Ian Gotts
March 02, 2019

ARTICLE: Silicon-Based Life Forms & Customer Service: My Interview With a Robot

A serial entrepreneur, Ian Gotts is CEO and founder of Q9 Elements. Elements is a freemium cloud process knowledge app - "visio on steroids". It is the first choice for process professionals embarking on business transformation, Salesforce implementation or regulatory governance. You can learn about Q9 Elements here, or keep updated with Ian’s work here.


Recently my iMod – an iPod with internal electronics replaced with Hi-Fi components – stopped working. (Yes I am a Hi-Fi nerd but the sound quality is fantastic). As it was expensive and had been modified in the US I wasn’t too comfortable giving it to just anybody to fix. So I asked around and the iPod Surgery was recommended.

I went to their site which seemed pretty self-explanatory. I found the model of my iPod and selected “Not sure what is wrong with it” and “Please send me pre-paid box”. I paid my money via credit card on the website and received an email from a chirpy, enthusiast chap called Nano Norm telling me the pack was on its way. A few days later the packaging arrived, complete with instructions and a postal bag.

So far, so good. All achieved without talking to anyone. I sent off the iPod and waited.

I then got another email from Nano Norm telling me my iMod had arrived but was “resting to get its strength up before the surgery tomorrow”.
Over the next couple of days I got updates on my iMod. Apparently he’d “pulled through” but needed a new battery and I authorized this online. The next day I heard that “the little fella is right as rain, but is resting before he travels back to you”.

Click here to learn about Robotic Process Management.

Now we both know that Nano Norm is a jpeg and silicon-based and so is my iMod, and that I am carbon-based life form. But throughout the process we’ve all seemed to get along and communicate pretty well. Nano Norm kept me up to date every step of the way – with good humor.

Great customer service – but how?

My iMod has arrived back with me and I am very happy. Which got me thinking. Why is Nano Norm so good at customer service? What are his philosophies and how do they differ from those who offer poor customer service? So I asked to interview him, and here is the transcript.

Ian: What’s your customer service philosophy?
Nano Norm: Well, we are called iPod Surgery, so we thought we’d treat every iPod and iPhone as though they were coming into surgery. Loved ones (owners) are naturally concerned about the surgery, so we need to keep them informed.

Ian: So how do you achieve this?
Nano Norm: The entire end to end process needs to be understood so that nothing falls through the gaps. We looked at every possible route through the process and anticipated the problems. And also we identified when I’d need help for exceptions. Sounds daunting, but it is critically important and it doesn’t actually take that long. That gave us the customer touch points.

Ian: Sounds easy to do, so why do others fail?
Nano Norm: I have dealt with other organizations that have only really understood and optimized certain parts of the process but the rest is awful. Or maybe they have outsourced critical elements to save money. The secret to success is in getting the entire process to work smoothly. Often it is the handoffs between process steps are the points of failure.

Ian: So you’ve mapped your processes and customer journeys. Then what?
Nano Norm: Then I got to add my level of humor and personality into the emails we send to customers at each of the critical touch points. The emails are to give the customer information, but it gives them confidence and that massively increases repeat business and referrals.

Ian: Does it always work?
Nano Norm: Sometimes the iPod dies on the operating table. But if we’ve kept the customer informed each step of the way, then we normally have a short period of grief but a satisfied customer. We also get people to pay for the most reliable postal service to eliminate problems there.

Ian: Any final thoughts?
Nano Norm: Yes. I am silicon based. I don’t get bored. I don’t get sick. I just do the same thing again and again and again, relentlessly. You could say I am boring but dependable. But they’ve given me a sense of humor. Which means that on every aspect I am better than most carbon-based life forms in customer service.

Ian: Fascinating. Thanks for spending time with me
Nano Norm: You do realize I am not real don’t you?
So what can we learn from this?

Great customer service comes from some simple things done well, but with a strong process foundation.

  • A clear understanding of the end to end processes
  • A view of every possible customer path through those processes
  • A clear view of key customer touch points
  • Reducing the risks from 3rd parties

Finally, business is too serious. Injecting some personality into these faceless call routing systems, automated emails, and self service websites can massively improve customer experience. If you do things well, then humor makes you stand out. If you regularly get things wrong, the humor makes you seem like a clown. You can’t cover up a poor service with a great personality.

So who wins?

Give me Nano Norm any day over a disenfranchised call center operator battling with poor corporate processes.

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