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How One Growing Company Impressed 559,861 People Last Weekend

Published April 25, 2013

If you aren’t a gamer, then there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of Razer. Until last weekend, the company was mostly known for making high-performance peripherals for playing video games (i.e., fancy mice and keyboards with a price tag to match).

Now, though, it might be the gutsiest, most customer-centric company you’ll read about all year. Here’s what happened.

Last week, reports spread about a coupon code for Razer’s U.K. site that gave customers 90 percent off of their orders. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an authorized promotion. It turns out that one of the company's partners added the coupon code for testing purposes, but never deleted or deactivated it. Thousands of orders were placed before Razer could shut it down.

The company had a variety of options. It could have canceled the orders, apologized, and offered a smaller discount as a goodwill gesture. Heck, it could have canceled the orders and offered nothing besides an explanation. I think customers would’ve accepted either outcome.

Instead, despite all of these logical alternatives, Razer (amazingly) decided to honor the 90 percent discount.

Min-Liang Tan, Razer’s CEO, announced on Facebook that everyone who made a purchase using the coupon code would get their orders filled (with slight restrictions around timing and volume orders).

It’s no surprise that this turned into a hot story. Several major tech outlets covered it, including Mashable, Engadget, and Gamespot. But the story really found its legs in the social sphere. A post on Reddit about the coupon gaffe garnered more than 23,000 votes and 550,000 views.

What Does “Doing Right By Your Customers” Mean To Your Firm

What’s fascinating about Razer’s reaction to this situation is that it forces us to really look at what it means to do right by your customers. After all, many customers said things like, “I figured this was too good to be true, but...” So, really, Razer could have taken any number of lesser measures and still have done right by its customers.

Instead, what Razer did was set the bar higher. It has shown a way to think about customer centricity that’s actually pretty easy to apply in day-to-day operations: Customer-centric companies treat their customers better than their customers would expect to be treated.

It’s beautifully simple. Do more than what your customers would consider fair. If you’re deciding between two options, pick the one that’s better for your customers, not just acceptable to them.

For Razer, this was a big loss in one category that unexpectedly turned into a big gain in another. For the rest of us, it’s a great example of customer centricity and of the positive power that it, and social influence, can have on our businesses.

Social Doesn’t Always Hurt You In A Crisis

In "Smart Customers, Stupid Companies," Bruce Kasanoff and I wrote about the disruptive force of social influence, among others. Social media is what drives this force, essentially putting others (often many, many others) between you and your customers.

In the book, we talk about the fact that social media gives customers real power to “review and analyze the quality of your products, the degree to which your firm is trustworthy, and the degree to which you perform as promised.”

But this doesn’t happen just independently anymore. It happens collectively, with your company’s actions being “tested, examined, discussed, and shared by other people” in any number of channels.

And it played out exactly that way in Razer’s case, with lengthy discussions happening across the Internet. But, instead of getting torn to shreds by social like many companies do, Razer’s customer-centricity meant it benefitted enormously from the power of social influence.

Unleashing A Frenzy Of Loyalty

By now, we’ve all witnessed a major social media event create a sort of mob mentality. And it happened here, too. What’s different in this case is that the mob unleashed a frenzy of loyalty. Some highlights from the discussion on Facebook and other sites include:

  • Countless mentions of how mega-corporations like Electronic Arts and Activision aren’t and would never be so customer-friendly. Takeaway: Another company doing right can focus “the mob” on those that don’t.
  • Tons of kudos and pronouncements of loyalty, such as, “I’m a customer for life now.” Takeaway: Customers really do notice when you do the right thing.
  • Several people voluntarily canceled their discounted orders and repurchased at full price. Takeaway: While rare, customers will voluntarily puta respected company’s interests ahead of their own.
  • And then there were the people who didn’t know about the code previously, but made a full-price purchase as a show of support. Takeaway: Customers want to do the right thing, too—and many will, given the chance.

This story leaves me thinking hard about what it would take to unleash a frenzy of mob-driven loyalty on some of our clients’ firms. I suspect it’ll mean getting a little more customer-centric than some of them might be comfortable with.

Do You Have What it Takes to Embrace ‘Radical Customer Centricity’?

The truth is, it doesn't get much more innovative than this: Customer-centric companies treat their customers better than their customers would expect to be treated. It’s the Golden Rule in action. By treating customers better than they expect, companies tend to find that their customers do right by them in return.

Let’s call Razer’s approach “radical customer centricity.” Embrace it, if you dare—the benefits may be far greater than you can possibly predict.

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