Interview: Mike Faith, CEO & Founder of

I’ve been excited to post this interview since I first mentioned it in September. I’ve talked quite a bit about, mainly because they are a very interesting and fairly unique company. They have really embraced customer service and it has paid off.

I interviewed Mike in mid-September and it took a few weeks for me to get the time and finish writing out the whole interview. Then, we had to go back and forth a bit with clarifications and such. After that, I had to wait until I had a few free days of posts to get the interview posted, which took about ten days. Now, I’m finally ready to get it posted!

This interview will be three parts (all posted over this week). The first part of the interview talks about’s customer service-oriented model and philosophy, their hiring and training processes, and the company culture. Click on “More” to read it.

Question 1: When you started, did you start it with the intention that customer service would be a major competitive advantage?
Answer: No. Frankly, we started as a discounter. We did okay, but never great. Then, in 2000, we adopted a policy of extreme customer service or customer love as we call it. Sales went up, morale went up, and we’ve never really looked back. I’m not against discounting, and sometimes in a market, a discount position is a great one to take, but for most businesses and markets, a service position is a better one and one that we could all feel good about.

Question 2: Did you have a background or a lot of prior customer service experience prior to starting
Answer: Not really. I’ve always personally felt strongly about promises and meeting obligations and I have always expected a lot from other companies and felt critical or kind of hurt almost when they under deliver. I think passion for the service is more important than experience. We hire with that in mind, too. To work here in customer service, you don’t need any prior customer service experience, but you need to have a passion or a belief that it is the right thing to do.

Question 3: From a business perspective, how has a focus on customer service helped make successful?
Answer: Our customers are more loyal and they refer friends and colleagues and more. Customers are happier, which means the staff is dealing with happier people, and that makes the staff happier too. All of that leads to increased sales and profits, which is a much more fun position to be in, we believe, than the opposite, which is the discount position.

Question 4: Is the customer service culture or methods at modeled after any particular companies or organizations?
Answer: I can’t think of one in particular. However, I was particularly inspired by Tom Peters in the mid-80’s. I think it was in his book In Search of Excellence where he told a story about he was teaching at Stanford in an MBA class and he was talking about business differentiators. He talked about customer service and the student said that customer service wasn’t a differentiator in terms that it isn’t a real barrier to entry and Tom Peters said: it is a barrier to entry. Sure, anyone can do customer service, but no one really does. If you really get it right, it isn’t that easy to replicate. Whereas we weren’t modeled after him – I think his words there inspired me and stuck with me. Customer service can be a great barrier to entry for other organizations – you just out service your competition.

Question 5: has a fairly unique hiring and training process. What is it?
Answer: The customer service employees go through more interviews than any other position in our company. It is probably up to 8 or 9 now. There are several telephone interviews with different people in the company here. They also telephone interview with a voice coach who is actually based in Sydney (we picked who we believe is the best voice coach we could find in the world), with a business psychologist who is based in San Diego, and once they have been through a bunch of phone interviews, they come in for some testing. We test for English usage, and grammar and spelling (employees are required to do emails sometimes) and we are also testing for memory to make sure potential employees can assimilate facts and recall them correctly so that in a conversation they can remember what was said earlier. They also end up listening on the phones for a day. What we look for there is some people can be great during the interview process, but after three hours, they can’t sit down. I’d be like that, for example. I can’t actually sit down for more than about 30 minutes. That final day really helps us kind of flush out those who might be great at the job for short periods of time versus those that can actually do the job and enjoy it everyday, talking to customers on the phone.

2 Responses to “Interview: Mike Faith, CEO & Founder of”

  1. Service Untitled » Mike Faith: CEO & Founder of - Part 2 of 3 - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Nov 15, 06 at 12:55 pm

    […] Here is part two of the interview with Mike Faith, the CEO and Founder of The first part is here. This part of the interview covers more about the company’s hiring and training, how they keep their customer service culture going, and common issues they run into. Technorati tags: Training, Voice Coaching, Call Monitoring, Tom Peters, Cusotmer Service, Culture […]

  2. Service Untitled » Mike Faith: CEO & Founder of - Part 3 of 3 - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Nov 16, 06 at 8:32 pm

    […] Here is part three out of three of the interview with Mike Faith, the founder and CEO of Part one is here. Part two is here. In this part of the interview, Mike discusses where still has room to improve, how they are different, how they gather feedback, and tips for other customer service organizations. […]