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Customer Genius: Xerox and the Snowmobile story

Peter Fisk’s new book, Customer Genius, was published in May. Peter has been writing his ‘Genius’ series of books and publishing them so fast, I missed this one. They are always readable, illuminating, full of anecdotes and well-researched insight.

I notice the Xerox snowmobile story is in this book. I think Peter and I were at the same CREDO conference in Paris where a guy from Xerox told the story, as I’ve been re-telling it over the years, too.

It’s one of those possibly mythical stories that pass around a company to illustrate ‘how we do things around here.’ If you don’t have any customer-focussed stories circulating virally in your organization, almost spontaneously, then you are in trouble, because you probably don’t have a customer-focussed culture.

Here’s the story:

Xerox Scandinavia ran a promotion to deliver a new copier to any customer in the Stockholm postcode area within 24 hours of the order being received, or the copier would be free.

An order came in by fax from a house that, by a fluke, was halfway up a mountain around the edge of the city, but still with a Stockholm postcode. And it was snowing heavily. The despatcher hired a snowmobile and set off with a colleague. Halfway up, the terrain got too steep for the snowmobile. So, they got off and walked.

Fifteen minutes after the deadline expired, they knocked on the door of the customer, presented him – to his surprise – with a free photocopier, and walked off, desolate, into the snow, to find their snowmobile and go home.

A week later one of the biggest orders they had received for corporate photocopiers came through their fax machine, from the same customer. He had been so impressed with their diligence and efforts that he switched his company’s photocopier contract to Xerox.

Now, I love that story. But, it allegedly took place in the early 90s. Have you ever tried cancelling one of those watertight corporate photocopier contracts at one week’s notice and switching to another supplier? In the early 90s a photocopier contract was like a pair of handcuffs.

That doesn’t matter, though. The point is that at Xerox they tell that story – That’s the way they want to behave. Peter’s book is full of great stories and sharp insights and analysis for turning your organization into an outside-in company.

There’s a link to Peter’s website over there on the left under ‘People I Like’. It’s worth a visit. I always learn stuff from Peter.


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