The Rackspace Fanatical Support Promise

Nordstrom. The Ritz Carlton. Lexus. These are all companies that understand customer service at the deepest level and are able to provide unparalleled customer service consistently, across countries and across continents. As a result of their mastery of the customer service experience, these companies are widely regarded as some of the world’s greatest customer service organizations. Rackspace, an IT hosting company based in San Antonio (TX), aspires to become one of those famed customer service organizations. To help reach this goal, they’ve defined their “Fanatical Support Promise.”

The idea behind Rackspace’s Fanatical Support Promise is to formalize a process in which Rackspace investigates issues that upset customers and subsequently develops a plan for addressing such issues. If the issues can’t be resolved in a way that makes the customer happy, the promise provides a way for the unhappy customer to get out of any existing contracts they might have with the company. By making such a promise (guarantee), Rackspace is admitting that things inevitably do go wrong and that they are making commitment to listen to customers and address those problems when they occur.

Rackspace’s VP of Customer Care Frederick Mendler (who I’ve met and also interviewed here) explained to me that Rackspace doesn’t want to hold unhappy customers hostage. Utility companies hold customers hostage because they’re monopolies and customer satisfaction doesn’t really contribute to the success of the their businesses. Companies like Rackspace, though, would rather provide their customers with an option to move on if all options have been exhausted. It makes more business sense to let the customer move on (thinking relatively highly of the company) than to lock the customer into a contract they don’t want to be in.

Functionally, the promise first comes into play when the customer feels Rackspace has failed them in some way. Rackspace failing the customer in some way can include any number of things from not supporting a service that was assumed to be supported to a failure to communicate something properly. Regardless of the reason, the company then works with the customer to collect specific feedback and come up with a plan of action. If the plan of action is satisfactory to the customer, Rackspace will then do its best to follow through on the plan and ensure it achieves all of the plan’s goals. If the plan isn’t satisfactory to the customer, or for some reason, Rackspace can’t successfully execute the plan, then the customer is given the option to cancel his or her contract without penalties.

As a company, Rackspace lives and breathes what they call Fanatical Support. Part of the Fanatical Support Promise included dividing Fanatical Support into five key areas of focus, each of which have a specific set of goals associated with it (see this page): Responsiveness, Ownership, Resourcefulness, Expertise, and Transparency.

The result is a fairly concrete explanation of a somewhat difficult to grasp concept. Rackspace then ties those five areas into the promise and goes on to describe exactly what it all means for the customer. The promise says, quite simply, if Rackspace doesn’t meet live up to its standards (standards set by both the company and its customers), they will take action to ensure a resolution happens. And if a resolution is impossible or the customer still isn’t happy, they’ll let the customer cancel without any penalty.

Companies can learn from Rackspace’s promise because it sets a standard (based on an existing cultural element within the company) and then backs that standard up with a formal process. If a promise isn’t backed by something, it’s more marketing hype than anything else. The company made their promise simple enough to be easily understood, but deep enough to actually have merit and meaning. This promise addresses both the personal and the professional aspects of a guarantee.

I tend to advocate and recommend concrete service mission statements (or promises or goals or whatever you want to call them) because they provide employees, executives, and customers with something to look back at when they’re making decisions — both long term and short term ones. The Fanatical Support Promise can serve as a great one for Rackspace. What do you have that’s similar?

One Response to “The Rackspace Fanatical Support Promise”

  1. Competing on Customer Success « Waypoint Group: Use word-of-mouth to grow Customer Lifetime Value said:

    Apr 14, 10 at 5:08 pm

    […] before issuing this challenge?  Rackspace’s fanatical support efforts have been well chronicled (here’s just one overview), and Savvis’ work with Net Promoter is gaining […]