Running The Table (continued)

I wrote a bit of a rant a couple months ago about companies that want to run the table on a market. There was only one link in that rant and it was to Benedict Evans who is increasingly becoming my favorite read on the Internet.

Benedict wrote a post yesterday that continues this discussion with some important additional points, including:

One of the things you're supposed to work out some time in your adolescence is that though you're the star of your own life, you're not the star of anyone else's.  Some companies never work this out.


your customers' relationships with you are the only relationships you have as a business and you think a lot about them. But you're one of a thousand things your customer thinks about in a week, and one of dozens of businesses. And they probably have their own ideas about how they want to engage with you (though they wouldn't put it in those words) – assuming they think about you at all.


You can think of people as users or customers – but they're not yours. They don't belong to you, and they may barely even care that you exist. The old Google rejoiced in sending people away from the site as fast as possible, because the result mattered, not the search. Glass points to a risk of forgetting that.

I could keep going but I am close to crossposting the whole thing here and I'm not really into doing that so go give the post a read on Benedicts's blog. I think he's nailed it.


Comments (Archived):

  1. pointsnfigures

    Reminds me of the driving instructor that talked about “your lane”. Many people say that car was in “my lane”. Driving instructor said, “Really, it’s yours? Or are you just participating in traffic flow.”.They have to be called something, so users, customers are fine. It’s when the business doesn’t feel as if they have to earn them each and every day that trouble brews.The blogpost also cited being in a bubble. Very important for startups to get out of their bubble and try to take an honest look at themselves. If they can’t, ask someone for an honest appraisal. Puts your feet back on the ground.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      You need to feel in service to them, that you’re actually providing value and are able to do so in a sustainable, maintainable way – and if you don’t then I think that is a problem, a very foundational problem.

      1. Nick Ambrose

        Indeed. I worked for a company (that sold hardware & software) that saw the hideous cost of “customer service” and knew they had to act.However, rather than the (to me) rather obvious steps1) Make the product easier to use2) Spend more time fixing bugs3) Offer more & better training to customersInstead theyRaised the prices of support and started asking customers to “prove” that it was a bug they were calling about (which, given the number of defects we shipped was a bit rich)And then I heard the phrase “We think we can make customer service a profit center instead of a cost center”And I really started to wonder what that said about how we viewed and treated our customers.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          ‘And then I heard the phrase “We think we can make customer service a profit center instead of a cost center”‘Terrible really. It should be a built-in expense to things, however that attitude is backwards.

          1. pointsnfigures

            Customer service is a profit center. If you give them shitty service, they won’t come back! Ask me about American Airlines sometime.

        2. ShanaC

          i don’t get why they lacked respect for the customers in the first place

          1. Nick Ambrose

            I think mostly short-sightedness. It’s easy to see a customer flip from the positive side (paying for the order) to the negative side (becoming an “expense”)Of course that’s incredibly shortsighted- Repeat business can definitely depend on previous experience- Word of mouth…In fact (rather embarrassingly) the next company i worked at was a customer of the former, and the hiring manager didn’t miss the chance to jab me about the number of bugs and poor support experience he had had.Although amusingly, it turned out that his blisfully silent Customer Service dept was only silent because he didn’t HAVE any customers!And in turnabout I am now also a customer of that company and the ratio of “Bugs/Things that dont work right” in their shipping product compared to my “developer tested” code is stacked very highly in my favor right now (thankfully it’s not the product I was responsible for!)

          2. LE

            Because they could. (Like the dog that…)I may have told the story of the local lunch place that I used to get food from (in the wholesale district, now “old city” philly) that was the only game in that part of town. When I was a kid working for my father.Service was totally surley by women who looked like they belonged in a “lunch lady land” SNL skit. For years.All the sudden another place opened (sold steak sandwiches) called “shippers lunch”.Next thing you know that bad attitude was completely off the face of those waitresses they were a sweet as they could be.I’ve had that happen many times in business. Here’s another one. Supply counter guy at the local wholesale company was indifferent and treated us like shit when we came into pickup orders. Well next thing you know (a year later let’s say) he is put into outbound sales and he becomes our sales rep. Boy did he change overnight. He had to. He totally sucked up to us when before his behavior was the exact opposite. Because he had skin in the game.

  2. Matt A. Myers

    All of what is said in those quotes is that you must add real value, real usefulness to someone’s life – and nowadays you have to build relationship.What is the foundation of relationship? Trust, of course, which comes and deepens with someone from how often you get to experience their character – how they react to situations and how they treat you, how they act – vs. their reputation, which are merely short stories and glimpses of someone.This is why companies want to control their messaging, if they can – or help mould it – because then they can potentially trick consumers into thinking they’re in a relationship that they want – when really maybe the company’s dishonest, a liar, manipulative, wants to take advantage and not be reciprocal, etc..If the message a company wants to put out to its users doesn’t reflect its own behaviour or value or usefulness, then they’re not aligned, and there’s a subtle to not-so-subtle cognitive dissonance that will form – and overall feeling or love for a product or service will be heavily and on a foundational level be influenced by such.In relation to Google losing sight of their original value of providing the best / most relevant search results, as long as Google can provide the highest quality results – even if it’s within a Google property, then they will be fine.However I feel that people who focus on more specific problems, who specialize, can create a higher quality product – that really all depends on the founder and visionary though – who will be counter to all pressures a new competitor will face, and against the pool of resources that existing large companies have. Of course this is why people get investment money to then match the resources of the large companies, and use them in a focused way.TL;DR – Provide 100% value to users, be honest, build relationship.

    1. andyswan

      Actually, I think you’re 2/3 in your summary. Provide value, YES!. Be honest, YES! Build relationship… I think this is where you and the post actually differ.A relationship is great if you can pull it off, but what I think Fred/Benedict are saying has more truth: Most customers/users just don’t give a shit about you. You, as a company, are completely disposable in their lives if you fail to provide value (this is why abusive, long-term monopolies are impossible).For example, there is absolutely nothing that Exxon Mobile or McDonalds can do to “build a relationship” with me that isn’t covered by “provide value” and “be honest”.

      1. awaldstein

        Bingo…Actually there is nothing that Google can do to build a relationship with me except provide value. Which they do big time. But love them, or at this point, any company, I simply don’t.Brands are the greatest filter but they don’t necessarily mean you have any relationship with them at all.

        1. pointsnfigures

          Brands build stickiness. Stickiness is not a relationship.

          1. awaldstein

            It can be. Brand is a big term carrying a lot with it.You can make clear generalizations about what they do and be right. You are.But at a dna level and a tactical path to build them, there are rules of thumb but they are all different.

          2. pointsnfigures

            point well taken sir.

          3. ShanaC

            relationships require giving

      2. kidmercury

        i love amazon’s views on this subject. they treat requests for customer support as a bug — something went wrong and they had to get involved with the customer experience. i think this mentality is especially great for the ultra-scalable, low margin businesses. i definitely want my relationship with amazon to be like this, although for some business services that i outsource (i.e. application hosting, email marketing, etc) i really want great customer service, will pay extra for it, and would be offended by an amazon-like approach.

        1. LE

          “something went wrong and they had to get involved with the customer experience.”At that scale, and for that matter even at a much much smaller scale, you already are well aware of all the fuck ups that are going on. If they aren’t being fixed it’s not because they are not known it’s because a decision is made not to fix them.Amazon will change after it squashes all the nats out there.I’m sure credit card companies were all ears in the early days as well.

      3. Matt A. Myers

        What you state is exactly why build relationship is the most important. You need to at minimum try. Not everyone needs or wants friends or interaction – however how you handle relationships when they need handling is crucial as those users, even if not wanting a relationship, will still hear about your reputation is.

        1. andyswan

          That’s fine. I think we agree more than we are used to here.

    2. JamesHRH

      The last point of your argument is exactly what Ben is getting at – “you are a f*&king grocery store, get over yourself, having a ‘relationship’ with you does not add value”

      1. Matt A. Myers

        It doesn’t add value to the product – true, to the experience though – it does.A grocery store at its base is to provide access to products. Nowadays the big box stores fail in relationships because they don’t care, they’re purely running on numbers. The most human interaction and ‘socializing’ most of them have is the checkout clerk – and they even would prefer to get rid of those if they could fully to cut costs further.At my local natural food store, I know and talk and joke with most of the employees – and many of them know what I can / can’t eat, and will let me know about sales going on, or that will be going on – or new products they had in. I really appreciate that. That’s relationship, and I end up spending more because of it.

  3. William Mougayar

    Very well articulated. I would take it a step further, by saying that it’s not about the product itself. It’s about what the product DOES for you.Google doesn’t give us Search results. Google made us all great researchers. The minute your product stops becoming a utility of value, then you’re toast.

    1. Anne Libby

      Yes. I love thinking about services/products (including the ones I produce) in terms of Clayton Christensen’s “jobs to be done” concept.

      1. William Mougayar

        Yup…actually, Drucker came up with the thought that “what your product does for the customer is what matters”, not the product itself, back in 1954.

        1. Anne Libby

          Drucker FTW.

      2. laurie kalmanson

        go to sears not for a drill but because you need to make a hole in the wall

    2. laurie kalmanson

      well said. i remember the first time i read a news story that referenced someone’s google footprint / social media profile … chasm crossed.

  4. Ed Freyfogle

    Let me take a contrarian view.I totally endorse the general premise, but the reality is that via their dominance of search and thus paid search (not even mentioning their dominant position in adsense and online video), Google has a cash machine that will continue to pump out massive profits for as far into the future as we can see. They can afford to get 100 Glasses wrong, and indeed they have had to accept many many product failures, as long as they also crank out the occasion Android, Chrome, etcIf anything the more interesting question is why their position hasn’t lead to more arrogance. As someone who spent the first internet boom at Yahoo!, where being dominant was definitely taken for granted and eventually lead to a rude awakening, I have an amazing amount of respect for the Google leadership that they haven’t let success kill them yet, nor do I see obvious signs that the downfall is coming. They are handling success much much better than Yahoo!, ebay, AOL, etc and have done so for over a decade now.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      I think Google is continuing to try to innovate into markets that they can easily tap into, providing physical tools for things that are missing – and where any other company pumping resources into would simply not be as big of a success because of not having the reach Google has – or information technology, with their organizing the world’s information goal, and keeping that information on Google properties so they can keep users longer.

    2. awaldstein

      Google gets data and how to make it useful in the flattened world of the web. Amazingly so. They’ve enhanced my life at its very core.Doesn’t mean they understand consumer behavior. Every time they step into the mass market, think TV, they are strangers in a consumer world.Maybe they can be the exception and bridge this gap. I’m not a believer.

      1. Ed Freyfogle

        Yes, there will be many, many failures, but is youtube not a form of “TV”? Seems to me it’s working out all right for them.

        1. awaldstein

          Yes…they are looking to redefine TV in this form. Its a success but not as large as owning the living room.Google of today and Apple of old exemplify this.Apple built products for the market and sold their value. They made huge choices like removing the disk drive. Sometimes they won, sometimes not (Newton). They are a CE company at their core.Google just throws stuff against the wall. They are a tech company. The only exception was G+. A real product well thought out. I loved that they did this even though the product in my mind is a dud without a soul.This market point of view is the chasm that I question whether Google can build a bridge across.

        2. fredwilson

          One of their best acquisitions. That and android and maps

          1. Ed Freyfogle

            sure, buta. how many companies pull off great acquisitions?b. how many “arrogant” companies are even able to see they need to acquire versus falling into the “not invented here” trap?In all these cases – youtube, maps, android – google has indisputably taken the original service far, far beyond where it was when they got it. Full credit to their leadership for making it happen.

          2. takingpitches

            and applied semantics (oingo) which led to adsense

      2. CJ

        Why Google doesn’t have a Applications layer team is beyond me. They should have a group that does nothing but take geek and turn it into chic for the masses.

        1. awaldstein

          There’s a lot to work with for certain.

        2. LE

          Because that thought process doesn’t flow from the top of that company. The founders were thrust into the position they have coming right out of school. At the core they don’t understand it any more than I understand music vs. Charlie Chrystie or someone who hasn’t run a small business understands small business. Or someone w/o kids understands (you get the point).

      3. muratcannoyan

        This is why I find Glass interesting. Maybe replacing consumer with human behavior and thinking of Glass fundamentally as a data collection platform expands Google’s reach where it really has not been before. Maybe to some degree through Android. Like you said they have proven they know how to make data useful and Glass could prove to be a very unique data source.

        1. awaldstein

          Point really well expressed.I would love to see Google do it. I and life in general would be better off.

      4. ShanaC

        do you think it is viable to create customer service from data?

        1. awaldstein

          Draw me a mental picture of what you are thinking.

    3. kidmercury

      #realtalk #upvoted

    4. JamesHRH

      That’s debatable – the money keeps pouring in, which covers up a lot of mistakes.

      1. CJ

        That’s precisely the point. Microsoft is the same example but without much in the way of success lately, nor modesty.

        1. LE

          Microsoft another example of good execution in getting the low hanging fruit in business. Take that low hanging fruit away and a company is just like the rest of the cry babies. All the sudden nothing magic anymore.

      2. LE

        “the money keeps pouring in, which covers up a lot of mistakes.”Exactly.Will also note that the profit they make is after all the money they piss away on things. These places (say Apple as another example) are buying the best of the best and after all of that they end up with billions. They can modulate that profit just by playing with how much money they piss away.

    5. LE

      “done so for over a decade now”In business that’s a really short time.

      1. Ed Freyfogle

        In general, yes. In the internet, no.Actually one of the debates I occasionally have with a friend is whether the consumer internet will continually yield new mega players (ie Yahoo!, then Google, then Facebook, then Twitter), or if it will stabilize to become more like long established industries like cars, consumer goods, etc where there are a few big companies that own many brands. On the one hand the established brands have cash hoards and are willing to spend, see yahoo! and tumblr as most recent example. On the other hand some founders seem to have a fierce desire for independence, see Facebook. Would be curious what others think.

        1. LE

          “cars” – huge barriers”consumer goods” – huge barriers”airplanes” – huge barriers

    6. fredwilson

      i agree with that

  5. JimHirshfield

    We live in a “me first” society. As @pointsnfigures:disqus pointed out, you just need to observe people on the roadways. So this naturally carries over to companies and their possessiveness of users.In the web 1.0 days, an often contentious point when doing partnerships was, “who owns the user?”. Nowadays, I have thankfully seen that conversation improve to, “who owns the data (about the users)?”You might say the difference is subtle, but the former is possessive of people that you can’t possess and a “all or nothing” attitude. The latter is more realistic and allows for each partner to access data about the users that are relevant to their business.

  6. Richard

    there’s no reason for Google (or someone else) not to run the table. This is the path of almost all global industries including that of Microprocessors, Pharmaceuticals, heavy-duty trucks, mobile telecommunications, Agriculture, banking etc.

    1. kidmercury

      absolutely. google is just giving customers what they want while growing their business. they should be lauded, not vilified.

      1. Vineeth Kariappa

        The author is trying to bring down google 🙂

      2. CJ

        They are a great counterpoint to the historical proprietary mentality.

      3. Elia Freedman

        Customers want Google+?

        1. awaldstein

          Google wants Google+.I have no indication that honestly anyone else does. It’s a perfect product, without a market connect.

          1. Elia Freedman

            And Google oddly jamming every other service into it, whether it fits or not.

          2. pointsnfigures

            Kitchen sink strategy.

          3. laurie kalmanson

            google+ looks to me like they are still smarting over not being facebook, which is still smarting over not being tumblr

          4. ShanaC

            aka, feeling guilty about no longer being cool

          5. laurie kalmanson

            need moar cool

          6. LE

            Yeah but a strategy like that is a great way to buy yourself more time as you try and figure out what you need to do next.It’s like the doctor treating the adhd kid by trying different medicines each taking months and months to figure out if the right one has taken hold.Google is a really big ship. And past success is no guarantee of future success at all especially in an organization that large that needs to continue growing. Not to mention the work force aging and their priorities changing because of the wealth.

        2. kidmercury

          they will in time if they don’t already. google hangouts is one of the best pieces of web-based technology i’ve seen in a long time. more importantly, though, if customers don’t want it, they don’t have to use it. competitors are crying about it because deep down they know google is going to trounce them. rather than compete, they’d prefer to complain.

          1. awaldstein

            Google does great when they just build great stuff. I agree.The big issue with G+ was that they shoved it down the throats of businesses as a ‘must do’ for SEO.They are bad as a bully. Great as an innovator.

      4. Richard

        Google still hasn’t taken innovation to the level it could be .

    2. JamesHRH

      They ran the table in search. Wake someone up @ 3 AM and yell GOOGLE and they will likely yell SEARCH back.People who have this kind of success early never seem to get the idea of Brands = Value Points = Job to be Done.They get ‘I need more’.

      1. Richard

        If you truly are an Innovative company, with amazing creatove leadership and management, running the table is not the objective, it will be however be the result. Look at the R&D numbers as well as governent supported R&D as a pretty good explanatory variable.

  7. Tom Labus

    If you say that to your Board would they toss you out?

    1. fredwilson

      Said what?

      1. Tom Labus

        That your users relationship with your products are casual, fleeting and indifferent.It’s not the the greatest motivational tactic even if accurate.and I think if said someone would push back at you as to why that is.

  8. kidmercury

    google is giving customers what they want. you think when i type into google search “phillies nationals score” i want to get results and then click to a different web site? or do you think i just want the answer?all just more crying because google is kicking everyone’s ass. this is like another basketball player crying because lebron james is too good. please.competing with google is possible, as the existence of countless internet businesses proves, though those that take the wrong strategy will always be looking over their shoulder, living in perpetual fear. perhaps when they reconsider their strategy they will be less susceptible to such a mindset.

    1. andyswan

      yup. Google is winning precisely because they don’t give a rip about tomorrow’s earnings’ call. They bet on themselves over and over not because they think they’ll win every time, but because they know they have the edge. Positive EV for every bet.

      1. JamesHRH

        They are winning because they developed the internet version of (and execute very well on) one of the most proven high margin business models ever – the Yellow Pages.

    2. fredwilson

      at least google doesn’t play the refs and bitch and moan about bad calls all the time

      1. kidmercury

        lol that is true…..i think apple with their patent lawsuits is like a star player constantly crying to the refs…..the technological equivalent to flopping on defense

  9. kylesamani

    howdy FredI’m founder and CEO of Pristine, a startup developing apps for surgery for Google GlassI couldn’t agree with your or Benedict Evans more. I actually just wrote a blog post myself a few days ago about “the cost of wearing glass”… i think it says the same thing as Benedict’s post about Glass, but in a different light.…I’m not too optimistic about Glass for consumers. You don’t need Instagram on your face. But Glass will change how a lot of people do their jobs all day everyday…

    1. andyswan

      Could not agree more. It’s an amazing industrial and entertainment tool. GoPro with a brain.

    2. ShanaC

      you should talk to my dad. He’s working in the field involving streaming

      1. kylesamani

        howdy ShanaCan you contact me offline about this? [email protected]

    3. fredwilson

      that’s what my partner Albert has been saying too

      1. kylesamani

        Yes, it just doesn’t make sense as a consumer device. But Glass will change how a lot of people do their jobs on a day to day basis. People who’re working with their hands all day long who need access to information (best examples are probably doctors) will use Glass heavilyFred, I’m coming to NYC July 30 – Aug 5 for some presentations to doctors (pilots) and to meet with angels and VCs. Does it make sense to swing by USV’s offices so you can see how we’re trying to change medicine on Glass? I can provide more information – including traction, investor package, etc offline at [email protected], or I can coordinate with one of your staff. Whatever’s best for you

  10. kirklove

    This also applies to life. Often I catch myself saying, “Why hasn’t this person gotten right back to me!?” or “How could so and so do that?”. I have to remind myself it’s easy to overlay our own perception onto a situation and see things only from that perspective, forgetting others have lives, families, tragedies, concerns and priorities all their own.

    1. fredwilson


  11. bryanweis

    Hey Fred, I’m just going to keep bugging you until I get a response!I have been trying to get in touch with you for a while now regarding the University of Cincinnati’s Bearcat Launchpad program; a new student run business accelerator program for university students.I know you’re incredibly busy but it would be amazing to get an hour of face time with you on Skype to speak with our teams this upcoming school year.We’ve secured some other big name VC’s such as Brad Feld, Mark Suster, Keith Rabois, Ben Ling, Mo Koyfman, and a bunch of others. We would love to have you join in on the fun. Let me know if this is something you might be interested in helping out with, it would be great to have you!Thanks!Bryan

    1. JamesHRH

      Bryan – Fred has posted several times on how to reach him via email. Look it up – it works.

      1. bryanweis

        James, thanks for the advice, I’ll get to looking!

  12. CJ

    I started with thinking that this was a new economy issue based around the move from paper or ‘pay per’ to digital aka attention aka indirect payments. It’s not. This is just an old economy issue taking shape in a digital world, we knew it then by the name ‘Upsell’. When you go to a store and buy a lawnmower, the sales guy will always attempt to upsell the hell out of you. They’ll ask if you want to buy extra bags or gloves for your hands or convince you that the widget you want is inferior to the widget he wants to sell you which comes with a higher commission for him. They’ll do any number of things to keep you in the store transferring value (money) from you to them. This is no different.Facebook and Google want to keep you in their store transferring your value to them. That value can now be cash as was traditional, or increasingly, in the new era, attention. That increases their value as a company and that’s ultimately what almost every company is after. Where in the past going to Sears and buying a Craftsman this and a Trane provided the exact same benefit to Sears (we won’t get into margins, etc here), in the new economy spending more time with Facebook on your browser or phone or Google on your face benefits them in much the same way.It’s just a natural progression.

    1. William Mougayar

      Facebook is becoming like turning the TV on used to be. I go there as a distraction to see what kinds of silly things my friends are posting. It’s a good 5-10 mins of distraction twice per day.I’m fully aware that the page is starting to look like Billboards on Times Square. I get more value from my friends’ postings than from the blinking ads. It is what it is.

      1. CJ

        Yeah, I’m pretty much the same way.

        1. Nick Ambrose

          Same here. It makes the bus ride less boring when I dont have the energy to read “stuff that matters”

      2. awaldstein

        Cruising.Some blogs as well at times I bet.

      3. Richard

        That is all true, but television advertising has proven to be pretty effective over the years.

        1. William Mougayar

          That’s true. The Facebook ads are mildly annoying, not a show stopper for sure.

  13. Andrew Kennedy

    “The old Google rejoiced in sending people away from the site as fast as possible, because the result mattered, not the search.”Such a powerful sentence in my mind.

    1. fredwilson

      yup. benedict is great

  14. JamesHRH

    These companies try to run the table because the founders are megalomaniacs who refuse to believe that they can be limited in any way.Consumers can and do limit them, based on the value they provide. Basic positioning.Can you imagine the reaction you would get if you sat down Larry & Sergey (or Mark & Sheryl) and said ‘the millions of daily users of Google do not want more Larry & Sergey in their lives. Really. Do the search thing, be billionaires but then please f*^k off.’That is what consumers think and it is what they would say to overbearing founders.

  15. WA

    After reading Evans Post, I think I remember you posting (could be years ago) on the best type of experience being where your professors gave you something in your hands to use and integrate the experience as you saw fit, versus being given something and being told – use it, it works like this… My perception of Google versus Facebook falls squarely into that space. As to customers or clients…it has to be experiential, authentic and evoke a behavioral bias one anchors themsselves with. If not it is just the old cliche, If you want loyalty…buy a dog…

  16. Laura Yecies

    I see this as a problem of hubris – success feeding ego plus the teenager mindset thinking that you are the start of everyone’s life. This hubris leads to products that are pretty silly like Facebook Home. It’s more dangerous when it gets aggressive against other companies like the overreach from search by Google to crush things like travel, recommendations sites etc.

  17. LE

    But you’re one of a thousand things your customer thinks about in a week, and one of dozens of businesses. And they probably have their own ideas about how they want to engage with youI have this game I play in which I give ideas to small businesses that I patronize and see how they either accept or reject them.One such business is the local sushi/chinese that I very frequently get take out from.This restaurant, when you call for takeout, wants to know your phone number when you order as an identifier. I find this really really annoying. I just want to say “LE” and have them know it’s me. I don’t like things that take time like that. I’m in a rush. I want people to read my mind if possible.Anyway last night when I went to pickup the food I asked “mrs owner lady” who knows me very well by name how many people like me are frequent takeout customers. She replied in a way that indicated “tons” like me that are repeat customers. I did this on purpose (gather info before my suggestion) so I wouldn’t appear to be going off “half cocked”. After all no need for my idea if I’m unique, right?I then say to her “well you know what would be good is if instead of giving you my phone number I could just say “22a” or “22le” and you would know it was me [1]. I hate the time it takes to tell you the entire number. To which she replies that it was much easier for her to just get the phone number. I tried a little more to make her understand why I thought this was a good idea but failed at doing so. All she could do was think about how it was easier for her not how it was better for me the customer.A total lead a horse to water situation.[1] The idea would be for her to keep a little manual list of codes and phone numbers. I give her the code she cross ref’s the phone number (forget if she even has a way to use a code instead of a phone number in her computer system, let’s just go manual here and make it easy). Obviously anyone she asks for a code then knows she views them as a “good” customer which is good in itself. (I could go on and on here..)

    1. laurie kalmanson

      shorter: caller id

      1. LE

        Many small business (what I said the other day about “cheap”) won’t part with a cent for caller id. This particular business has caller id but my guess is that people frequently call from different phone numbers (I do for example). Once again though “mrs owner lady” doesn’t see this as a problem for her.Truth be told of course I still patronize this restaurant but would stop doing so if the food wasn’t good (I need them more than they need me). But my suggestion is fairly easy to implement and would certainly result in a small boost in revenue and is just (given the effort) a general improvement that you should do. Not earth shattering but a million little things like this are what make a business. Details matter in the way I look at things. Large businesses is less likely to care simply because they are either hitting the sweet spot (low hanging fruit) or are 1 step from going under so the small stuff doesn’t matter. They only get woken up when someone comes along and knocks them on their ass (apple iphone) by putting attention to small details.

    2. JLM

      .I frequent a sandwich joint in N Austin called the Little Deli — best sandwiches in town and unbelievable Jersey Shore pizza.http://littledeliandpizza.c…They are the friendliest and most accommodating people in the world.I first stumbled on them when I was deathly ill with hepatitis and I used to go there to eat lean roast beef. The then owner, Lucretia, nursed me back to health with roast beef sandwiches. True story.Sometimes when I am feeling a bit devilish, I will ask them to do me a favor like bringing me a pizza on their way home — they do not deliver — and they will invariably do it. I do not live anywhere near the joint.I have gotten to the point that I will invent things to see if they will do them. They have never failed to agree to do stuff that is so absurd that I would smack me for even asking.I marvel at their spirit of community. They will do anything anyone can describe to them.They provide the livelihood for approximately 20 employees. This is what is great about small business and America.I spoke to the owner the other day and asked him what he was going to do about Obamacare and he told me: “Not a clue.”JLM.

      1. LE

        “I will ask them to do me a favor like bringing me a pizza on their way home”When I was a kid my dad (the wholesaler) who had accounts all over the US had some local accounts that he would deliver merchandise on the way home from work. When I was working for him after a long boring day I would have to tag along on deliveries to these dusty shop.Now while I could spin this as a “serve the customer” story I will spin in a little differently.Perhaps my fathera) was paid in cash by the customer (and avoided taxes by pocketing said cash) orb) needed to justify using his car as a writeoff so that is perhaps the reason he so eagerly did the deliveries.Or maybe he just didn’t know where to draw boundaries with customers and feared losing them if he didn’t deliver the merchandise that way (this was back when UPS even in the same city was much slower).”They have never failed to agree to do stuff that is so absurd that I would smack me for even asking.”I am almost certain that they feel good for doing what “daddy” wants them to do. They feel that by doing this they keep you as a happy customer.There are so many weird psychology things that happen in business that you never read about. We used to screw up jobs for customers (printing) and they liked us even more. Why? Because after the screwup they would see how quickly we made good and that made us even more valuable as a vendor. (Like say a painter in one of your buildings using the wrong paint and then working overnight to fix all with a great attitude and you are like “wow” I love this guy.)”great about small business and America”Yeah small business has many ways to cut corners over large business that can’t fly under the radar said radar ultimately benefits customers in many ways. The local starbucks can have a super busy long line but if it’s break time the barrista who has a break sits there doing nothing taking their 15 minute break. Never ever happens in a place like the small pizza shop. Unbelievable.

      2. falicon

        I delivered pizza when I was in college for the (very popular) local pizza shop…we worked 12 hour shifts (4pm-4am) and people knew that if they requested me I would pretty much run any errand they wanted (quickly, free of charge, and with a smile)…the pizza place only paid us .50 per delivery (and $5 for gas every 25 deliveries we made — we had to use our own cars)…the rest of the money we made was all in tips (and I usually made out like a bandit).I also always honored any coupon (if they had it or not, if it was real or not), and often gave random discounts on food (because of mistakes on the order, delays in delivery, etc.)…all of which came out of my tip money…9 times out of 10 when I did that, they would tip more than enough to make up the difference anyway (vs. when I argued back or tried to pass the blame…then they would at best pay asking price with no tip or more likely just refuse delivery [and then I would have to go back and argue with the kitchen about buying/taking it back from me])You learn a lot about business when you have to directly interact with the public…still one of the most fun ‘manual labor’ jobs I ever had.

        1. JLM

          .Great story. Real organic, gritty life story. Huge reason why you are successful and will be at anything you try.Well played!JLM.

        2. LE

          “You learn a lot about business when you have to directly interact”Yeah people who did not do this really have no clue as to the education that they missed. I mean kids don’t even shovel snow anymore or wash cars or mow lawns like they did.I could fill that book (that I’m not going to write) with a zillion stories like this.

      3. fredwilson

        add Little Deli to Moleskins, AVC, and Amazon

        1. JLM

          .Haha, yes indeed, that Fred Wilson does not miss anything. Stay well.JLM.

  18. LE

    They don’t belong to you, and they may barely even care that you exist.This is perhaps web specific advice and very narrow even to a particular type of web business opportunity.There are plenty of businesses that you need more than they need you as an individual customer. And plenty of people who are really loyal customers to various businesses and think much of and about them. A local restaurant in a suburban area which is hard to get into on Saturday or Friday night with few alternatives. The Starbucks near the office (people buy real estate which is close by Starbucks because of the draw). The gas station that is convenient to your office. The plumber or handyman that you need in a pinch and does good work at a fair price [1]. (I understand my examples are not the target audience of this blog obviously but I think the message I am saying below applies anyway).I guess the bottom line of all of this is for someone to understand the very basic concept of how to listen and keep the customer happy. [2] Perhaps if people spend some time in high school and college working with people on a basic level earning money (instead of traveling to Ecuador helping disadvantaged people or doing things that the lemmings say pump your resume) they would understand this concept because they have actually walked the walk at the primary level and have interacted with people spending money.[1] Many don’t even return calls.[2] Duh.

  19. JLM

    .An interesting post and discussion — as usual.The issue of customers and customer relationships is a very interesting and sophisticated conversation when done correctly. The real issue is “loyal” customers and accidental loyal customers. And casual customers.This is what defines customer loyalty in the Age of the Internet: http://themusingsofthebigre…Vendors think that a customer is “loyal” without making any attempt to define what the Hell that means. They think that I am “their” customer when in reality they may simply be the means to an end, the first freakin’ spot I could find what I want on the Internet or a complete accident.I will be taking the under on Google as I love them. Adore them really. Not so much for what they accomplish though I do love Google search, Google + (seems a bit more adult than FB/Twitter who I also love), YouTube, calendar, docs, email, Android, etc, etc etc.I love that they are in the cloud and there for me wherever “there” happens to be.I am, however, more of an accidental loyal customer than a purposeful loyal customer. I am a purposeful loyal customer of the Amazon buying experience and Moleskine notebooks and And not a whole lot else.What I love about Google is that they have harnessed that raging bull cash flow to try as much zany shit as they can dream up. They are the ultimate mad professors.I love the idea of Google glass and when they become essential for surgery we will all laugh — some plumber in Dimebox, Texas is going to be doing a heart operation on you being advised by a surgeon at the Mayo Clinic — hey, it could happen.It will not be too damn long before Google glass will be surgically implanted in your head looking both forward and backward, the literal eyes behind your own head and a computer will be implanted in your forearm.Is this a great time to be alive or what?JLM.

  20. Douglas Crets

    This is great. I have not been around for a while, work has kept me bsy on the west coast. At work, I have a discussion like this nearly every week, about marketing. I keep trying to evolve with the times and nurture a space where marketing folks who work with me feel we can get away from telling the customer what is great about us and doing more listening about what is great about them. This is especially true when it comes to my forte and our market niche — we work exclusively with startup founders and developers in the BizSpark program.I always say, “There is no universal media channel for our marketing messages anymore. It’s way too granular. We have to get used to having conversations with people and going beyond building trust — we need to do things for people.” HOw does a big business do this? I actually don’t know. But I think the first step is actually very close to what Fred does here. All he did — it was so simple — was say, “I don’t know everything, but I have a point of view that attracts other points of view. So, have your say.” Thanks for doing that, Fred. I would have never met Tereza here. And now Tereza and I work on the same team!

  21. Dave W Baldwin

    I don’t know. If you deliver something that the customer needs and it works, they’ll use it. The Glass truly fits medicine/industry in the first stage and that will be how it works. Google+ will either work, or not. In the meantime, it can be used to build on. Otherwise, Google is a company with expanded strategies… so what?That is like saying to Honda, build motorcycles not cars! Then, of all things, they build Asimo. Google is looking very long term and will be at the forefront. The only thing I do not like is their being so in bed with the Gov. (WH). That is not fair. Otherwise, instead of pulling down Google, someone needs to produce something better.

  22. bobmonsour

    These companies, when they get to the size they are, swimming in depths of technological progress, tend to lose the sense of empathy for the people who consume their services. I think this is where Apple has done the best job of conveying that they still have it.

  23. takingpitches

    When Google launched, one of the refreshing things was that it was not aiming to be a “portal” — the final destination for everyone like Yahoo, AOL, and others were. More power to the goal; it’s just not one that’s realistic.This has been a recurring theme since then (Facebook, for example), and a great point that even Google has been afflicted at times.

  24. ShanaC

    A) Most people are in a bubble – developing lovingkindness is a difficult taskB) Why would a startup be any different?

  25. Guest

    rare second post:We should declare August a “replace all tools” day (or something much better like “try new stuff” ).Try a new email client (or three). Use a different search engine (or two)Use a different travel site (or 45)Try a new Photo App (very very cool one launching tomorrow)etc…

    1. fredwilson

      i am working on trying a new email client



  27. Ciaran

    Really? I tend to think that many of the things that your investment companies have done could be lumped into similar areas.Retweets were a function created by people who used Twitter (notice I didn’t say users or customers or, even worse, consumers?) But Twitter decided that it didn’t like the way that the people who had invented retweets were using them, so removed the ability to add comment as well as simply reposting them.It seems to have recently changed its tune, but it sure took a while. Should we expect an article about how Twitter is attempting to run the game?

  28. leeschneider

    Tell us about your thrice yearly de-cluttering. What’s involved? Physical, mental, etc?

  29. falicon

    +100. It’s likely going to take a paradigm shift (on my part) to replace:Google search – it’s the easiest, quickest, ‘high enough’ quality general web search engine for me to use. To replace it in my world you’ll likely have to replace my need to do general web search (not just give better results or focus on privacy or anything else like that).Gmail – it’s the easiest, quickest, ‘full featured enough’, high volume, web based email service for me to use. To replace it in my world you’ll likely have to change my current need/use of email.Youtube – it’s the easiest, most content rich, video searching platform for me to use. To replace it in my world you’ll likely need to provide access to higher quality videos across a deeper set of content (actually possible, but *highly* unlikely any time soon because of network effects) …or… replace my need/interest in finding UGC videos on the web.Analytics – it’s the easiest, most ‘accurate enough at scale’, free web based analytics reporting system for me to plug into any site I build (big or small). You would likely need to convince me of *new* metrics I haven’t thought about but would really need/want (and that Google doesn’t provide) and offer it all for free (and able to scale) with very simple integration.Chrome – it’s the most powerful, ‘stay out of my way, yet full featured’ browser for what I do on the web right now. You would likely have to provide new functionality/features that I have no idea I really *need/want* right now in a web browser (and again do it for free at a very high level of quality)….there are prob. others (certainly android, adsense, and adwords for some though I’m not a reg. user myself of any of those) but those are the core ones off the top of my head that I do not see myself switching away from any time soon (without a paradigm shift on my part).And that’s pretty amazing when you think about it all coming from one company…enough that I happily ignore the *many* other products they do not hit the mark with me on (and I don’t fault them for continuing to try).

  30. LE

    “It’s very tough to change those habits and change to, say,, or especially an email client.”People get used to a certain look and feel.I’ve experienced this when printing orders for clients by mistake in the wrong color. Their automatic reaction is not to like it because it’s not what they are used to and what they expected. They’d barf it out more often than they say “oh that’s nice let’s stay with that”.Also a little bit of superstition going on as well as feeling of control by going with what feels comfortable.Don’t many musicians settle on a brand of guitar and take a liking to it?Or athletes?I’m used to the way google search looks. I would have to be deprogrammed or have a really big reason to go with anything else. People are loyal to how something looks and feels.

  31. Guest

    oh, all of that…pretty predictable. physical space, number of commitments, stuff in my bag, on my desk, on my plate. Especially gadgets and studio gear, but soon some furniture, clothes, etc. it helps to picture moving into a very small house. a tiny house.