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Almost every problem has two solutions. The superficial and immediate solution is just to solve the customer’s problem. But when you think a little harder you can usually find a deeper solution: a way to prevent this particular problem from ever happening again.

Treat each problem like the NTSB treats airliner crashes. Every time a plane crashes, they send out investigators, figure out what happened, and then figure out a new policy to prevent that particular problem from ever happening again. It’s worked so well for aviation safety that the very, very rare airliner crashes we still get in the US are always very unusual, one-off situations.

This has two implications.

One: When you handle a customer complaint incident with a well-qualified person chances are that’s the last time we’re ever going to see that particular incident. So with one $100 incident we’ve eliminated an entire class of problems.

As an example, the phone companies and the cable companies and the ISPs outsource their tech support to the cheapest possible provider and end up paying $10 again and again and again fixing the same problem again and again and again instead of fixing it once and for all. They just don’t understand this equation.  The cheap call centers have no mechanism for properly handling customer complaint incidents; indeed, they have no incentive to get customer complaints handled because their income depends on repeat business, and there’s nothing they like better than being able to give the same answer to the same question again and again.

The second implication of fixing everything two ways is that eventually, all the common and simple problems are solved, and what you’re left with is very weird uncommon problems. That’s fine, because there are far fewer of them, and you’re able to give the proper amount of time and manpower to handle those pesky weird uncommon problems.

For us, the “fix everything two ways” religion has really paid off. We were able to increase our sales tenfold while only doubling the cost of providing customer support.

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