Seth Godin recently posted a link to the employee handbook of Valve — the company famous for video games such as “Left 4 Dead,” “Half Life,” “Day of Defeat,” and many others. Founded by former Microsoft employees Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington in 1996, the handbook is so incredibly powerful it could be the source of hundreds of posts.
Let’s start with this quote: “￼￼We are all stewards of our long-term relationship with our customers. They watch us, sometimes very publicly, ￼make mistakes. Sometimes they get angry with us. But because we always have their best interests at heart, there’s faith that we’re going to make things better, and that if we’ve screwed up today, it wasn’t because we were trying to take advantage of anyone.”
As I often say from the platform, “Customers do not want you to make it right; they want you to GET it right!”
However, as I also write in “The Ultimate Customer Experience ®” book, when you don’t get it right, it’s critical for your customers to know that you both: a) tried; and, b) cared.
What absolutely irritates customers to infinity and beyond is when the perception is established that not only did you fail to get it right…you also failed to care about it. They feel taken advantage of, and this naturally will cause them to not do business with you again — and to tell everyone they know how badly you screwed up.
Part of what I LOVE about Valve’s approach in their employee handbook is that it:
- acknowledges everyone is responsible for the customer relationship
- acknowledges everyone — sooner or later — makes mistakes
- recognizes sometimes customers can get angry
- advocates the situation will be positively resolved for ALL, because of the integrity of the effort
Here’s one more aspect of the Valve handbook; there is a section entitled, “What Is Valve Not Good At?”
Among the points of self-criticism are: “Helping new people find their way. We wrote this book to help, but…a book can only go so far.”
“Mentoring people. Not just helping new people figure things out, but proactively helping people to grow in areas where they need it is something we’re organizationally not great at.” In other words, Valve begins by admitting it is not great at everything — which, obviously, gives the new employee reading the handbook the permission to admit that he or she is not great at everything…and targets areas for both the company and the team to improve. That’s pretty important…
So…here are two activities for you to undertake to improve your business…and you can do them today.
First, download and read the entire Valve handbook. It’s only 56 pages in its entirety, and it has really big type, cool artwork, and won’t take much of your time to read — but, trust me, you should do it.
Second, look at the handbook of your company…and realize why so few organizations are truly distinctive. Go and do something about it!