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Get 16 of the top recommendations with varying levels of ease to apply to growing on YouTube Shorts.Lessons from Unreasonable Hospitality: A Favorite Read From Our Customer Advocacy Team

Books have a way of changing our perspective and bringing new lenses to life and different mindsets to mind — which is why we recently kicked off a quarterly book club within our Customer Advocacy Team at Buffer.

Late last year, Åsa Nyström, our VP of Customer Advocacy, introduced us to the book Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More Than They Expect by Will Guidara, the former co-owner of legendary New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park. 

Lessons from Unreasonable Hospitality: A Favorite Read From Our Customer Advocacy Team

As an Advocacy team, we had a goal to achieve more hospitable customer support in our everyday interactions, and this book felt like a perfect fit for our team. 

Here’s how we set up our book club, along with some key takeaways our team had reading this book.

How we set up our book club 

I pitched the idea to our Advocacy team in December, and we took the holiday break to read the entire book. 

Lessons from Unreasonable Hospitality: A Favorite Read From Our Customer Advocacy Team

Here’s how the book club worked:  

  • We narrowed it down to three books and then voted for the one we most wanted to read. (Buffer has a reading benefit, where we can expense any book on Kindle, Audible, or purchase a physical book to accommodate to our different learning styles). 
  • We set a reading goal to finish the entire book before our book club meeting.
  • We’re a remote team, so we hosted our book club over Zoom.
  • We kicked off a running document to share notes as we read the book. 
  • We crafted questions ahead of time and shared them with the team a few days beforehand so we could come to the sync prepared and ready to share our thoughts.

In terms of frequency, we set the ambitious goal to sync once a quarter to chat about the insights and share how we can use the new knowledge in our day-to-day work. We’re also planning to iterate on the format as we go.

For this initial book club, we took the holidays to read the entire book — Buffer is closed for two weeks in December, so we had plenty of time. At the end of January, we met as a team to discuss. 

Our key takeaways from Unreasonable Hospitality 

Our first book club was a huge success and sparked an inspiring chat amongst the team about hospitality and how we can “move the needle” in SaaS customer support. 

Here are a few key takeaways we gleaned from the book: 

To start with a quick summary: Unreasonable Hospitality is a principle that guides us as we take ordinary transactions and turn them into extraordinary experiences. 

1. Conflicting goals push us to raise the bar

In the book, the author discussed the idea of setting out the goal of achieving a near-perfect, “five-star dining” experience, while also balancing another goal of being “unreasonably” hospitable. It gave their team the chance to go above and beyond in this new territory and carve a name for themselves. 

As a Customer Advocacy team at Buffer, we discussed the beauty of having conflicting goals that push us to raise the bar. We have some high expectations as a Customer Advocacy team because our work is so integral to the experience we want Buffer customers to have. Our vision is to:

  • Transcend the typical and deliver the exceptional. We go above and beyond for our customers. Each year, we continue to reiterate our vision and goals as a team. 

This year, we set the lofty goals of being highly efficient and hitting record response times, while simultaneously raising the bar in showing hospitality in our customer support and delivering a stand-out experience.

We discussed how we have the opportunity to explore this new space together. To not only hit our goals, but to craft an experience and raise the bar. 

2. We’re aiming for 'one size fits one', not 'one size fits all'

Oftentimes, when working in the customer support industry for a number of years, it can be easy to slip into the mentality of the “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to chatting with customers.

This results in treating all customers the same by leaning on scripts, snippets, or workflows to help speed up efficiency goals. Sadly, this doesn’t result in a stand-out experience.   

At Buffer we've adopted a hospitality mindset to provide direction to our customer support conversations. This means we lean into personal connection and deep product knowledge to provide our customers with a delightful experience. We try to move away from the one-size-fits-all approach, and lean into a more tailored customer support experience.

We believe in the “one-size-fits-one” approach. Customers might write in asking the same questions, but we avoid sending the same reply to each customer. Every customer gets personalized, special care. We’ll tailor our approach to the individual.

We lean into developing a personal connection, looking for opportunities to go above and beyond for the customer, and utilizing our deep product knowledge to give customers an exceptional experience. 

Working in a remote setting, it can be easy to go into "auto-pilot" when we're in the inbox. This can be true for all customer support settings, whether in-person or not. There’s a chance of “tuning out.”

However, delivering a stand-out customer support experience requires being diligently intentional about being present in the inbox and switching our mindset from looking at “tickets” to looking at “conversations,” as if the person was sitting right in front of us. 

There’s a part in the book where the author talks about the “Hot Dog” story. It starts with a group of four foodies dining at his five-star restaurant on their last day of vacation in New York. The author overheard them talking about all the different restaurants they got to try on vacation. One person pipped in and mentioned, “Yeah, but the only thing we didn’t get to try was a New York hot dog.” 

A light bulb immediately went off in the author’s head. He ran around the corner, to the closest hot dog stand, bought a $2 hot dog, and brought it back to his five-star kitchen, and somehow he convinced the chef to serve it. The chef had spent time finessing the hot dog, cutting it into immaculate pieces, and adding a swish of ketchup and mustard.

Toward the end of the four foodies' meal, he finally presented them with the hot dog dish, saying, “To make sure you don’t go home with any culinary regrets, a New York City hot dog.”

And revealed the hot dog cut into four perfect pieces. The four foodies flipped out with enthusiasm and excitement. Each person said it wasn’t only the highlight of the meal, but it was the highlight of their trip to New York, and they’d be telling this story for the rest of their lives. 

The author easily could’ve given the table a bottle of champagne, a more typical special experience, but the extra effort he put in made a lasting impression.  Hear the story from the author here: 

3. Deeply understanding the connection of our work & how this impacts our customers

One quote in particular from the book really stood out to us: "When asking real estate agents what they do, many said they sold houses. But, the great ones said they were selling homes.” The great real estate agents understood the importance of their work and the value of helping people. 

This highlighted how important it is for us to always keep Buffer's vision top-of-mind. Shifting our mindset from: "I'm just helping a customer do XYZ," to "I'm helping this customer or small business do good, and I’m having an impact."

It’s a subtle shift that helps us connect our work with our higher-level vision. Here are a few ways we do this: 

  • Being intentional and present in the inbox. As I explained above, we do this by switching our mindset from looking at tickets vs. looking at the conversation as if the person was sitting in front of us. 
  • Having each other's backs as a team. In the book, the author talks about how he was holding a dirty dish behind his back and how he knew in two seconds his team would help him and immediately grab the plate. Their team had a language of their own, they had signals and communicated via sign language to help each other.

    Translating that to our Advocacy team at Buffer, we’re a close-knit team of 19 close-knit spread across the globe. We have strong relationships and genuinely care about one another. We already do a great job of having each other's backs.

    But, as we try to take our customer support to new heights, we’re asking ourselves if there are more opportunities we can be mindful of as we communicate and work virtually. For example, can we be more intentional about calling out where/how we're working? From a remote work lens, we’re exploring fresh ways we can communicate better amongst our team and leave signals and notes for each other so we can better strategize as a remote working team

  • Keeping an eye out for really good hospitality. We are constantly on the lookout for hospitable interactions we can learn from, whether it's at the coffee shop, auto body shop, or out to dinner.

    We should be constantly thinking, "How did this restaurant/company do it differently?" and, "How can we borrow and make it our own?" We then share those stories amongst the team as inspiration. 

  • Carving out space in our syncs to praise each other publicly and share inspiration. In the book, the author mentions that they had a daily stand-up as a team, and it was an opportunity to share praise. We do several weekly stand-ups as an Advocacy team, based on time zones (East Coast, West Coast, and Europe).

    We’re now working to carve out space in our weekly syncs to share praise of one another, inspiration, and share stories of great hospitable experiences we've seen recently. 

What’s next for our book club and team?

I feel like we’re just getting started! We set out with an ambition to host a book club each quarter to discuss a new book or podcast that focuses on hospitality, and we already have ideas for Q2. We’re also exploring the idea of branching out to consider books, podcasts, or TED Talks from other experts in their craft as inspiration. 

As a remote team spread across the world, we’re looking to better accommodate all time zones, and we’re considering hosting an “async” book club versus meeting over Zoom. 

One lesson we’re taking from our first book club meeting is that it felt a bit rushed as there were SO many talking points we could chat through. We’re considering pacing ourselves — instead of reading the entire book, we could read a book in sections and digest it as a team. 

The first read of our book club has been immensely valuable — the idea of unreasonable hospitality is something of an ethos the team lives by now!

Maya Angelou said it best, “People will forget what you said, people might forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

I believe the heart of hospitality lies in that. People never forget how we make them feel. It makes me appreciate how our work in customer support really matters. 

We’re excited to take our learnings from the book club, and put them to work! Do you have any ideas or suggestions on what we should discuss next? Find us in the inbox (there's always someone from the team in there!) on hello@buffer.com 

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