3 Lessons on Business Longevity from the Oldest Company in the World

Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan is the oldest company in the world. Founded in 705 A.D., the Japanese hot spring hotel has operated continually for an astonishing 1,300 years. Think about it: this company has existed since before Charlemagne became the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Charlemagne crowned by the Pope The company’s founder, Fujiwara Mahito, was the son of a close aide to Emperor Tenji, Japan’s 38th emperor, and he built the hotel in a mountainous village in Hayakawa, Yamanashi Prefecture. It’s said that some of the most famous shoguns and samurai soaked in the hot springs there, so that when you go for a dip, you’re in good historical company.

Having survived a mind-blowing 52 generations of successive ownership within the same family, the hotel is no doubt a study on how to achieve longevity in business. Learn these three vital lessons from the hotel on building a business that lasts.

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Don’t Copy and Paste Your Customer Support

don't copy and paste your customer support

Have you ever had no idea what you were doing, so you just copied people around you?  It’s how I learned a lot of things — how to ski, fill out important government forms, drink tequila. On the other hand, it’s a terrible way to learn to drive, manage your health, date other human beings — and learn customer support.

Like many people at startups, I felt like I was new at everything. So I’d let my past experiences at the receiving end of customer support inform the way I did my job. I took cues from all the interactions I’ve had with call center operators, bank tellers, airline employees, cable company employees, and insurance people — pretty much everyone’s least favorite human interactions of all time. It was like copying all the answers from the kid next to you in class, even though you know he’s getting them all wrong.

So why did I do this? With no prior experience in customer support, I felt safer copying others and sometimes found myself slipping into a weird robotic customer support mode without even realizing it.

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How Buffer Came Out on Top After Getting Hacked

“Aw crap,” I muttered as I looked at my inbox a few weekends ago and saw an email from Buffer CEO Joel Gascoigne with the subject line “Buffer has been hacked — here is what’s going on”.

We rely on Buffer to handle all the iDoneThis social media accounts, so I braced myself for all sorts of toil and trouble as I clicked on the email. It began:

I wanted to get in touch to apologize for the awful experience we’ve caused many of you on your weekend. Buffer was hacked around 1 hour ago, and many of you may have experienced spam posts sent from you via Buffer. I can only understand how angry and disappointed you must be right now….

Fortunately we hadn’t been affected, but I continued to follow updates as they unfolded. Throughout, Buffer was transparent, responsive, and reassuring. They disclosed, accepted responsibility and apologized for the security breach. They communicated not just what they knew but gave us a heads up about their next steps and guidance on what we could do to protect our accounts in the meantime. They also continued posting updates and answering everyone’s questions while resolving the problem.

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Make Someone Feel Valued: The Best of the Internet

Smilie DogHappy Friday! Catch up with the best of what we’ve shared on the interwebs this week!  

Don’t lose touch with your customers.

Nonprofits get stuff done too.

Sometimes customers’ solutions become company problems.

“If you think that happiness means total peace, you will never be happy.”

It takes seconds to make someone feel valued.

Dundee wants to know: What was the best thing you got done this week?

Talk To Your Customers to Stay In Touch With Your Product

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Talking to your customers is the best way to improve your product. You already do it — but not often enough. The problem is that it’s a pain to reach out all the time and gather that feedback.

It doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, you already talk to your customers all the time and probably aren’t taking full advantage of it.

My very first job was at Gateway Computer. Though well past its prime when I started, in its heyday, Gateway took a unique approach to its customer support that helped them gather plenty of user feedback.

The stories I heard back then helped shape our own approach toward support at my current company, Onepager. Here’s one that stood out in particular:

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Steve Jobs and Customers: The Best of the Internet

MargeHappy Friday! Catch up with the best of what we’ve shared on the interwebs this week!

How leaders & employees can power up happiness at work.

Luc Levesque, of TravelPod & TripAdvisor, on how to lead your team to excellence and how he uses iDoneThis.

The science of shower creativity.

Why Steve Jobs never listened to his customers.

5 ways to standout performance.

When leaders don’t have time to lead and fear accountability.

imageDundee’s Tip of the Week:  Hey iDT team users, have you noticed that links are now clickable? Include links in your dones to show ALL the things!

3 Tools to Speed Up Customer Service Traffic

Great customer service requires great communicationLaunchBit, an ad network for email newsletters, manages a ton of communication with their publishing and advertising partners. CEO and co-founder Elizabeth Yin shares LaunchBit’s secrets to speedy, efficient customer service, dealing with high volume while maintaining high quality.

When my co-founder and I first started LaunchBit, we were working with just a handful of publishers and advertisers, and it was easy to respond to everyone. As a small startup, speed was our advantage in winning over new customers. Losing momentum with a customer was a real risk, because it was hard to gain back their interest in our product. In those beginning stages, each customer is critical.

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Photo: Biscarotte

Very quickly, business boomed, and we found ourselves struggling just to maintain our individual inboxes. Yet, our priority remains to respond with the same high level of speed and service in order to stay fresh in the minds of our customers.

In a given week, the emails number in the low thousands. So how do we get through them all with just four full-time employees? We found that staying organized and finding tools that can fill the role of a good traffic cop, helping to direct email smartly and efficiently, work best to deliver quality customer service.

Here are three key tools we use:

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iDoneThis on The Cloud Show! The Best of the Internet

Hey, it’s our fearless CEO on the The Cloud Show!

And on now on to the best of what we’ve shared on the internets this week:

5 Ways to Transmit Awesome Customer Service From the Inside Out

No customer service is an island. You just can’t deliver great customer care alone.

These days, customers are tech-savvy, creative, and communicative. Some customers may want to build extensions and plugins to your service. In fact, we owe many of our iDoneThis “goodies” to ingenious users who built them to better suit their workflow. Others request features or find ways to adapt your tool to their company culture that you never initially considered. Still other customers ask highly technical questions. They all use multiple channels to communicate a volley of varied issues.

The worst customer experience is to wait forever for an answer, only to receive a meaningless response. That’s bound to happen when you isolate your customer service team. Ill-equipped to substantively deal with issues, they leave customers hanging while running around asking developers for assistance.

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The best customer experience is prompt, personal resolution of a problem, and this starts with a foundation of strong internal team connections and communication. The better your team is at communicating and supporting each other, the better the customer service results. Customer requests will have a faster turnaround, your responses will be more substantive and helpful, and your customers will simply be happier.

Here’s some key ways and tools to connect your team internally for excellent customer service:

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What I Wish I’d Known: The Best of the Internet

Happy Friday! Catch up with the best of what we’ve shared on the interwebs this week!

Our Chief Happiness Officer Ginni Chen’s expert advice on how to make customers happy over at the Firefly blog.

How to use small wins to fuel great achievements.

How the brain performs better when faced with a challenge.

What 25 entrepreneurs, including our very own Walter Chen, wish they’d known before founding their first startup.

When to quit.