Friday, November 1, 2019

Businesses have always had to deal with competition, whether their customers are buying services, products, or even ideas.  In these days of social media, it can be even more difficult to gain attention in a crowded marketplace.  Add to that the fact that it is very easy (and potentially devastating) for disgruntled customers to share their bad experiences with the world.  Given all these factors, how can businesses hope to stand out, gain lifelong customers and head off a viral online disaster?  The book Purple Goldfish 2.0  by Stan Phelps and Evan Carroll shows 10 ways to attract raving customers and provides dozens of examples of businesses that "get it" and go the extra mile.

One question that probably occurs to everyone right off the bat: what's with the purple goldfish title?  The authors explain that the goldfish part of the title represents the humble little fish:  while most of the specimens that people are familiar with are roughly the size of your thumb, when unfettered by constraints such as a limited environment (small bowl) and competition for food (many other fish fighting for the limited resources), goldfish can grow to be much larger.  While many factors are outside the control of most businesses (they are unlikely to be able to influence the state of the national or world economy, for instance), the factors that can be controlled can help to set a company apart from the many competitors.  The purple part of the title is a nod to New Orleans and the Mardi Gras colors (purple, gold, and green).  New Orleans embodies the spirit of lagniappe, giving something extra at the time of purchase.  So the Purple Goldfish concept is: giving your customers something extra and unexpected which will help your company to stand out among the competition while also creating a sense of delight and loyalty in (hopefully repeat) customers.

The book is divided into three sections: the why, the what, and the how.  The middle section, the what, is the largest and also my favorite part of the book.  It shows many examples of companies that are providing Purple Goldfish moments for their customers.  These examples are sometimes well-known ('s free shipping both ways and 365-day return policy), while others are a little more unusual (Kimpton Hotels used to offer lonesome guests the opportunity to check out a goldfish companion during their stay).  Many of the examples were collected when Stan Phelps asked for 1001 examples on his blog.  The stories are divided into two categories: value (including sampling, throw-ins, and guarantees) and maintenance (showcasing such features as a convenience, handling mistakes, and follow-up).  While some of the options were definitely aimed at the "high roller" crowd (complimentary spa services and an indoor driving range at the Lexus dealership), many of the examples cited show that every company can go the extra mile to stand out by committing to customer service and finding a niche way to stand out.  The final section of the book goes over the I.D.E.A. Process whereby companies can Inquire, Design, Evaluate, and Advance their own Purple Goldfish.

Minor quibbles: The text had some formatting issues.  When an example was provided, the text would be introduced and the example indented.  After the example, there would be some discussion of the concept, but this "non-quote" would remain indented.  It was therefore sometimes difficult to tell where the quote stopped and the commentary began. Also, there were many URLs provided as footnotes, and nearly all of them were in a teeny, tiny font size. Sometimes there were multiple footnotes at the bottom of the page, and therefore it might have been necessary for the type to be small, but most of the time there was plenty of room to make the font at least legible.

Overall, the book was a very interesting and inspiring look at how some companies "get" customer service and the concept that it is more profitable to keep the existing customers happy than to spend the effort to attract new ones. 

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Purple Goldfish 2.0 from the author in exchange for this review


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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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