How an Otter Used a Monkey to WOW Me. (OtterBox uses Survey Monkey to Get Customer Feedback)

My cool OtterBox case for my iPhone 4s

Last week I contacted OtterBox for a problem with my fantastic Defender iPhone 4s Case. I was so Wowed by the Otter (customer service representative) I spoke with that I tweeted about it. My issue was quickly resolved and the replacement case is on the way to me. The email confirmation of shipment of my case included a link for a very good customer satisfaction survey through Survey Monkey. Two things about this survey impressed me and I want to tell you about my impression.

First off, I’m impressed with any company that seeks customer feedback. Feedback truly is the breakfast of champions. Customer satisfaction surveys help companies determine what they’re doing well and what they need to be doing differently. The second thing that impressed me about the OtterBox survey is the strategic purpose for gathering this feedback. OtterBox is clearly right now trying to determine how to make their website more user-friendly so they can deflect agent calls through a comprehensive web self-service portal.

My survey asked such questions as Did you visit our website to obtain information or assistance prior to contacting Customer Service? and What type of information was missing from the OtterBox website that required you to contact customer service? Responses from questions like these will help OtterBox create a web self-service experience that meets the needs of their customers. Just for fun, here is the survey I took for OtterBox.

The bottom line: Make sure you capture customer feedback at every opportunity. Don’t just use a generic survey that gives you nothing. Identify your service gaps or gaps in contact center service metrics and go out and solicit feedback from your customers what will help you close the gaps.

How a Complaint and a $14 Earpiece Improved My Customer Experience

My business was founded to help companies completely restore customer confidence and regain goodwill after service failures occur. I tell my clients all the time that a complaint is a gift. A complaint is a gift that can help you correct problems, retain customers and improve the customer experience.

A couple of weeks ago I got a complaint from a customer. Being on the receiving end of a complaint was a little strange for me. I found myself having to practice what I preach. It was time for me to listen to my customer without offense, work to resolve the problem and regain my customer’s goodwill.

My customer told me that the audio quality of a webinar she’d just attended was far below her expectations. I was shocked. But I listened and carefully responded using the 7 practices for handling complaints that I’ve taught my clients for more than a decade.  After I felt certain that I’d effectively handled the problem and regained my customer’s goodwill, I tackled the problem.

I played the 60-minute webinar my customer attended back in its entirety. Sure enough, there were times when my voice would drop for a few seconds at a time. I immediately knew what was wrong. I had broadcasted that webinar from my iMac. I usually deliver webinars over a Dell. My Mac was directly in front of me and my speakerphone was right in front of the Mac. Every few minutes I’d glance over at my Dell, which was showing the live webinar, to ensure everything was running smoothly. Every time I looked away from my iMac, my voice would drop because I wasn’t facing the speakerphone. It didn’t occur to me that these glances were affecting my vocal quality.

My customer gave me feedback on a problem that actually affected hundreds of people the day of the live web event. She was the only customer who took the time out of her day to give me feedback. This was critical feedback. I immediately went out and bought an earpiece to connect to my phone. Now I can talk and move about without risking good voice quality. My customer’s feedback led to me making a $14 investment in an earpiece and that little investment dramatically improved my customer experience for web events.

A complaint truly is a gift. When customers give you a complaint, see this as an opportunity to correct the problem, regain customer goodwill and possibly even improve the customer experience for your customers at large.

For help with seeing complaints as gifts, see past blog posts such as:

The Corporate Apology: How to Apologize In 5 Easy Steps

Looking for complaint letter response guidelines

Sorry Works! The Bottom-line Benefit of Apologizing to Customers

Helpful Phrases For Dealing with Difficult Customers

For Goodness Sake! Don’t Hide Your 1-800 Number!


Last week I decided to cut a business trip a day short and get back home to my family. I quickly found a flight using my iPhone, but for the life of me I could not find a phone number for the airline. After searching for several minutes I gave up and went to and within about 4 seconds, I found a toll-free number for the airline. was created by a frustrated consumer named Paul English who believes that customers should have easy and immediate access to the humans that run companies. What a novel idea. The site indexes hundreds of companies’ toll-free numbers and even gives consumers company-specific secrets to get out of IVR hell and immediately connect with a live person. I keep the site bookmarked on my iPhone.

Seriously, why would a company hide their toll-free number from consumers? I’m a numbers person and business owner. I get the need to slash costs and work smarter. But is it really smart to block consumer access to your company by telephone? Do you really want to make it harder for your customers to reach you with questions and when they experience problems?

While many companies are hiding their toll-free numbers and some are outright removing contact numbers from websites and product labels, online shoe retailer is aggressively promoting its toll-free number on EVERY page of its website.

Zappos encourages customers to call them about anything. Zappos views its 1-800 number as a branding device. They take over 5,000 calls every day and Reps are not bound by any maximum talk-time targets. And it’s paying off. Zappos was founded in 1999. In 2007 the company grossed over $800 million in merchandise sales and grossed over $1 billion in 2009.

I love this! Armstrong Floors prints its toll-free number on its no-wax floors with a message for consumers to call them to learn how to remove the 1-800 number. (It’s actually easy to remove the number with warm water.) The company wants customers to call them and they use this call as opportunity to explain to customers how to care for their new floors so wax build-up is avoided. Armstrong World estimates that this “toll-free training course” controls customer dissatisfaction and earns Armstrong $12,000 per customer over time based on customer retention.

Armstrong views their toll-free number as a revenue generator.

Companies, think about it. Do you really want to block consumer access to you after they’ve chosen to do business with you? Is it really your goal to make your customers work hard to find your contact number just so they can talk to you? Do you truly want to frustrate and tick off your customers just so you can save a buck?

Why not find other creative ways to save money? Like investing in improving the customer experience so you improve customer satisfaction, increase customer loyalty, and generate priceless word-of-mouth advertising. Or, maybe you could focus on innovation so you can bring in more customers. But for goodness sake, don’t attempt to save money by blocking customer access to your customer service team.  

That’s my two cents.