“It’s better to have 100 fans that love you than 1 million fans that like you.” — Y Combinator founder Paul Graham
This was the advice that galvanized Airbnb founder Brian Chesky into creating a paradigm for service beyond five stars. Chesky shared this story in an interview with LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman during a class at Stanford University.
After receiving this advice from Graham, Chesky realized that it would take more than 5-star service to make fans love Airbnb, because 5-star service had become the norm. He wanted the service to be so good that customers would contact the company and demand to award a six-star review instead of the usual maximum of five.
Here’s the excerpt from the show notes, when Chesky explained what service beyond five stars even looks like:
- “5 star service - You leave the airport, go to the Airbnb, your hosts are in the house, they let you in. This is 5 star. Worse than this is if your host is late (4 star) and the worst is if your host never showed up (1 star).
- 6 star service - All of the above + your host picks you up at the airport.
- 7 star service - All of the above + there is a limo waiting for you at the airport and inside the limo are your favorite chips and coconut water.
- 8 star service - There is a giant parade when you arrive at the airport and you are honored for coming.
- 9 star service - The moment you step off the plane there is 5,000 screaming fans holding signs for your arrive - we call this the Beatles check-in.
- 10 star - I could go all the way up to 30 stars - I won’t, but 10 stars would be when you arrive and a Tesla with your name on it is waiting for you and in the car the driver is Elon Musk, and instead of your Airbnb, Elon takes you to outer space.
I exaggerated this to make a point but the principle is if what you need to do is find 100 people who love you — 5 star is what people expect. For them to love you, you need to do more than what they expect. We play out these scenarios all of the time — once you go up to 10 stars, 6 stars doesn’t seem so crazy anymore.”
You don’t have to be an Airbnb host to provide six-star service to your clients, and thanks to the accessibility of social media, you don’t have to be Elon Musk either.
That six-star service level is what happens when you find small gestures that make a big impact. It’s a level of service that is so good, and so tuned in to the customer’s personal needs and wants, that it borders on weird.
Every business can offer amazing customer service by striving for that 10-star, ludicrously amazing customer review. If you work backwards from the 10-star review, you’ll realize how simple it is to provide above-and-beyond service at the 6-star level or better. And by using social media effectively, you can do it for free.
Here’s what that looks like. Set aside a couple hours a week to engage with the content your clients are sharing on social media. This includes personal pages and company pages. However, your engagement needs to be meaningful. You shouldn’t go to a client’s page and like every post they’ve shared in the past week. They’ll interpret your actions as a cheap way to draw attention to yourself.
Instead, find a post that resonates with you, and comment, like, or share it with your network, pointing out why you appreciated the post. Make that client look good by sincerely listening to what they’re trying to share, and then helping them get the word out.
You might think that any effort you put into interacting with a company on social media will only be noticed by that company’s social media manager. But in my experience, that’s not the case. C-level executives watch the activity on their social media pages, and they notice when you show them love. As a C-level exec, why wait for customer survey feedback? Just check your social accounts to put your finger on the pulse of what’s happening.
In the service world, when you get asked to submit a proposal for a job, you’re often competing between companies who are all just as capable of providing the service as you are. What distinguishes you is your willingness to go a step beyond in customer service to earn that 6-star review.
The effort you put into social media can earn new business, but even more importantly, it can earn repeat business from your existing customers.
So break it down. What does a 10-star review look like for your business? Give yourself permission to consider the absurd, and simply dial it back a bit. As an example, our company AmpliPhi, is working toward this model:
- 5 star service - After a great yearlong relationship, you count AmpliPhi (and our staff) as your biggest fans on social media. You see us continuously sharing your content and highlighting your successes.
- 6 star service - AmpliPhi commissions a professional video case study highlighting your company’s most notable accomplishments.
- 7 star service - AmpliPhi pays for your favorite food truck to come to your location and serve both lunch and dinner to you and your staff.
- 8 star service - Enjoy all 14 tickets to AmpliPhi’s Badgers’ football suite for this year’s Wisconsin vs. Michigan game and Bucky Badger will welcome you at the door.
- 9 star service - AmpliPhi coordinates and sponsors a private event in your honor for your staff and your top 20 clients or customers including a special performance by Spencer’s band, Myopic Son (original lineup from 2000).
- 10 star - Mark Cuban comes to your business for a day-long hangout and Q&A session. He observes, provides tips for improvement, shuts down the local restaurant for a private company lunch and joins in for an escape room in the afternoon.
Your company doesn’t need 10 star service, or 9, 8, or 7, for that matter. What about 6 star, though? What would going just a bit further beyond 5 star mean to you and your customers?