Posts Tagged ‘simplify’

Simplifying customer service

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

This was originally an email to Doug. He liked it, so I posted.

Woot is designed around simplifying customer service, which is an underappreciated tactic.

To simplify doesn’t mean to skimp, but instead to do away with service entirely by redesigning what they sell and how they sell it. Rather than use dorky buzzwords like “reengineering,” I’ll illustrate by example.

I loved a take-out lunch place that used to operate on the Stanford campus. The grumpy Thai lady who ran it had a key insight: they do their entire business from noon to 1, so service speed is the scarce resource. She responded by rounding off all prices to whole numbers of dollars. By not handling coins, they double their throughput, I estimate. They sling chow and pocket greenbacks at an unbelievable pace, serving hundreds from a single window in only an hour. Wonderful.

I was so impressed by that restaurant that I adapted the idea years later to Firepad. From 2003 to 2006, the entire online software industry was giving away free samples, except me. I found that by offering no free trial, but an unlimited 30-day money back guarantee, I eliminated 90% of my support load, with almost no effect on sales. The free-trial guys rarely buy, it turns out. They just consume resources. My Firepad income per work hour (the key measure) went up by an order of magnitude.

Like the grumpy Thai lady, Woot seems to do nothing but sling chow and pocket greenbacks.