What could the characters of this epic fantasy drama, HBO’s Game of Thrones possibly teach us about offering awesome customer service? As it turns out, the Starks, Lannisters and all of the other characters can teach us quite a bit.
As the June 15 season finale of Game of Thrones rapidly approaches, I started to think about the connections between the fictitious Westeros continent and customer service. You might wonder what Game of Thrones and customer service have to do with each other. Isn’t everyone in Westeros vicious, bloodthirsty, and completely narcissistic? Isn’t winter coming? What could the characters of this epically-violent fantasy drama possibly tell us about offering awesome customer service? As it turns out, the Starks and Lannisters and their friends can teach us quite a bit.
Take Cersei Lannister. Sure she’s beautiful, but she’s hardly a poster child for the patience and compassion that are hallmarks of great customer service. Practically her only redeeming quality is her love for her family (and even that crosses the line). At a small business, your customers ARE your family. Attrition of even a few can have a devastating effect on your business. It costs 6 – 7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one. Sure, it’s important to spotlight your products and promotions but if you want to be successful, you need to think of customers first.
When thinking about customers, look to the example of Bran Stark. Let’s just say that one of the younger Starks has a unique talent for getting into the minds of others. Bran is a useful reminder that customer service can give you valuable insights into customer needs and desires that can help set your product roadmap for the future. Anyone heard of New Coke? Or the Wi-Fi smart fridge? Don’t miss this opportunity to learn what your customers are thinking and always put yourself into the shoes of your customers. (Or is it the paws?)
Putting yourself into the someone else’s shoes is not enough. Like Robb Stark. Let’s just say there’s a reason why they call it the “Red Wedding.” Don’t repeat the King of the North’s experience when he went back on an agreement to marry one of Walder Frey’s daughters. Keep your products in stock. If you have SLAs, be sure to meet them. If you make a mistake, make it right with customers. Not only can you lose customers if you don’t, but when you lose the power of their positive word of mouth, you lose your most effective marketing tool. You need to always, always, always deliver on your promises to customers.
Speaking of going back on promises, how many of Theon Grayjoy’s problems could have been avoided if he hadn’t tried so hard to look important to his father, sister, and the Iron Islanders? Self-importance and pushing your weight around won’t make you successful. Sure, nobody likes to be yelled at by an angry customer, but sometimes it happens. Encourage employees to practice compassion. It may even help to motivate them. Make it a practice to show empathy to unhappy customers. Or — like Theon — you could lose the thing that’s most precious to you.
Another Game of Thrones regular who teaches us about empathy is Jon Snow, the bastard son of Ned Stark. How many times has he heard, “You know nothing, Jon Snow!”? In the business world, it’s easy to think that because we have the expertise and the systems to back us up, that we know everything. Major retailers like Nordstrom — which is known for high levels of service and customer loyalty — recognize that it pays to remember: The customer is always right.
Jon’s half-sister, Arya Stark, has lost just about everything that is precious to her — her family, her home, her pet direwolf. Not confined by her status as a highborn girl, she becomes a deadly sword fighter who is on a seemingly unending quest for vengeance. What can we learn from Arya’s experience? Never give up, even when dealing with an angry customer. Companies like Munchery, the online gourmet food delivery startup, know that even when dealing with a customer that’s furious, there’s always an opportunity to turn the detractor into a believer.
We can also learn from Arya’s nemesis — cruel, sadistic Joffrey Baratheon. Sure, it’s good to be king — It’s nice to be able to do whatever you want, whenever you want, and to whomever you want. But that doesn’t work in the business world. Just about everyone’s heard that it costs five times more to attract a new customer than to retain an existing one. You need to treat your every customer well, every time. Joffrey’s experience when he marries Margaery Tyrell shows us this: If you treat people badly, it will catch up to you eventually.
Finally, consider Joffrey’s uncle, Tyrion Lannister. He doesn’t let his small stature stand in the way of his plans, and neither should any of today’s small businesses. With gazillions of consumers using social media, you need a multi-channel customer service solution like Desk.com that lets you respond to customers on Twitter and Facebook, and offer support via mobile devices. Because when you amplify your small business you can compete with the big guys.
Hopefully your relationships with customers are more positive — and less deadly — than most Westeros relationships. And that winter will never come for your business as long as you make customer service a priority!
Readers and Game of Thrones fans, what do you think we could learn about customer service from other Game of Thrones characters such as Daenerys Targaryen, Littlefinger, Varys or Stannis Baratheon? Please add your thoughts in the comments.
Leyla Seka leads Salesforce’s Desk.com.