The Service Recovery Paradox

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I’m writing this from a plane.  I’ve been in the air for an hour and everything is fine, but for a few minutes before the flight, things weren’t fine.  At roughly the time we were supposed to board (on an already late in the evening flight), the gate attendant came over the mic to announce that there was a staffing problem on our flight, and they were “beginning the process” to get it sorted out.  He’d get back to us when he had an update.  Huge groan across the hot and overcrowded gate area.

Then, maybe two minutes later, he gets back on the mic and says: “update on this — we’ve got our staffing problem resolved, thanks to Dave!” (and points to our new flight attendant Dave, who is standing next to him, ready to board the plane, grinning).

The room erupted in applause, interspersed with an extended round of “yeah Dave!” and “attaboy Dave!”.  Smiles everywhere. Excitement.  Good mirth.  Everyone was not only relieved that our flight wasn’t terribly delayed, but they were more happy than if there had been no problem at all.

This is an (admittedly trivial) example of one of my all-time favorite phenomena, the Service Recovery Paradox, defined on wikipedia as: “a situation in which a customer thinks more highly of a company after the company has corrected a problem with their service, compared to how he or she would regard the company if non-faulty service had been provided.”  Amusingly, the first example on wikipedia is a canceled flight.

And it held true in this case.  After the first announcement, the attitude in the room was “dammit Jetblue, get your shit together”.  And after the second, it was “love Jetblue because they have Dave!”.  But in all seriousness, it wasn’t the swift recovery that mattered, it was the way the team at the gate handled it.

I think about this all the time, and it just underscores how important it is not just to prevent bad things from happening, but being ready to respond really well when they do.  Whether that’s a hack, a bug, or just a plain old mistake.  And it’s a great reminder that when a problem does happen, your work isn’t over; it’s just beginning. And that you have the chance to not only fix it, but to make things better than they were.

Complicity

I had an interesting experience today.  As I was in the air on my way to San Francisco, I got a text from my Airbnb host saying that they had made a mistake and accidentally double-booked my room.  I ended up taking their offer to cancel and booked a hotel room (at a steep increase… Read more »

Flexing the platform for good

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been touching base with many companies and individuals in the tech sector to understand how they are reacting to the current political environment. Every company and community (of users, customers) is different, with its own sensitivities, priorities, and goals.  So it’s been really interesting to understand the very wide… Read more »

Cycles

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It’s clear that right now we are in a moment of upheaval and turbulence, that seems to have come upon us very quickly.  Pretty much everyone I know has been wrestling to unpack this for the past several months. I’ve been trying my best to understand the worldview of Steve Bannon, who is clearly an… Read more »

The Public Data Layer

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I have been thinking a lot lately about the increasing importance of the “public data layer” — meaning, data that we will need (“we” applied broadly, meaning the general public, NGOs, government, scientists, journalists) to make sense of what’s going on in and increasingly busy, but increasingly quantifiable world. First, some of the drivers here…. Read more »

Experience ↔ Design ↔ Policy

People often ask me how I ended up working in venture capital, and more specifically in a role that deals with policy issues (“policy” broadly speaking, including public policy, legal, “trust & safety”, content & community policy, etc.).  Coming from a background as a hacker / entrepreneur with an urban planning degree, how I ended… Read more »

Unintended Consequences

I’ve been struck recently by the power and surprise of unintended consequences. For example, a recent Slate article digs into flip side of the life-saving potential of automated vehicles: our reliance on car crash deaths for organ donors: “An estimated 94 percent of motor-vehicle accidents involve some kind of a driver error. As the number of… Read more »

Going after it

I’m in SF this week with the USV team – once a year we all come out here together, do a bunch of meetings and social events w our portfolio. Yesterday struck me — and it’s amazing how much of a surprise this is to me, after doing this nearly 5 years — with just… Read more »

The new normal

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The week before last, my in-laws were hit by a truck while crossing the street after dinner. The time since has been a disorienting whirlwind of sadness, fear, hope and thankfulness.  My mother-in-law suffered a very serious brain injury, and while she has cleared the first hurdle of basic survival, the outlook won’t be clear for… Read more »

Getting out the vote

Yesterday, a fabulous new tool launched — HelloVote: HelloVote makes it easy easy easy to register to vote.  Sign up w your phone number and do the whole thing over text. This is great for a lots of reasons — from its immediate practicality, to its more general lesson that it’s possible to build new,… Read more »

Alternative Compliance

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Summary To better support small businesses operating in regulated sectors, we should develop “alternative compliance” mechanisms — parallel regulatory regimes that achieve the goals of existing regulations but take an alternative, data-oriented approach to achieving them.  Such an approach would be especially friendly to the smallest of small businesses, and would take advantage of available… Read more »

Regulating with Data

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At this year’s Personal Democracy Forum, the theme was “the tech we need“. One of the areas I’ve been focused on here is the need for “regulatory tech”.  In other words, tools & services to help broker the individual / government & corporation / regulator relationship. In a nutshell: we are entering the information age, and… Read more »

Cable boxes, ridesharing and the right to be represented by a bot

Here are two tech policy issues that don’t seem related but are: the FCC’s current push to open up the set-top-box, and the lawsuits challenging Uber’s and Lyft’s classification of drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. The way to see the connection is through the lens of control vs. competition.  More specifically, they are… Read more »

Crypto debate: separating Security from Control

For the past few weeks, I’ve been following the FBI / Apple phone unlocking case, and digging deep into the debate around encryption, security and privacy. This debate is as old as the sun, and the exact same arguments we’re going through now were fought through 20 years ago during the first crypto wars and… Read more »

The Freedom to Innovate and the Freedom to Investigate

Earlier this week, I was at SXSW for CTA‘s annual Innovation Policy Day. My session, on Labor and the Gig/Sharing Economy, was a lively discussion including Sarah Leberstein from the National Employment Law Project, Michael Hayes from CTA’s policy group (which reps companies from their membership including Uber and Handy), and Arun Sundararajan from NYU, who… Read more »

Internet meets world: rules go boom

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Since 2006, I’ve been writing here about cities, the internet, and the ongoing collision between the two. Along the way, I’ve also loved using Tumblr to clip quotes off the web, building on the idea of “the slow hunch” (the title of this blog) and the “open commonplace book” as a tool for tracking the… Read more »

Big innovation and small innovation

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Yesterday at one of our bi-monthly team deep dives at USV, we got into the conversation of essentially “Big Innovation” vs. “Small Innovation”.  Those who have followed USV for some time know that at the core of the investment thesis is a belief in “decentralized”, “bottom-up” innovation — the kind that really became possible with… Read more »

Beam should have a hardware API

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We’ve got a few Beam telepresence robots at USV, and use them all the time.  Fred has written about them here.  We had a team meeting today, and we had two beams going at once — Fred and I were the first to arrive, and we were chatting beam-to-beam — he in LAUtah, me in Boston,… Read more »

Learning to skate

For the past few winters, I’ve been teaching my kids to ice skate.  Above is my son Theo at hockey practice a few weeks ago. At a certain point along the way, I got the bug and realized that skating was awesome and hockey was a beautiful sport.  So for the past year or so,… Read more »

Zero-rating: putting Net Neutrality to the test

It’s been an intense 10 months since the FCC approved its latest Open Internet rules (aka Net Neutrality). On the wired side, we’ve seen the unbundling of content, as channels such as HBO (via HBO Now) and ESPN (via Sling TV) have split from cable to go “over-the-top” with direct-to consumer offerings.  These are a direct result of the… Read more »