What We Can Learn From Captain Netflix

There’s been a customer service exchange that has been making the rounds on the Internet over the last few weeks. It’s a great piece of creativity, and for lack of a better term, the customer service employee had the cajones to go for it.


I can’t put into words how fascinating I find it that we don’t hear more about this type of stuff on daily basis. Captain Netflix (this is what I’m calling him), put himself out there and created a positive experience for the customer. It could just have easily blown up in his face (the customer didn’t like the tone of the conversation, wasn’t willing to have the silly retorts, etc.), but Captain Netflix went for it. He realized he can only do so much within this chat room setting and he expanded on it, got creative, and now his conversation is posted all over the Internet.

Positive customer service experiences are hot topics because all too often the only types of posts about customer service that make the rounds on the Internet focus on the negative. I like to believe there are far more positive customer service experiences that occur on a daily basis, but we rarely hear about them. Here are just a few things that I think we can learn from the exchange of Captain Netflix.

  1. Netflix is a good company that supports its employees. I haven’t seen anything on the Internet that suggests Captain Netflix got in trouble for this conversation, or received some type of reprimand for thinking outside the box. This tells me that Netflix is a company that wants its employees to find new ways to tackle simple problems (like Parks and Rec having a playback error).

  2. Consumers are looking for that next level of service that outdoes previous service experiences they’ve had in the past. If you got on Netflix right now, and had a problem, would you not want, and expect, this same level of service?

  3. In the Internet age, the world of troubleshooting and problem solving is drastically changing. If there’s a problem with a product or service, it’s highly unlikely you will speak with a person face to face or by the phone anymore. Chat rooms and email correspondence are becoming the norm, and it’s nice to see that there can still be a level of personality and individuality that can come in the conversation, even through the computer screen.

I leave you with this: which do you receive more, good customer service or bad customer service?
The follow up question: which do you talk about more, good service or bad service?

Making Memories

Last week was the 4th of July. It was the first 4th of July that I had off from work in 12 years. That’s not a joke, seriously, 12 years. I didn’t really know exactly how I was going to spend it, but I did sleep in. When I checked my email on the morning of the 4th of July, I had the following message waiting for me:

For Cole:

Last year I was moved to write an email to the staff at ‘This American Life’ after hearing a rerun of their ‘Amusement Park’ episode. In honor of the Fourth of July, I’m forwarding an excerpt of it to you:

“Six years ago, my wife became fed up with all of the things that were wrong with America, and moved us from our California home to the UK. Though politically I have always agreed with her views, I have always felt that there was more to my country than the negative things she saw. But while it has always been very easy for her to point out shootings, urban sprawl and the crassness of pop culture as examples of America gone wrong, I have had a difficult time pinpointing what’s right or great about America, and the reasons I miss my homeland as much as I do. I had always loved This American Life, and listened to it every week while we lived in California, but it was only recently that I discovered I could get the program on a podcast. In the months since I made this discovery, I have been able to hear for myself every week concrete examples of the things I miss.

Last week, the news of the cinema killing in Aurora, Colorado, gave my wife just one more perfect example of the horrors we had fled, and I found myself in despair that perhaps I had been deluding myself that there was anything left back home that was worthwhile anymore. After all, how does one counter a negative as big as mass murder?

But then I listened to your recent podcast about amusement parks. I’m sure it sounds crazy, but the story of Cole Lindbergh and his antics at the Worlds of Fun park were like a shining beacon from across the ocean. Britain isn’t all that different from the US, but I have never met anyone here at all like Cole, and hearing his story, I could point to him and say to myself, “THAT’s what the rest of the world is missing!” The concept of a man making his living doing exactly what he wants to do, loving life and finding success while making people happy — there is something profoundly American about that, and I loved hearing about it. In his own small, ridiculously silly way, Cole Lindbergh is helping to keep America great. Please don’t laugh when I tell you that I got the same lump in my throat listening to Ira’s description of him singing and dancing with his teen-aged staff as I do when I watch the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. I hope Cole finds a way to keep his dream going, and I thank you for letting me hear his story.”

Again, happy Fourth, Cole. Rock that Uncle Sam hat for me.

Tom M.

I’ve read this message multiple times, and I’m still rather speechless about it. There is one part that sticks out to me though, one thing that I immediately think about, and anyone who truly knows me might be able to pick it out as well. It’s something that I pride myself on; making people happy. To know that this little Games Department in Kansas City could bring joy into someone’s life thousands of miles away is for me both heartwarming and overwhelming.

Each year, I tried to train my staff that we were never really in the business of getting people to play games; we were in the business of creating memories. I pushed my staff to make an impression. Make it so that ten years after that guest wins the prize, when they find it sitting in the bottom of their closet, they can pull that prize out, look at it, smile, and immediately be flooded with the memories of the time they won it at the amusement park.

I’ve been faulted for having such a romantic point of view about winning prizes and making memories. But, when I get messages like the one above, I get that romantic feeling all over again. It’s a great feeling.

Thank you Tom, for not only making my day, but the day of all those games employees who still believe in making memories.

The Obstacles & The Jump

I’m not athletic. I have never been athletic. I do not like to run. I’ve tried the working out thing a few times but I got bored. I like swimming because that doesn’t feel like working out. Wait, does that count?

The reason I bring this up is because two months ago I did run, four miles, in the mud. It was for an obstacle racing event called Hard Charge taking place in Wichita, Kansas. I’d say obstacle racing is comparable to an adult version of a McDonald’s PlayPlace, except replace the ball pit with a mud pit, the tunnels with walls to climb over, and the slide with a fireman’s pole. Also, take those elements that are usually confined within the small Ronald approved emporium, and spread them out over long distances.

Once again, I’m not doing this justice, so here’s a video I did through I Got You A Song showcasing my run.

So how did this come to be? I have one person to thank, Matt B. Davis (*).

(*) Seek out his Twitter & Vine account. I’m going to go out on a limb and state there will be only a small majority of people who read this that know what a Vine is.

Matt and I first spoke years ago after I appeared on This American Life. Matt is a persistent dude, and when he heard my story, he tracked me down, found my email, reached out to me, and called me up. Like I said, persistent, and ballsy. At that time, Matt was running his own company that would provide staff for conventions and promotions. We talked for a bit, a little about his job, a little about amusement parks, a little about This American Life, and that was it.

Fast forward, it’s a little over a year and a half later, and Matt has now entered a new world, the world of obstacle racing. Along with his podcast (*), he now heads up Obstacle Racing Media, the source for all news regarding the world of mud running. By chance, he stumbled across my LinkedIn profile, reached back out to me, invited me to meet him in Wichita, and run the course.

(*) For Matt’s podcast, I did about an hour-long interview which you can listen to here. There’s lot of post Worlds of Fun talk, This American Life talk, and more fun stories. I start at about 9:30 in.

At first, I was hesitant, but then I remembered something I had been told years earlier. It was a small piece of advice, and I’m paraphrasing now, but in my mind, it goes like this, “Don’t ever look back, and regret not taking the jump.” (Pun intended if the jump is into a pool of mud.)

The real takeaway is this, Matt is embarking into a new world, he found something he loves, and he’s following it. He’s taking the jump. He’s traveling to these events, interviewing people, taking pictures, writing blogs, live-tweeting the results of races. He’s a one man show. He’s found something that he is passionate about and he is sharing that passion with the world.

To take that jump, and find your passion, is something I pushed for my former employees at the park. “Find something you love, and do it,” I would say. “Take that step, and follow through.”

There’s something both exciting and scary about taking that step. I thought about the ramifications of me not following up on Matt’s offer. What if I wouldn’t have gone to Wichita? What if I hadn’t of strapped on my GoPro and ran that race? Would I regret it?

Taking the jump can be a lot of things, whether it be building a business like Matt, or simply stepping out of your comfort zone and running a race.

Have you looked past the obstacles and taken the jump?

Innovation, Leadership, & TPS

Before you read on, watch the video posted below, only 6 minutes of you time.

There’s obviously a lot to take away from this video, but let’s focus on one thing in particular, the innovation of the Toyota Production System, or TPS. I first heard about TPS years ago from an hour long story on This American Life (listen to the story here). The segment on This American Life tells the tale of an automotive plant in California named NUMMI, where Toyota joined forces with General Motors to help them implement the TPS in their daily production of automobiles (*).

I love innovation. I love when new ideas are brought to the table. I love when someone examines a daily process, and offers helpful suggestions to make it better. The sad truth though, is that there are leaders out there who don’t feel the same way. There is a strange divide between a leader headstrong in their want to do things their way, and a leader who is open to new ideas.

The reason I love this video is that it shows not only the small steps that can be taken to improve a process, but it doesn’t gloss over the “people factor.” George, the warehouse manager, is excited to hear new ideas, and that excitement carries over into the work he does. If a new idea can be introduced to George, even if it’s as simple as changing box size, he is dedicated, willing, and ready to try this new idea.

The plus side of this entire process is that by having a leader who is open to new ideas and innovation, it can create an enthusiasm amongst employees where they can be excited about bringing new ideas to the forefront.

What if one small idea could change one little thing about your job?
What if that one little idea could make your job easier?
What if that one little idea could make you enjoy your job even more?
Are there still bosses out there who love to hear new ideas?

Truth is, it’s a tough job being a boss, but being a boss is just one thing.
It takes a whole lot more to be a great leader.

*I’m honestly not doing the story much justice with that short description. It is a truly fascinating story well worth a listen. Link