Breakfast Notes #56 (Customer Service)

Breakfast Notes #56 (Customer Service)
Photo by Mike Petrucci / Unsplash

Good morning friends.

Here is the 56th serving of the Breakfast Notes.

3 Reads To Bulk Your Brain

  • The downfall of FTX. This a timely reminder that not all that glitters is gold.  A gripping and insightful read detailing the collapse of FTX.
  • The Secrets of Optimal Client Service. UVA Law adjunct professor Jim Donovan and vice chairman of global client coverage at Goldman Sachs discuss how to provide optimal service to clients. It is this video that inspired today’s big idea.
  • The Power of the Internet to scale $10. Ben Thompson, the brains behind Stratechery, hits the nail on the head regarding the power of the internet’s ability to change media economics. “Certainly, I work hard, but the amount of work I’m doing today is the same amount of work I was doing three years ago. The only difference is my income is 100 times higher. And it’s because that $10 scales, and it scales very, very well.”

2 Visualizations To Wow You

The statue of the Veiled Christ in Naples

The Veiled Christ is a 1753 marble sculpture by Giuseppe Sanmartino exhibited in Naples. Veiled Christ is considered one of the world's most remarkable sculptures because of its realism. Even rumours were swirling that alchemy transformed the veil from cloth to marble.

A Folding Stair Chair patent

An 1890 Folding Stair Chair patent shows how useless inventions have been with us the whole time.

1 Big Idea: The Secrets To Excellent Customer Service

You can be a small-fry bureaucrat like me. Your customers are your boss and the stakeholders you serve.

You can be a teacher. Although you are in the trenches teaching kids coping with puberty, your customer is likely their parents.

You can be a journalist. Your customer is undoubtedly the reader.

Every job requires customer service.

The question necessarily follows - how do we provide excellent customer service?

Here are three rules of thumb you (and I) must follow.

Avoid Jargon

Jargon turns people off.

Your client will have trouble understanding you if you use jargon. They will either think of themselves as foolish and resent you or think of you as a smart-aleck. Both ways, they will dislike you.

To drive home this point, consider George Orwell’s translation of Ecclesiastes 9:11 and reflect on how you feel after reading these two versions.

The original,

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill, but time and chance happeneth to them all.

The obtuse,

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

Bureaucratic fuzz suffocates the mind and only compels customers to cut their losses and run.

Advise Against Your Interest

Economics dictates that humans respond to incentives. However, if you go against the incentive structure for your customers' interest, you will have achieved a gold seal of credibility.

Suppose you work for a firm like Goldman Sachs, which only gets paid when a transaction is conducted. Advising your client not to conduct the transaction when the deal does not make sense is a clear signal you send to let them know their interests are well taken care of.

Here is an example of HubSpot recommending and providing tips for newsletter tools that are in direct competition with their solution.

Humble Thyself

I suffer from the strain of pride, but over the past few months, I have learnt the value of epistemic humility. Being a true expert involves knowing the world and the limits of your knowledge and expertise.

Epistemic humility is grounded in the fact that our knowledge is always provisional and subject to revision in light of new evidence.

But that’s a hard pill to swallow.

Because it means that we have to accept the fact that we are wrong or that we don’t know.

Of all people, customers are the last group of people we want to know that fact. After all, they pay for our expertise, knowledge and insights.

Yet, to be truly excellent at serving them - we must be honest in showing the limits of what we know.

Consider this quote by Robert Grant, a chartered medical statistician on COVID-19 in its early days,

“I am a medical statistician. I've studied this stuff at university, done data analysis for decades, written several NHS guidelines (including one for infectious disease), and taught it to health professionals. That's why you don't see me making any coronavirus forecasts.”

Now compare that to Peter Navarro, Trump’s White House director of trade and manufacturing policy which said,

“I understand how to read statistical studies, whether it’s in medicine, the law, economics or whatever,”

If you were a client, who would you trust more?

May the sun shine upon your face,


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