Sometimes the best way to see where you’re going is to look back at where you’ve been. As a big proponent of drinking your own Kool-Aid, I was thinking back on some of the things I write about frequently, and what I’m passionate about.

We have three major themes here; Customer Service, Search Engine Optimization, and most broadly, Business Change. All of those are general enough that I have a lot of fodder to pull from; especially on that business change topic, finding things to write about is rarely a struggle for me. But some themes keep showing up.

The Music Business is one of those. As I write this post, there are twenty articles at Answer Guy Central that contain the phrase “Music Business” (you can see them by clicking the link). And when it comes to the idea of customer service, well, all you need to see how important I think great customer service is to your business is a visit to The Answer Guy’s Verizon Wireless Customer Service Wall of Shame.

I just took a close look at the Wall of Shame for the first time in a while, asking myself which of the examples of awful customer service was “the worst”. Nissan of Manhattan Customer Service, our very first Wall of Shame enshrinee, was pretty bad. and Verizon Wireless Customer Service was so bad it was almost comical; we did rename the Wall of Shame in their honor, after all!

But the absolute worst customer service example on our customer service wall of shame belongs to A&E Factory Service Appliance Repair. A&E’s customer service is so bad that when I was faced with seeking repair for a clothes washer this week I thought first about replacing the washer instead just to avoid the possibility that A&E might be involved.

Instead, I have a great story.

I visited PC Richard, where the washer had been purchased about ten years ago. PC Richard is a small appliance store chain that resisted the urge to get huge—and remains in business, probably as a result of that decision. The washing machine market has gone though some changes that make replacing the misbehaving washer a challenge, so I agreed to have PC Richard send a repair person.

Things didn’t start well. PC Richard couldn’t give me a time window for the repair visit until the morning of the service call, and by about 10:30 AM I hadn’t received the promised telephone call. I contacted them, and found out why; the PC Richard customer service agent had my phone number wrong.

But from there, all was . . . great!

The person I spoke with fixed my record, told me that I should expect the repair person between noon and 4 PM, and when the repairman showed up exactly at noon he was an actual PC Richard employee and not an A&E subcontractor. Or at least he had on a PC Richard shirt, which in the “perception is reality” game is a big piece of the puzzle (by the way, “perception is reality” is a big theme here, too, and Answer Guy Central’s Search Rank for that well-known phrase is similar to how Google sees us for business change):

Perception is Reality

It only got better from there. When the PC Richard repairman recommended that I reconsider my plans to repair the washer, he also declined to charge me for his service call. He went so far as to contact his dispatch center and speak with them until they agreed that I needn’t pay for him having shown up, and when they resisted he told them that since they had screwed up my phone number and inconvenienced me, it was the least they could do to make things right.

I never asked for that great customer service, by the way; PC Richard’s guy just delivered it on his own.

But back to that other business change topic. The music business is one that’s undergone tremendous business change in a (not-really-all-that) rapid manner. My favorite “real business change” story was when Neil Young called piracy the new radio. And maybe it still is. But yesterday The Counting Crows, no sales slouches themselves, went past a theoretical discussion of piracy, releasing four of their songs from their latest album via BitTorrent, for free—and in the process legitimized BitTorrent as a file sharing technology for the next time a government agency tries to shut it down.

As Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz points out, ‘It’s not just about getting music to the people who would buy it anyway — even though that is, of course, very good—the hardest thing to do is make new fans.’ That’s real business change.

All of this was running through my head today, so you can file it under “ramblings of a business consultant“. And in case you missed it, yeah, this piece was really all about search engine optimization and long tail marketing.

Want to talk? Reach me here. And remember: in both customer service and other business change issues, honesty works.

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