Great customer service email

I love a great customer service email. I always find it surprising when companies mess this up. In today’s day and age, it is so easy to create a beautifully customized email.

We recently purchased ceramic knives from a small vendor on Amazon called Oliver & Kline. Their initial email and follow up notes have been outstanding. So, I thought I’d deconstruct that today.

Hi Rohan, (Use the customer’s name.. duh. “Dear Customer” just shows an incredible lack of thoughtfulness given most of us know mail merge exists.)

Thanks a lot for picking up the Oliver & Kline Ceramic Knife Set!

Your order is being processed by Amazon. Before your product arrives, I wanted to let you know:

Have you ever used a ceramic knife before? If not, you’re in for a treat. These things effortlessly slice through anything in a way that traditional knives do not.

In addition, they hold an edge longer than any other type of knife you may have used previously – we’re looking at you stainless steel! (Always lovely to have a bit of humor. I could rationalize it by saying it makes me feel this is more human. But, that’s just because everything else is great..) Plus ceramic knives never rust and are easier to clean. This knife set looks great, cuts great, comes in a fabulous gift box, and are just plain fun to use!

To help you get the best results using our creamic (I would pick on this typo but the positive energy from the rest of the email makes me ignore it.) knife set, I have attached a short Users Guide (Combining the onboarding with the training manual – nicely done.). You are strongly advised to give it a quick read to prolong the life of your knives!

I predict that the high quality (and easy of use) will blow you away! (Love the positivity, cheer and can sense the pride in the product.)

I’ll email you as soon as it’s been shipped. (They did do this – albeit a bit late as Amazon shipped it ahead of time.)

Thanks again Rohan, we really appreciate your order! (Ah – the use of my name twice. I know it is just a merge field but it feels personal. And, this just isn’t done right usually. Well played.)
Oliver & Kline
(My only gripe with this email would be that I’d suggest signing off with a human name. Always nice to be interacting with a human being.)

P.S. IMPORTANT, PLEASE READ: We’re 100% committed to providing you with a top-notch customer experience. If there’s anything that didn’t go right with your order, please hit REPLY to this email and let us know immediately before leaving a review on Amazon. I’ll look into it for you personally! (I love the – “I’ll look into it for you personally.” I think it might even be more powerful to just leave a phone number. But, this works pretty well.)

Remember – we’re in this together, and success stories from awesome customers like you is what brings a glowing smile to our face, so thank you for being a part of this movement!

The beauty about this email was that I was rooting for these knives before they even showed up. Sure, there isn’t a thing as a universally great customer service email. But, there are certain small things – personalization, positivity, humor and thoughtfulness – that easily make an average email into a very good one.

And, just to show it wasn’t a flash in the pan, here is their response when I thanked them for it.

Oliver&Kline email

Small things. Big impact. Nice job, Oliver & Kline.

PS: The knives are great.


It is tempting to sit back and take everything around us for granted. There’s so much we don’t control and, if we believe the news, all of it seems to be going downhill – the politics suck, the environment is doomed, corporations are evil, terrorists seem to be unrelenting. But, that sort of view is just one that has forgotten just how malleable the world is. It is also one that takes no responsibility for the future.

It is easy to forget that most things we see, hear, touch and use has been created by human beings just like us. And, what we take for granted wasn’t a given during 99+% of human history. In the last 100 years (a rounding error in the history of human beings), the world has outdone itself in demonstrating how malleable it is. Pokemon Go would have been consigned to the craziest corner of science fiction.

There’s a lot right in the world. It is without a doubt the safest it has ever been in all of human history. It is also the healthiest, the most affluent. There’s also a lot wrong. The wealth is growing more concentrated and this is causing all sorts of political problems. We’ve been messing with the environment too much for our own good. And, our leaders seem to be trading talking about real issues for transitory personal power. But, this tension between right and wrong will always exist. It is up to us to tilt the scales to continue making things better, making more progress and making our lives count.

And, to do that, we must remember that, despite how easy it is to think otherwise, our world is malleable. Big problems are waiting to be tackled. And, the onus to make things better is on us.

malleable, world(Thanks to the for the image)

Speed of awareness

A good gauge for how we’re doing on changing our own behavior is a metric I call speed of awareness.

Let’s take an example – an idea I have been attempting to work on is inquiry instead of opinions. When I’m asked for advice, my typical process is to understand the problem, look for a framework that fits the situation and then give my opinions. I’ve come to realize that a better process would be to add more inquiry before I give my opinion on the situation. I still move way too quickly into solution suggestions.

Now, if my speed of awareness was to be 1 second, I would have no problem. As soon as I did it, I would catch myself, back track and move on. The challenge, of course, is that shortening the speed of awareness takes work. So, the first time I realized I did this, it was a couple of days after a conversation. The next time, it was a day. Then, a few hours. A few days ago, I realized it right after a conversation. That’s progress. The next time, I hope to catch myself during the conversation and then as soon as I get the question in time.

The key with reducing the speed of awareness is deliberate practice. In this case, deliberate practice is re-hashing that conversation and re-doing it in my mind.

speed of awareness, reflectionThanks to source for the image

Similarly, imagine you want to learn to take a deep breath before you lose your temper. The way to do this would not be to will anger away. It would be to focus on reducing your speed of awareness. The deliberate practice in this situation would be 3-5 minutes of deep breathing every day and re-hashing times when you lost your cool and re-doing it. Over time, you’ll notice your speed of awareness decreasing.

Self-driven behavioral change is hard for many reasons. There isn’t an easy-to-understand process and there is a complete absence of metrics. I find speed of awareness to be a very useful metric to drive changes in ourselves…

Satisficers and Maximizers

Barry Schwartz’s research showed that people tend to fall into to one of two groups when making decisions – he called these groups satisficers and maximizers. Maximizers desire the best possible result while satisficers desire a result that is good enough to meet some criterion. That doesn’t necessarily mean satisficers settle for crap. Their criteria could be lofty – but, as long as it meets that criteria, they don’t care about it being the best. Most people are a mix of both. That said, most people default to one of the two.

(Thanks to the source for the image)

Barry Schwartz argues that satisficers tend to be happier than maximizers as maximizers spend a lot of time and energy on many decisions that just don’t matter as much.

I agree.

I am not sure what I was growing up but I did have strong maximizer tendencies until a few years ago. Over the years, however, I’ve learnt that there are very few things worth maximizing. For the most part, being a satisficer is stress free and rewarding because you often rely on research done by others. I also think you spend way too much as a maximizer sterilizing instead of playing and editing instead of creating.

Sure, you could spend hours polishing that draft. But, polishing is best done to things that are worth polishing. And, it often takes many years of creating before you arrive at things worth polishing.

So, the next time you’re facing hours of endless research to purchase something, consider asking a couple of friends who tend to have similar tastes. Or, just go on Amazon and pick the most popular item.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t always need the best. Good enough, for most things, is good enough. And, for the few things that you determine to be worth maximizing, make sure you enjoy the polishing…

Building Lost Boy 6 seconds at a time – The 200 words project

Ruth Berhe is a Canadian singer-songwriter who, as an 18 year old in 2013, began posting 6 second Vine video covers of popular songs. She gradually gained a following.

In December 2014, she posted a video of a line that she made up about a song, inspired by a television series, themed around Peter Pan. It garnered 84,000 likes in a week – an unusual response for a 6 second video of hers at the time. She took note of the popularity, created a full song titled “Lost Boy” and posted it on YouTube in January 2015. She then released it on iTunes in February 2015. Columbia Records then signed her in July 2015 and she released 4 songs in November 2015 including “Lost Boy.”

Lost Boy cracked the “Top 50” and is a very unusual Top 50 song as it is a piano ballad with no beats and no adornments. Ruth literally built this song and her fledgling music career one 6 second video at a time, thus teaching us all a lesson on how to use the “minimum viable product” approach to build a successful product. Thanks, Ruth, and good luck!

She started to add lines in Vine-able increments. “I would finish studying, come down stairs, and add a line to the chorus,” she explains. “In a week, I had a chorus, so I decided I should turn this into a full song and take it to YouTube. – Ruth Berhe

lost boy

Source and thanks to: Wikipedia,, Added note – Lost Boy is a song that I’ve come to love thanks to the radio. I thought the story behind the song was fascinating.

The things that made them great

A close friend reflected on a recent interview experience with one of the world’s most sought after companies. Out of 5 interviewers who interviewed him, he was sure that 2 of them had not taken 30 seconds to skim through his resume. He was also willing to bet that the other 3 hadn’t a clue where he was from either – he just didn’t know for sure. They seemed to only care about his technical expertise. We were both surprised because they didn’t seem to be doing the things that made them great.

The things that made them great.

We’ve seen this often with companies. They start small and do the small things extraordinary well. Then, they scale and promise to do so in a way that would maintain what’s special about them. But, somewhere along the line, they stop doing the things that made them great. They stop paying attention to the small details and stop treating customers as human beings.

Before we file this away in the “not relevant for me” category, we see this happen just as much with people as well. Once you build a great reputation, you will be told that you won’t need to do the pre-work or follow up. “Don’t worry about that. You’re going to be great.”

If you believe that, you’ve gotten it all wrong. Great people and companies do the things that made them great even when it doesn’t seem necessary.

Greatness isn’t in the going up. It is in the staying up.

the things that made them greatImage Source

But, what can you do?

When you see bad stuff happen around you that you cannot control, it is tempting to begin to feel powerless and hopeless. After all, what can you do? There are people out there who are more powerful and influential than you who’re unable to do much. So, where does that leave you?

I think the only answer that makes sense is – get better. Be a better person by taking the time to define and live by your values, stay healthy, learn more, engage in deep conversations – especially those that express opposing viewpoints -, and grow. Sure, some on-the-street activism this afternoon may create a short term stir. But, if you want to create long lasting change, you have to play the long game.

As you do this, you will likely influence more people than you realize – at home, at work, and in the community. If all goes well, you will also have real influence in these communities because you chose to lead by example. And, over time, that influence can translate into cultural change – the only kind of change that lasts. There is a lot of space for all our communities to be more open, more inclusive and more caring. For this change to happen, it will need an insider, i.e. you, to lead these communities through this change. Today might not be the day for that. But, if you care enough, that day will come soon enough.

Until then, you will have to hope that there will be others who are willing to take the plunge and lead. But, you don’t control that. So, stay focused on what you can change. The more you do that, the more you will be able to change – in yourself and in the world around you.

Let them know

When you change behavior for the better thanks to something you learnt from someone, let them know.

If someone did something that led you to change your behavior, that’s incredibly powerful. This isn’t just about making them feel good (it will do that for sure), it is about letting people know that did something that had impact. Even reasonably self aware people tend to be much more aware of their shortcomings than their strengths. And, knowing what you do well or what you do that impacts others is incredibly valuable data.

The other beautiful effect of this habit is selfish – you learn to both notice and appreciate things well done. It begins to feels easy and natural to take a moment to let the store manager know that a store clerk is doing a fantastic job. It also becomes habitual to not just say “he did a good job” but to say “I find her ability to listen carefully and then work toward finding a good solution extremely valuable.”

When this becomes habitual, an amazing other thing happens – you just spend more time grateful for the good things that happen to you. As the saying goes, it isn’t happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy.

let them know, gratitudeThanks to the source for the image

The it is what you make it approach

Of late, whenever I am asked if a certain experience has met or exceeded my expectations, I typically respond with a variant of “it is what you make of it.” There are two reasons for this.

First, there are certain experiences decide I’d like to go through. Whether that is marriage or graduate school, it doesn’t matter. It just matters that experience x passes my decision criteria at the time. Once I make the choice to go through that experience and assuming it works out, there is little point in going in with high expectations. Not only do these result in inevitable disappointment and unhappiness, they focus us too much on the past and sunk costs. Both of these don’t matter – we presumably made the best possible decision with the information we had then and sunk costs should be ignored anyway. Essentially, once you make it to wherever you want to go, all bets are off.

The second and more important reason is that all of life is a lesson in the idea that “it is what you make of it.” In almost any environment, my experience has been directly proportional to how much I give to it. The only choice, then, is how much I give or what I make of it. I could choose not to do much – and that’s okay. I could choose to do a lot – that’s also okay. But, it would be foolish to expect a ton from an environment where I am not engaged.

You can say all you want about how disappointed you are with your choice of job/school/partner. But, the fact remains that there are only 2 things you can improve – how you choose (books have been written on this and for good reason) and, once you choose, how much you engage.

Whatever “it” might be, it is what you make of it. Make it good, make it meaningful, and make it count.

it is what you make of it
Thanks to the source for the image

Positive signals on cars

Why do cars not have positive signals for others on the road?

The only 2 signals you can make to another person are either flashing lights or a honk. While the former is typically viewed as a warning, the latter is firmly about relaying the “you screwed up” message.

My hypothesis is that there is both a market and a need for 2 positive signals – a sorry signal and a thank you signal. Here are 3 reasons why –

1. The sorry signal is particularly useful for when you make mistakes. Now, the person who honks behind you knows it was done unintentionally.

2. There are so many nice gestures on the road – a driver making space for you in the lane so you can cut, another who allows a mistake without honking and yet another who waits patiently while you offload a passenger on a busy road. There ought to be a way to celebrate this.

3. The road can be a negative, stress inducing place. This stress has knock on effects in other parts of our lives. A bit of positive affirmation could go a long way. Instead of screaming about that idiot who cut you off abruptly when you are home, you can now reflect on that wonderful sorry and thank you gesture after he/she made a mistake.

How would you execute? There are 2 ways – the outward signals could either be extra lights in different places or it could be a small screen where either message flashes when a button is pressed on the steering wheel.

Here’s hoping that happens…

positive signals, cars(Thanks to the source for the image)