you unbiased information. How often this happens in reality, you tell me. I think it takes time for one to actually understand that survivorship bias is everywhere. Our society, our culture is such that we always pay attention to successful people, and try to avoid failures.

Take shelfari.com. It is a site brining social networking into the world of reading. People add books to their shelf, review them, rate them and answer to questions other people have about books. I’ve been a member for a while, and looking at my shelf, there’s no book with a bad review, no book I don’t like. Unconsciously, I’ve been adding only the books that I was impressed by, skipping everything else. Everything in my profile is biased. You cannot call it survivorship bias in this case, but maybe something like good impression bias. Same thing.

And when I think about it, it is normal for me to do this. I don’t remember the books I didn’t like. If I started using shelfari when I started reading and added each book as I finished it, it might be a different story. But the thing is, most social networking tools we use have been out there for a very short time. Does that mean all the information in them is biased? Yes. Does that mean we should care about it? Probably not. A social network in itself is subjective. It relates to one’s personal story and friends and does not serve as an institution providing opinion. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if most people on Facebook took every piece of information that is shared for granted; I wouldn’t be surprised if Shelfari reviews are taken seriously; I wouldn’t be surprised if Twitter messages are considered news, although they might be completely untrue.

All I’m saying is – we should be wary. It is our nature to trust someone who is talking to us, but if we want unbiased information, we should look somewhere else, not in social networks.

Guy Kawasaki

A friend of mine once shared a link with me. He said it was a guy named Guy who talked about entrepreneurship and startups and I might find it interesting. This was about two months ago and what I did was paste the link in a new text file and save it on my desktop. Yesterday I decided to clean up my unused icons and I saw the link. It’s not that I didn’t want to watch the video at first, I just didn’t have a 40-min block free. So last night I made myself watch it, and immediately felt sorry for not doing it earlier.

The speaker is Guy Kawasaki, former Apple Chief Evangelist and a great presenter. For those of you interested in entrepreneurship he might not have anything new, but you must watch it. Here’s the link, enjoy:

Guy Kawasaki talk