3 ways Headsets.com changed their culture to focus on earning word of mouth

Market research on the customer base of my business, Headsets.com, tells me that we earn over 9% of our new business through word of mouth recommendations (WOM). When you consider that most companies’ bottom line profit is less than 9% of sales, that’s an important slice of income. Our WOM strategy began in 2000.

We decided that our customers would appreciate exceptionally good service. We wanted people to prefer doing business with Headsets.com against all other potential suppliers. We wanted our service to be so special that customers are inspired to tell all their friends about how much they love buying from Headsets.com.

Here are the first three things we did:

1. We started to love our customers.

That’s not some gimmick. We have a genuine feeling of warmth towards each and every customer. We respect them, we’re grateful to them; we want to do our best for them. That sincere customer love colors everything we do and informs every decision we make. If an employee can’t feel love towards our customers, they leave and (hopefully) the customer stays.

2. We started to ask every customer on every order, “How are we doing?”

We pay for the customers response with a $10 voucher to spend on their next order. We receive feedback from thousands of customers. They rate us by checking one of five boxes ranked between EXCELLENT and POOR. Our first target was to receive eight EXCELLENTs to any other score. We achieved that goal. It wasn’t easy and involved a lot of hard work and quite a few changes to the way we ran the business. Today, our target is sixteen (16) EXCELLENTs to any other score. Incidentally, customers will often add comments to their feedback telling us about the products and services they would like us to offer. We’ve received some great ideas from customers.

3. Internally, we stopped incentivizing sales people based upon how much they sold.

Instead, we switched to rewarding success through the quality of service given. Service started improving and very soon after sales started rising. Nowadays, many of the people who call 1-800-HEADSETS tell us that a friend recommended them.

The above is a simplification of ten years of hard work and attention to detail. But it illustrates the lengths my company will go to so that we raise our image above the crowd and give people something to talk about. If you’re going to promote your business by word of mouth, by far the most important thing is to give people something good to say about you.

Personally, I believe that if a business is not generating a significant amount of sales through WOM, that failure almost inevitably points to some core problem with the business.

Two reasons your business isn’t getting enough word of mouth

First, there is negative WOM. No news spreads faster than bad news. I’ll wager there are a handful of companies that have treated you badly. If you’re like most people, you just can’t help but tell people your story and warn them off those companies.

The second problem is that it’s difficult for business owners to see for themselves. It’s too easy to look at our own business — our baby — through rose tinted spectacles. For that reason, we must canvas outside opinions from people who won’t pull any punches. We need to know what our business really looks like.

What about your business inspires people to tell a friend?

Unfortunately, when you look at many companies, their products, services, or way of doing business are just so bland and ordinary there’s nothing to shout about. We need our companies to whip up a storm of enthusiasm that motivates people to say, “Hey, I’ve discovered this company/product/service and it’s just so great I can’t wait to tell you all about it.” There’s got to be something different, special, memorable, exciting and WOM-able.

“Differentiate or die,” as Jack Trout said.

At Headsets.com, that’s what we believe. And we intend to carry on striving to give world-class plus service in the conviction that the WOM will follow.


About Mike Faith

Mike Faith is CEO of Headsets.com, America's Headset Specialists. He's addicted to great customer service, an avid vegan, and spends his time between San Francisco and New York.

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  1. cyndi schmidt

    I would like a copy of the questionairre you gave out to your customers.

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