Radio Guest Appearance: “Innovation in Customer Experience”

by David Eckoff · 3 comments

“People will not always remember what you said or what you did, but they will remember how you made them feel.”

I was recently a guest on High Velocity Radio, talking about “Innovation in Customer Experience.”

Show hosts Stone Payton and Todd Schnick had the show professionally transcribed. Read on…

Stone Payton: Alright. Well next up on the High Velocity Radio Show – I am delighted to introduce to you technology entrepreneur, David Eckoff. I met this jean-clad, t-shirt wearing entrepreneur some weeks ago.

Todd Schnick: He’s our kind of guy.

Stone Payton: Yeah, he’s got the backpack and the whole bit and we talked about all kinds of things that really interest me and, candidly, sometimes befuddle me. I just have to admit up front you’re going to find out very quickly, this guy has got several IQ points on you and me. I can’t wait to dive in and find out what he’s up to and learn what we can about where this world and where the business environment is headed with respect to technology. So with all that said, please join me in welcoming David Eckoff.

David Eckoff: Hey Stone, it’s great to be here today and hear you remarking about my t-shirt and jeans-clad entrepreneur dress. I really enjoyed hearing Steve and your start of the segment today. I got my start at IBM also, and after too many years wearing white shirts and red ties, it’s great to be an entrepreneur and I spend a lot of time in the Silicon Valley and the Bay Area and it’s I think standard dress for the black t-shirt and jeans.

Stone Payton: Well we all have an IBM connection. That’s how my mortgage gets paid. My wife has a real job with IBM as a consultant, so thank you IBM, our second sponsor. (laughter) I think mostly what we want to talk to you about this morning is innovation in customer experience. Can you expand on that? Tell us what that means to you.

David Eckoff: People ask me all the time, “So David Eckoff, you’re a technology entrepreneur, why are you so interested in customer experience and why is it so important?” Well, a decade ago there was a big gap in product quality between the Number 1 and the Number 2 and the Number 3 players. And today that gap has closed. So the key question that we need to ask ourselves as business people is how are you going to differentiate your product or service? I believe a great opportunity is to differentiate based on customer experience. Jeff Bezos who is the founder and CEO of, he makes the distinction between customer experience and customer service. He says “Customer experience at Amazon includes having the lowest price, the fastest delivery and being reliable enough so that you don’t have to contact anyone.” That’s their customer experience. And he says “You save customer service for the truly unusual situations when things go wrong with the customer experience. This is when you as a customer interact with Amazon employees.” And he views this, and his company executes on this, as it’s the exception not the rule. So customer service is a subset of the overall customer experience. And Bezos said something that really got my attention. This is so important, what I’m about to tell you. “Fixing customer problems builds loyalty with people.” Think about that. It’s so important I’ll say it again. Fixing customer problems builds loyalty with people.

Todd Schnick: That’s my favorite thing about social media, David, is that my clients say, “Oh, I don’t want to get involved in the social media space because I’ll rope myself up to getting criticized on line.” I say, “That’s the best opportunity you have to build a long term loyal customer, when you can publicly fix and solve that problem. You’re more likely to build a loyal customer long term than if they came in and had an average experience that you never really knew about.” So a lot of people talk about customer experience and there’s a lot of ways to impact that. How does technology play a role in there?

David Eckoff: So technology can play a role in multiple ways. A couple of examples, and I’ve been paying a lot of attention to customer experience just as myself, as a customer, so I’ll talk about things from my own personal experience. I’m interested in hearing from your experience too, what you’ve seen. So technology, a couple of examples…I just ordered an item on recently and before it had even arrived, the price had declined. I got in contact with Amazon and on the technology side, they’ve got something on their website where they make it easy to get in touch with them. They don’t just publish their phone number, but all you have to do is enter your phone number and click and bang, they call you right back.

Stone Payton: Oh that’s cool. I didn’t realize that.

David Eckoff: But it gets better, Stone. It gets better because at this point you can imagine as a customer I’m not too happy that the price went down. I didn’t even have the item yet. So I asked them “Could you issue me a refund for the difference.” And I didn’t really think they would but I figured it was worth talking to them anyway since they made it so easy to get in touch. And you know, they did. They said “Hold on. This particular item is with one of our divisions. We want to connect you to somebody from that division.” And of course what happened when the person connected me, they disconnected me. (laughter) So technology can have its ups and its downs but here’s where it gets really so much better is within a few seconds I got an email automatically kicked off to me from Amazon saying “We noticed you just had a customer service call with Amazon. Did this call resolve your problem? Click here for Yes. Click here for No.” So of course I clicked here for No. And then an amazing thing happened. They gave me the opportunity to call them back on line or they called me back and I was connected automatically. Because I clicked “No, the problem wasn’t resolved” I wasn’t just connected to a first line customer service rep. I was connected with a specialist who handled customer service problems that had not yet been resolved and she, on the spot fixed it.

Stone Payton: Nice.

David Eckoff: How impressive is that with technology to have that happen so quickly? And Amazon is clearly a company that’s thinking through that customer experience and how to win people over when things go wrong.

Todd Schnick: What do you think about Amazon buying Zappos?

David Eckoff: I’m a big fan of Zappos. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, he spoke at South by Southwest this year and I’ve been studying what he does and a couple of things that… we’ll talk about Zappos in a minute but how do I feel about it? I’m a passionate fan of Zappos. Zappos for those of you who don’t know, they’re an online ecommerce site, they’re primarily known for selling shoes but they’ve branched off in other things like clothing, accessories like sunglasses, etc. My own experience with Zappos, I went to buy a pair of sunglasses. They’re really cool sunglasses. I couldn’t wait to get them. Being the cheap SOB that I am, and as an entrepreneur, I did not put the most expensive shipping. I opted for the slowest shipping. And guess what? Zappos, one of the things they do for the customer experience, they want to wow people and they surprise upgraded me to overnight shipping. How cool was that?

It’s things like that that win customer loyalty. So it’s not just when things go wrong that you can win loyalty, but also it’s when things happen unexpectedly, positive surprises. So just in this room, how many of you like surprises?

Stone Payton: I do.

Todd Schnick: I do.

Stone Payton: Right.

David Eckoff: So Zappos is all about good surprises. At South by Southwest, so if you really want to understand how to do customer experience, you really want to study There are some great videos online from South by Southwest that you can watch. One thing I learned at South by Southwest from Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, is he talks about how Zappos doesn’t just sell shoes. They don’t think that they just sell shoes. Zappos sells happiness in a box. Put yourself in the position of the person who is ordering those shoes. Of course they want the shoes, but at the end of the day, what do they really want? They want to be happy. They want to feel happy. So Zappos makes sure that they sell happiness in a box.

Compare that to other businesses. Cold Stone Creamery, have you ever been there? It’s ice cream.

Todd Schnick: Yes.

David Eckoff: Do they sell ice cream? Of course they sell ice cream. As a customer do I go there and get ice cream? Sure. But at the end of the day what do they really sell.

Todd Schnick: Happiness in a cone. (laughter)

David Eckoff: Happiness in a cone or a cup. You got it. I spent some time this past week talking with the president of Cold Stone Creamery, Dan Beem, who’s a great guy and who has a great vision for their customer service and customer experience and he talked about how their goal is to WOW you at Cold Stone and to make sure… We talked about that with Zappos. He thought that was so cool. He was like “Happiness in a cone. Yeah. That’s it.”

Stone Payton: So you’re finding rock stars in this arena that are doing it well and that what? You’re going out to your client base and helping them replicate that success in helping them develop some of these strategies?

David Eckoff: Well Stone, I divide my time between a couple of things. One of them is that as a tech entrepreneur I’m developing and launching my own technology business. In fact today the open beta for my newest startup is launching.

Todd Schnick: That’s what I want to talk about.

David Eckoff: We’ll get to that in a minute. I figure less people are interested in Spitter unless they’re sports fans but, think of it as a great place for sports fans to be able to get all the news and all the fan discussion. There’s so much of it and it’s so spread out over the web, we aggregate that into one easy to scan page stream. So think of it a little bit like sports, maybe a little bit like Twitter, that’s Spitter. That’s open data starting today at Great place for sports fans.

Stone Payton: I thought it was just solely dedicated to baseball when he said Spitter. I didn’t know. (laughter)

David Eckoff: The other part of what I do, I divide my time between that and I work with select high technology start ups, in particular high potential start-ups. I’ve worked with companies like Zazzle, Kleiner Perkins company in the Bay Area, which is kind of like youtube except it’s all about live streaming video. Great group of people over at youstream. And Chris Klaus here in Atlanta. Great local entrepreneur with 3D Virtual World Kaneva. I’m really impressed with what Kaneva is doing and Chris is an outstanding entrepreneur.

But I also work with them in some ways with customer experience but my focus on customer experience is really about learning best practices and going out and putting them into play in my own businesses. You mentioned social media before. Social media, you also mentioned Zappos. Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, he’s on Twitter ALOT! More than anyone I know, he’s a Twitter rock star. So you guys are all on Twitter, right?

Todd Schnick: Yes.

Stone Payton: Yeah, I think so.

David Eckoff: And out there in radio land, if you’re not on Twitter really check it out. It sounds like the dumbest thing. I thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard of when I heard about it. Like “Why would you want to Tweet about what you’re doing?” But it turns out it’s an ultra powerful way to connect with people. Jack Welch, the CEO of former CEO of General Electric, even he’s on Twitter and he said something “Twitter makes me smarter.” Well, I’ve got a lot of respect for Jack Welch and when Jack Welch says “Twitter makes me smarter.” I think there’s something there.

Todd Schnick: The cool thing about Twitter is that people like you and I can connect with Tony Hsieh.

David Eckoff: Yeah.

Todd Schnick: He’s active. He’s very engaged in Twitter.

David Eckoff: And not only can you connect with him, but Tony Hsieh, how cool is this in terms of customer experience? He goes out there on Twitter and he says, this is like last year sometime, and he says “Hey, if you’re a Zappos fan and you’re going to be in Las Vegas anytime over this weekend” that’s where their company is headquartered “We’re having our company picnic on Sunday and we’d love for you to come by to our company picnic.” Now how amazing is this.

Stone Peyton: That rocks.

David Eckoff: If you’re a fan of the company and the CEO says if you’re going to be here come to our company picnic, I mean this is just like unprecedented.

Todd Schnick: It might be the coolest office working environment I’ve ever experienced or ever seen. If you ever get a chance to get online and see digital pictures of the Zappos headquarters in Las Vegas, it’s a pretty amazing place. Talk about building happiness, it’s a fun place to be.

David Eckoff: Not only can you see it online, but Tony makes this promise. If you come out to Las Vegas and you’re out there, get in touch with them and they’ll take you on a tour. They’ll even pick you up at your hotel and bring you there. This is a company that’s dedicated to building great relationships with their customers and I read that Jeff Bezos said he was so impressed with Zappos and how they do things and that’s one of the things that he liked a lot.

So what do I think about the purchase from Amazon, I think it was about 800 million roughly, I think that’s a great combination of companies. I’m a big fan of both companies.

Stone Payton: Okay so how does the guy with the little 3 million dollar consulting firm that really buys into that whole approach, what kinds of things does he do to replicate or she do to replicate that same type of practice that you see with the Amazons and the Zappos.

David Eckoff: I think it’s looking at each point of interaction that you have with your customers and looking at it from the customer experience. I’ll give you an example. Cold Stone Creamery, this is how I end up talking with Dan Beem, the president of Cold Stone last week… as I see things go right “I’m interested in understanding that and replicated it.” As I see things go wrong “I’m interested in understanding what things led to those things going wrong so we can learn from that and maybe avoid them.” So it was my birthday a couple of weeks ago and there’s this one ice cream from Cold Stone that I just love. It’s a creation called Mud Pie Mojo and I’ll tell you what, I just love this Mud Pie Mojo.

Stone Payton: Sounds good. Sounds so good for you too. (laughter)

David Eckoff: I’m sure it is. Those folks on the air that know me know that I eat a lot of organic salads and I pretty healthy, but I’ve got a weakness for this Cold Stone Mud Pie Mojo. So all day long, on my birthday no less, I’m thinking of what? That Mud Pie Mojo and I’m just like “I can’t wait to get in there.” I looked up online at to see the little store near me what time are they open till. They’re open till 10:00 at least according to the website. I show up at 9:30 and the door to the store is locked. I reach out and pull the handle. I tried a couple of times. I tried it again a couple of times. And it’s still locked. Can you imagine the look on my face? And of course the people at Cold Stone Creamery employees are in there closing up and they’re like “We don’t want to open the doors.”

So, this is part of the customer experience. It’s not just when you’re in the store, not just when you’re getting ice cream in this case. It’s really the whole end to end customer experience. If you look at that WOW factor from Zappos that they’re trying to have, or from Amazon, you really don’t want to be disappointed customers like that, particularly not on their birthdays. On your birthday, you can spend your birthday anywhere. So out of the infinite number of places I could have spent my birthday, I decided to spend it with Cold Stone Creamery to get my Mud Pie Mojo.

I had a good conversation with Dan Beem about this and some lessons learned from this is Dan Beem, president of Cold Stone nationally, he has a vision for the customer experience that’s dramatically different than that. I think what we see there is one of the things that can go wrong it is the classic example of the executive and the executive team that has a vision for things being one way, but then the execution of that plan either being a lot different or a wide variation. It goes to show that it’s important, it’s critically important, to have the communication channels open so that you understand when things go wrong so you can make them right.

In this case I thought “I’m going on this radio show with Stone talking about customer experience. Let’s try this out. Let’s see if it happens like Amazon or not, just as an experiment. And what can I learn from this that I can go back and apply to my own businesses?” And here’s what I found…So Dan said that I have three lines of defenses or three pillars. The first thing is the person who’s at the front line. The person who’s the staff person making ice cream. They should be able to solve any problem and make things right on the spot. If that doesn’t happen then the store manager or the franchise owner should be able to handle things and turn things around on the spot. They want you to have a WOW experience, not a what happened experience. And the third line of defense is they have a national 800 number and you can call into and they should be able to solve things and turn things around on the spot.

My experience in this case is none of those three worked. All three of them failed. So again further disconnect between their vision and the actual execution. But having spent a lot of time with the folks from Cold Stone over the past week at an executive level to talk with them more about this and seek to understand how things are going with that, I have no doubt in my mind that they are absolutely committed to changing the execution of their plan. That’s impressive and I have a lot of good things to say about the folks from Cold Stone at the executive level and the focus they’re having.

So what can we do as entrepreneurs? I think it’s put yourself in the shoes of the customer. What does the customer really want? They’re looking for that happiness in a box, the happiness in an ice cream cone. I read this recently. I thought this was great…I wrote this down and highlighted it in yellow. I recommend that you write this down and highlight it in yellow yourself. Put it somewhere that you can see it.

Stone Payton: We’re going to record it. (laughter)

David Eckoff: Outstanding! “People don’t always remember what you say to them but they almost always remember how you made them feel.” So again people don’t always remember what you say to them, they don’t always remember what you do, but they almost always remember how they feel. So how do you want your customers to feel before, during and after their interactions with you?

I’d say start with that and then design everything in your execution to make that happen. Have some methods in place so you can know if that’s on target or not on target. A few ways that you can know if it’s on target or not on target is there’s something called Net Promoter Score. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this. This is a customer satisfaction measure. When I was at IBM, Steve you’re from IBM also, we put a lot of focus on customer satisfaction and measuring it. We measured it quarterly, we looked at the scores. We put a lot of focus on that. Well a funny thing, some smart consultants at Bain, Bain Consulting, studied us extensively. Statistically they found that customer satisfaction does not necessarily statistically correlate with profitable growth. That’s interesting.

What else might you want to focus on as a metric to measure? How about customer loyalty or intent to purchase? Well it turns out, none of these things statistically correlate to profitable growth. But the folks at Bain, these smart rocket science kind of guys, they did discover one metric. There is one metric that they found that consistently statistically correlated to profitable growth for the company. When I heard this and heard that GE is focused on this and I heard great companies like Intuit focused on this, I thought “Maybe I should learn about this and focus on this.” This metric is one thing. “Would you recommend this product or service to a colleague, family member or friend.” When you measure that, all you have to do is ask that one question and the follow up question was “Why do you feel that way?” If you can understand that you’ll know pretty much everything you needed to know.

Now a quantitative person like myself, MBA, so not just mega bad attitude but also the degree. (laughter) I put a lot of focus on measuring. I’m kind of a detail oriented person and so when I thought “You can only ask one question to find out everything you need to learn?”, that’s pretty amazing. I like the simplicity of that. It’s simple. It’s powerful. You can have that as an operating metric for your business.

But what does this mean for your business? The score is from ten to zero, ten being: Absolutely, you’d recommend to friends, zero being: not at all. How does this work? You take the percentage of people who said ten or nine, those are called promoters. Those are people that are out promoting your brand. You want these promoters. Then the people that are eight and sevens, these are neutral. Throw those numbers out. It’s not that they’re unimportant customers but they’re not promoters and nor are they the next step which is six, five, four, three, two, one, zeros. These are people who are detractors. These are people who are out, they’re so unhappy with you.

Stone Payton: We’ve got to hush them up. We’ve got to quiet them, right? (laughter)

David Eckoff: Well it’s not so much that you have to quiet them, we want to listen to what they have to say. There’s that great commercial from Direct TV, I think, where they’re poking fun at saying “Those customers who are trouble makers, we need to quiet them down” or something like that. Well it’s not so much we need to quiet them down, we need to learn from them. But we want to turn them from detractors into promoters, so turn things around.

But to use the metric you take the percentage who are promoters, minus the percentage who are detractors, that’s your net promoter score. A perfect growth engine for a company would be having what percentage promoters? One hundred percent. For every customer you bring in, they’re out recommending to friends and bringing more people in to your business. That’s a perfect growth engine. What would be a perfectly bad growth engine? What percentage being net promoters?

Todd Schnick: Zero.

David Eckoff: Zero. Correct. So Steve, a surprise to you? (laughter)

Stone Payton: Can you tell who in the audience is educated? I mean I’m really enamored with this concept. I’m really glad we decided to record the algebra. But we love the idea.

Todd Schnick: Yeah, we’re not into the math thing. That was a problem. (laughter)

David Eckoff: Do you know any companies that have perfectly bad growth engines with like 0% promoters? Or even like negative net promoter score meaning they’re creating more detractors than promoters on a daily basis. I know some companies, I know some entire industries like that.

Stone Payton: Huge government agencies maybe.

David Eckoff: Yeah, maybe industries like airlines. Maybe certain cable companies that should remain nameless at the moment. I think in all our experience we see this. What does that mean for business? It means you’re always having to spend a lot of money on marketing and you’re having to work really hard and spend a lot of money with marketing to attract new customers all the time because you have a leaky bucket that’s constantly losing customers. Why would you want to do that? Wouldn’t you prefer to have a bucket that’s constantly filled up with customers who are going out getting more customers.

So this is something that I’ve experimented with since I was at Real Networks in Seattle, implemented at Turner Broadcasting when I was VP for new product development at Turner. All my clients I work with use the net promoter score. Chris Klaus, a great entrepreneur here in Atlanta with When I explained that net promoter score to him, he’s a brilliant guy, he instantly saw the potential for this. As a consultant, one of the things that just makes your heart – you just feel really great, is when you make a recommendation and the client company actually goes out and does it and they do it in a big way. So they’ve put a lot of focus on the net promoter score. They’re learning. It becomes a metric, it’s a benchmark. And no matter what your score is, good, bad or indifferent, no matter what the score is, every quarter you try to increase it. So wherever you are, and just like in life, no matter where you are in life, keep improving. If you can improve just 1% everyday in anything you do, by the end of the year, just do the math on that, you’ll make tremendous gains. Same thing with net promoter score.

Todd Schnick: I love this concept. Let me tell you, David, an example of how one of my clients puts it in action. I do marketing for a local restaurant and we solicit customer feedback. We have cards on the tables and they are invited to fill those out and put them in the confidential box. It’s my job to go through those and measure and quantify the data. Every now and then someone has an experience that’s not up to their satisfaction. We naturally take steps to address that and solve that problem. But fortunately for us, more often than not people say “This was a wonderful experience and we’re going to tell all our friends about it.” Well we take steps to encourage that. We then just don’t say “Thanks.” We send them Buy One Get One Free cards and we thank them and we take other steps. We don’t just want to reward people who are complaining. We want to reward people and say “We’re going to take the next step and help facilitate them to be promoters.” So it’s a phenomenal concept. So I thank you for sharing that with us.

David Eckoff: I really like that and as we were talking about you put a lot of focus on listening to your customers, there are two companies I wanted to call out as great examples that I’ve seen during the past year. I’ve worked with them as customers myself. They provide a great example I think we all can model. They’re both on Twitter. One of them is Dell, Dell Computers and the other is Comcast. So I’ve got to say my experience with both of those companies with their standard customer service channel has been abysmal. Michael Dell are you listening?

Comcast, I already know you’re not really listening but…

Stone Payton: They’d listen on Twitter though, right?

David Eckoff: But standard customer service channels are so abysmal. Everyone I talked with in preparation for this radio show asking about companies that do it right and companies that don’t, I mean there are certain companies that happen pretty often to come up in conversation, but those two, their standard customer service needs a lot of work. But they’ve got some folks who are pioneers doing some great things. So at Dell, Richard Bernier, who’s on Twitter at rich_@_dell. Rich, though I had some issues that weren’t being resolved and I said “You know what? I bet Dell has got some folks in social media. I’ll get in touch with them and see if they can help?” Rich is just out there on Twitter all day long and what’s he doing? He’s looking for people who have problems with Dell computers and their Dell experience and he’s like, along with the rest of his team, he’s helping people one at time to solve their problems.

Stone Payton: How cool is that?

Todd Schnick: That’s great.

David Eckoff: So when I had problem with my laptop and standard channels weren’t helping, in fact it was a miserable experience, he said “You know what? I’m going to help you get this done and here’s how we’re going to do it.” And I thought that was tremendous.

And Comcast, a company that I just gotta wonder with their standard customer service, they’ve got somebody who is like that. I think everyone of our companies needs someone like this. At Comcast, they’re on Twitter at comcastcares. His name is Frank Eliason and he is Director of Digital Ecare. If you just say anything about Comcast like “I’m having a problem with Comcast.” So last night, the season premier of Mad Men was on, so one of the people on Twitter who I follow was having some problems with his Comcast service and he’s upset because he’s not going to be able to see Mad Men. He put something into Twitter of course saying “You know, problems with Comcast.” What happens next is something that completely surprised him. Comcastcares on Twitter gets back in touch with him, just out of the blue, they’re monitoring what’s going on Twitter with the conversations looking for opportunities to help customers and they said “How can we help.”

Stone Payton: That is awesome. David we’re about to run out of time but before we let you go, a couple of things. One, how can people get in touch with you to learn more about your work, about innovation in customer experience and maybe apply some of these ideas and strategies to their own work. What’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?

David Eckoff: You can get in touch with me via email at dbeckoff at gmail dot com. or my blog or you can check me out on Twitter. On Twitter I’m davideckoff.

Stone Peyton: Or just howl at the moon and you’ll be there, right? (laughter)

David Eckoff: Something like that and I do monitor Twitter for people talking about me and I’ve got alerts on Google if you mention my name out on line, I’ll see it and I’ll be in touch. I like to be real accessible and would love to hear from folks and talk business.

So I’ll leave with this closing thought. Another area where companies seem to go wrong is with, and I see this, is how they treat their employees. Think about this. How you treat your employees, your employees will never treat your customers any better than you treat your employees.

Stone Payton: Wow. You’re so right.

David Eckoff: So raise the bar on how you treat your employees. Zappos does a great job with that. Amazon does a great job with that, and many other companies. If you’re looking to have those WOW experiences for your customers, think about how you treat your employees and that can make a big difference.

Stone Payton: Well said. Hey one last thing. We’d love to put you on the hot seat for a moment if we can. Of course you heard us as we were asking Steve Bistritz to share a mistake that he’s made at some point in his career and what he learned from it. Could we get you to do that? A personal mistake that you’ve made in your career and what you’ve learned from it.

David Eckoff: Yeah. Since we’re talking customer experience, do I have 60 seconds to tell the story?

Stone Payton: You’re good. Go ahead.

David Eckoff: Okay. So I just told someone about this the other day. It’s kind of funny I think for customer experience. So I used to publish a sports magazine called Inside Carolina, covered University of North Carolina basketball and football. A great way to go to a lot of games and a great fun business to have. It actually put me in an entirely different path in my career that I never could have anticipated. But I owned the domain name, a pretty sweet domain name to have.

Stone Payton: Yeah, really.

David Eckoff: By owning the domain name, surprising things happen. You get people who are thinking about going to the Outer Banks on vacation. They email you, just email into “Can you tell me about the Outer Banks.” Or little Timmy in Jr. High is doing a book report and he emails saying “Can you tell me the state bird of North Carolina.” (laughter) People say “I’m moving to North Carolina, can you tell me more about housing?” And I’m thinking can’t they see on the website that it’s a sports website. It’s about basketball and football. They don’t see this? So then I put down frequently asked questions, I actually put answers to “What is the state bird?” “What is the state capital?” “What’s the population?” “Tell me how to get in touch with people about travel and tourism, etc.”

Stone Payton: (laughter) That’s funny.

David Eckoff: Everyday these would come in, everyday for like seven years. By the end of seven years this was starting to be kind of comical. Except I really didn’t have a lot of time to be dealing with all these questions. I did my best to point them in the right direction. Well one day I got an email from someone and it was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. I must have been real busy and aggravated that day and who knows what and she asked me a question about the Andy Griffith show which is set in North Carolina. I thought “It’s a sport site. She’s asking me a question about the Andy Griffith show? Are you kidding me?” And against all the best judgment I hit reply and I wrote a scathing email back and hit send. Of course you never want to do that but after seven cumulative years of entering little Timmy’s book report questions and…

Stone Payton: They wore you down, huh?

David Eckoff: Two minutes later I got an email back from this person who is probably like a senior citizen and it’s probably like her first time getting on the internet or doing email and she said “You don’t sound like a very nice person.” (laughter) I felt so badly and I wrote back to her and made that right afterwards. The lesson learned from that is everyone has a reason why they do things. Some times the reasons don’t make sense to us but there’s always a reason and I think having empathy for other people and treating other people as you’d want them to treat you, no matter what the situation, is the way to go. It’s something we all know and sometimes I think the lesson learned is that even when you’re in the most stressful situations, take a deep breath, think about how you respond because there is a real person on the other end of that even in the impersonal communication channels that happen online. I think I come across pretty sociable most of the time but it really showed that every interaction that we have with people, everyone one of them, is a real human being on the other side of that no matter what the experience is. I think we want to have our actions consistent with how we’d want our own personal brand known. My own personal brand I’m really looking for people to have those WOW experiences and for people to say “That was spectacular.” So your execution has to be consistent with your vision. I’ll throw that out there as a time something didn’t go right, but I’ve hopefully turned that around.

Stone Payton: Well for what its worth, David, having you on the show today has definitely been a WOW experience. We have thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope you’ll come back sometime.

Todd, anything else to add? What did you think about this show?

Todd Schnick: Oh, it was a good one. It was a good one. I look forward to listening to it again. Two wonderful bright guests.

Stone Payton: Well we have to go back and listen to the Algebra anyway, right?

Todd Schnick: That’s just not worth my time. (laughter)

Stone Payton: Until next time this is Stone Payton, Todd Schnick and the entire Radio X family saying we’ll see you in the fast lane.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Todd Schnick September 11, 2009 at 3:19 pm

We had a great time. Can’t wait to have you back!


2 Jon September 11, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Wow! Great listen! I really enjoyed this!

At Zappos, we really believe that the focus on service is the only way to go! The service flows from everyone, to everyone, our vendors/partners, employees, customers, everyone!

You guys mentioned the tours, we love to have guests come through to take tours! if you are planning on coming to the Vegas area, let us know ( and we’ll make sure you get the chance!

You can also take a closer look at how our culture affects everything we do! is a video subscription site that allows companies/people to ask questions and get video answers from Zappos management. There’s free content, too, so you can see what it is all about. is another way to see the fun and weird side of our days!

Come on out, there’s a ColdStone across the street, we’ll grab a Mud Pie Mojo!


3 David Eckoff September 11, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Hey Jon, thanks for listening to the show and for your comments with all those great resources. I’m a big fan of what Zappos is doing with customer experience.

See you next time I’m in Vegas, and we’ll definitely go to Cold Stone for a Mud Pie Mojo.

Maybe we can get the folks from Cold Stone, Amazon, Dell, Comcast, etc to all get together for ice cream and talk shop? That would be epic!


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