Doing Right by the Client

I keep coming back to this one idea: if we are to be a truly global consulting company supporting the best brands in their customer experience journey, we need to provide a level of service and quality that is unequaled in the industry. The Tahzoo experience should be a fair exchange of value delivered in a frictionless manner. 

I recognize that for Tahzoo (and most companies), we will fall short of our ideals from time to time. We will fail to meet expectations or provide a deliverable that just isn’t up to the Tahzoo standard. The Delivery Lead will have the primary accountability to resolve any issues to the client’s satisfaction. Having made that clear, it’s everyone’s responsibility to delight and exceed client expectations. 

Service recovery … It’s how you handle problems, issues or concerns that matter. Most reputations for great customer service are built on how the company recovers or addresses a misstep or failure in execution. Companies like Nordstrom and Zappos are well known for how they empower their staff to fix issues. Even at Microsoft (not often considered a customer-focused organization) had “Make it Right Funds,” which was a reserve budget for remediating software implementation challenges.

Internal and external relationships
To be great at anything, it takes hard work over an extended period of time. One of the Tahzoo core values is that we hire Smart and Happy people. Every consulting company should and can be measured as a collection of internal and external relationships (this is one reason why we survey all of you so often, ask that you rate your week and your experience with your peers). I often say that you could easily make a determination about the long-term financial success of our company based on this measurement. It’s easier to build great relationships with happy people, teams work better when we they are happy and I would much rather spend my time talking with someone who had a smile in their voice than the alternative.    

I remember one misstep at one of our Clients. The customer’s expectation and our deliverable did not match up. These things happen from time to time, but what I really appreciated about how our team responded was that they engaged the customer. There was no recrimination or blaming of the client for not understanding, just an earnest effort to seek to understand the concern, express our apologies for not meeting their expectations and a commitment to resolve the issue to the client’s satisfaction. I was proud of how the team handled this today and I reminded them that the goal isn’t to avoid having problems it’s to make sure that when we do, we go above and beyond to make the client happy.   

Keep all of this in mind when hiring and collaborating and when you’re taking care of clients. It always pays to go the extra mile to make a difference for a client. You are empowered to do the right thing by our customers. 

Inspiring Innovation

For any new company to succeed there has to be innovation—often a lot of it. Apple. Amazon. Uber. Facebook. The examples are easy to come by. The message is pretty simple: to stand out, you have to do things differently than those who went before.

That’s why we talk a lot about innovation here at Tahzoo. We are not in the game of operational efficiency, or of trimming expenses to preserve a razor-thin margins of profit, nor of selling volumes upon volumes of widgets. We are in the marketplace of ideas. Our clients turn to us for our ability to think differently than the herd of consultants out there. We must, therefore, place the highest value on innovation to assure that we always stand head and shoulders above the competition.

Marketplace of Ideas

I write this as I am preparing to visit The Netherlands next week for Innovation Day. It’s both timely to look at three of my favorite innovators and the lessons we might draw from their experiences that can inform our thinking about our own innovative spirit. You see, I believe that innovation is not a matter of fleeting inspiration, but rather a skill that can be learned, practiced and, most importantly, improved over time. Like taking up a musical instrument, all that is needed to innovate is the right attitude and the receptivity to change ourselves.

The first lesson of innovation is effort. In this, there can be no greater role model than Thomas Edison. The man held at least 1,093 patents when he died—including, as you know, the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, motion pictures and many more. Think about that for a moment. He “held” 1,093 patents, but there were surely numerous ideas the at didn’t pan out. He certainly new more than his share of failure through all that. This is a lesson in believing in an idea so strongly that one is willing to soldier on in pursuit of the dream, never relenting, never giving up.

Believe in your ideas

Speaking of dreaming, that brings me to another of my favorite inventors, Nikola Tesla, who, it was said, often dreamed of his inventions before he set to inventing them. Tesla bragged of his ability to perform realistic “dream experiments” while fully awake.

This is a lesson in vision. Innovation often requires one to be able to imagine an ideal state or a solution to a particularly vexing problem in order to make that vision a reality. Interestingly enough, Tesla was such a good dreamer that many of his most interesting and ambitious ideas never came to fruition during his life because they were too ahead of their time. He imagined television and cellphones long before they ever became everyday things. He also dreamed of a way to power electrical devices without wires that is still a largely unrealized ideal today. So, take it from Tesla, if you’re going to dream, dream big!

Lastly, innovation requires perspective. No one but Albert Einstein himself is our role model here. He conceived of his mind-boggling “Theory of Relativity,” while working as a humble patent clerk reviewing closed-loop train switching patterns. Einstein’s breakthrough was in his ability to apply learning from one field to another—of shifting perspective. It’s interesting to me that the lessons of perspective that Einstein imparts are in some ways a distillation of Relativity itself, which held that our perception of time is relative to the speed of light. That is: perception changes as perspective changes.

So, there you have it: innovation in a nutshell. It takes effort. It takes vision. And, it takes perspective. If we all apply these lessons to as many aspects of our personal and our professional lives, we cannot help but develop innovative ways to see and do great things.

Growing a Business


As a young manager at Nordstrom, I was speaking with John Nordstrom one day and he was complimenting me on the great service my department was giving. I was pleased to be receiving the compliment, however I was curious about how he could know that when he’d only spent a limited time on the sales floor with me. So I asked him “how do you know we are giving good service?” He said “happy and well served customers spend more money. When I looked at your numbers, the increases in your sales are a result of good service.” At that time, my department was one of the fastest growing in the company. He was right in that we had a great team, giving great service and it showed in our numbers.
One of the core values of the company is that if we care about our employees and care about our customer, we’ll have a company worth caring about.
When I think about caring for clients, I think about how they are trusting us with their goals, their work and ultimately their credibility. This is a precious gift and we need to treat that with the honor and respect it deserves. Understanding and exceeding a client’s expectations is the hallmark of good consulting. When we disappoint a client, it’s rarely a blatant violation of their trust, more often it is what I call benign neglect. An apathy or an unwillingness to understand the client at the right level of detail or the unwillingness to do the little extra. At Nordstrom, if I saw someone walk past a messy table and pretend not to notice, I knew that person needed coaching about the importance of doing all the little extras that made up a great experience for our customers.
So what are the little extras in our business? First, it starts with building a relationship with your client. Most of my clients, I consider friends. Some better than others, but I build relationships based on trust and exceeding expectations. My goal is always to become a trusted advisor to my clients. Whenever I am asked about secret to building trust, I tell people that trust is a function of consistency over time. When client can depend on you to consistently meet their needs, they will trust you… If you consistently exceed their expectations, you’ll become a “trusted advisor”.  Back to the little extras, prompt return of phone calls or emails. Hand written thank you notes. Being on time and prepared for meetings. Ensuring that your work is client ready or pitch perfect. Ensuring that your team is informed so they can be effective working with your client. There are many ways in which each of us can do the little extras and build trusted relationships.

.Building trust with customers
We also employ something we call the employee thermometer with customer centricity and customer satisfaction surveys to understand how we are doing as a company and what needs to be fixed in order to make us a great service organization. These tools are critical to ensure that we have the insights we need to make the right investments in the business.
Based on the employee and customer feedback, we are instituting a new role in the company called the Delivery Lead. The Delivery Lead is the single point of accountability within Tahzoo to ensure the quality of our work. In short, the person responsible for making sure we are exceeding client expectations. A DL operates at an account level, overseeing, working on and guiding multiple work streams. It is and will continue to be one of the more important roles within our company as we build our digital transformation business. When we consistently deliver great work for our clients they will trust us with more work.
But back to the John Nordstrom story, survey results notwithstanding … how will I know if you’re building trusted relationships and do the little extras to make a client feel appreciated? I’ll see it reflected in the numbers.

Tahzoo’s Customer Experience 


I was listening to an old interview with Steve Jobs today, he was discussing the process of product development and how he’s learned over the years to start with the customer experience in mind rather than the technology. I was again struck by his passion to deliver a phenomenal experience to his customers. I have been focused the last couple years on making sure that Tahzoo had the capability to help our clients deliver a great experience, but, candidly, I haven’t spent enough time crafting the experience I’d like for our clients.
When I founded the company I established the company values as part of a strategy to ensure that we had the right people. In the early days when I was acting as the account manager, I labored over the quality of our work and ensuring that we provided the best possible deliverables, I figured setting a good example would carry the day. As we began to grow we focused on hiring smart and happy people as core tenant of our customer experience strategy. More recently we created the Delivery Lead role as the keeper of the customer experience.
While these are important in setting the foundation for our company they are not nearly as explicit as we need to be around our customer experience. I was talking with one of our clients who had recently hired McKinsey to conduct a strategy workshop and while the workshop was in process they filmed the white boarding exercise and interaction between the teams. The video was streamed live to a group of graphic artists who produced a slide deck that represented the meeting inputs outputs and decisions. At the conclusion of the meeting the McKinsey team handed the client a freshly printed and readymade deck. Our client was blown away by the experience and we talked in detail about how Tahzoo could make similar improvements in our customers’ experience to set us apart from the field.

Just another example of how you never know where the next inspiration might come from or the surprising ways that the customer experience can be continually improved. Like Steve Jobs said, start there and you’re going to do alright.


In a healthy company everyone knows how they contribute to the mission and success of the company. I had many different jobs while I worked at Nordstrom, at one point in time I was a phone switchboard operator, I managed all the incoming and outgoing phone calls for the store. At another point I worked in security, keeping everyone safe and catching shoplifters. While these jobs didn’t contribute directly to selling clothing they were an important part of creating an optimal customer experience. We have a lot of different practice areas and capabilities within Tahzoo to assist our clients. The work that everyone does is important.
I recently had a conversation with a developer who wasn’t entirely sure how his work, contributed to the overall mission of Tahzoo. It’s not that he didn’t understand his work or the need to implement a content management system, but how does that fit into the big picture of Tahzoo. As we were talking I asked him to consider a few questions… we talked through his answers and it became clear to me that I should spend more time making sure each of my team members understand how you can contribute to make Tahzoo a great company.

  1. Do you understand the vision we have for our clients?
  2. What do you do every single day to contribute to the Tahzoo client experience?
  3. How is are you advancing the mission of the company?
  4. How are you innovating in your work to improve the experience?
  5. How do you identify new opportunities for Tahzoo to help your client?

I think if we all ask ourselves these questions on a regular basis, our company—and any company that does the same, for that matter—will succeed.

On Commitment


Commitment is a powerful word. I have been reflecting on that word a bit recently. When I started Tahzoo I had a dream that we could build a company that would change the way that companies engage with their customers. I have been and will be committed to that dream until we have accomplished our mission.

I’m reminded of my time at Nordstrom, when I first started with the company. It was during the holiday season and we were very busy. An older gentleman I didn’t know joined us behind the counter to help ease the burden and make our customers’ experience better. As it turned out, it was John Nordstrom who helped me gift wrap packages for the afternoon. What an impression that made on me—not only of their commitment to great customer service, but his willingness to go beyond his desk job to actually roll up his sleeves and get behind the counter to help. His action was very powerful. And I was clearly impressionable, as I still recall this moment for the positive impact it has had on me.

The internet, while creating many efficiencies, has also removed much of the human touch. The digital age has depersonalized an important part of the human condition. Meanwhile, commerce—how we spend our money—is a very social part of the human experience … our cities are built around market squares, we create friendships at our regular cafés and we recommend to our friends and family experiences and products that we enjoy. We’ve resurrected a part of the human connection through social media, communicating with one another our likes, dislikes and preferences, however this hasn’t solved the problem of feeling disintermediated from the brands we enjoy.

The vast majority of companies provide a one-size-fits-all digital experience that requires you the end user to find the bit of information you care about … to me the internet feels a lot like shopping in a store without anyone to help you find what you want and then if you’re lucky enough to find something, you have to go through a self-checkout process. We can do better, we can teach our customers how to do better and we can make the world a little bit better.

A great company must do two things well … care about its customers and employees … and be dedicated to changing the way that information is shared and how business is done.

Not too long ago Tahzoo was just a small team, only 10 people, however we were committed to an idea and to one another … that if we cared about our employees and cared about our customers we’d be a company worth caring about. While at times this may seem trite, it was and is the fuel that propels Tahzoo. You see, businesses can be started for many reasons—to make money, to exploit a market opportunity, to arbitrage labor markets—or they can be built to do something meaningful. In our case, my first act at Tahzoo was creating our values, even before I decided what we would do as a company. I thought if I was going to start a company it should mean something, stand for something and do something that makes a difference.

With all that said, I want to change our little part of the world. I want to help our clients figure out how to do a better job of taking care of their customers. It’s really just that simple. They should hire Tahzoo because they believe we can help them. And, we should help them. We should understand the trust they have bestowed upon us and act accordingly.

Three Ways to Bring Out Innovation in Employees


I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of maintaining Tahzoo’s unique culture through this expansion and the integration of Tahzoo Europe. This has led me to take a step back and look at what makes Tahzoo special, and it’s clear that our employees truly are our greatest assets. The ‘Zoo team is comprised of happy, smart, interesting people who are inspired by change and are driven to constantly improve and innovate.

As a CEO, or as a team leader, how can you foster a culture of innovation especially among a growing, global team? I’ve worked at a wide variety of organizations and in several different roles – from retail to sales – before founding Tahzoo (you can learn more about that transition in my Fast Company article here). Along the way, I’ve seen various tactics for driving innovation and I have worked hard to build a positive culture at Tahzoo. Here are three tips you can follow to drive innovation in your organization:

  1. Encourage creativity. At the most pioneering companies, a culture of creativity is an integral part of the corporate DNA. We hire employees based on their character first, and we follow the mantra of “shoes optional” from the top down. This helps encourage a culture where creativity and innovation are valued.
  2. Solicit feedback. It’s also important to ensure that all employees feel that their opinion is valued – you never know where the next great idea will come from! We support this inclusive culture through a weekly survey that employees at all levels complete – offering their constructive and honest feedback on what’s working, and what’s not.
  3. Make time for innovation. In today’s business world, there are distractions in every direction, all the time—from alerts on mobile phones, to constant meetings and invitations to touch base. I recently wrote an article for Entrepreneur magazine where I discussed a tactic that has been particularly valuable in driving innovation at Tahzoo: one hyper-focused meeting per week. Each week, I hold a two-hour meeting with the global senior team to talk through ideas mapped back to our higher-level goals. This helps eliminate distractions and creates a space for innovative thinking – vastly increasing alignment, productivity and motivation across our global team.

By following these three tips, you can help instill and maintain a culture of innovation. I’m looking forward to continued innovation from our stellar – and growing – Tahzoo team!

Caring for Employees

When I share this value with others, I am often asked: “What does that mean?” The sentiment behind this ideal is a reflection of my work history, as I’ve been fortunate enough to work for a series of leaders who not only cared about my performance, but also took an active role in helping me improve and further my skills. There is a quote on my desk which says, “Our chief want in life is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be” – by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

One of the more remarkable things about the leaders who have mentored me is that they expected the best from me and gave me the support and education to actually achieve at a higher level. All too often, there are leadership discussions around setting clear expectations, which is meaningful, however we all need more than just clear expectations to succeed. Most of my bosses have been incredibly demanding of me but I also knew they cared for me personally and would give me the tools I needed to be successful.

I believe in something defined as servant leadership, which is to say that the management and leadership of the company is here in service to the employees so they can do a great job for our customers. You should work for someone who not only cares about you, but cares enough about you to help you be great and hold you accountable. Much of my work these days is ensuring and instilling this idea into our thinking and processes whenever possible. You can help me with this by making sure you have regular meetings with your manager and are soliciting feedback on your performance. It is also important that you share with your manager the ways in which they can help you be better in your job.

Right after the start of the company we created the rate your week survey. Although we were really small at the time and I could see from the results of the survey exactly how someone’s week went, I knew it would be important to have a pulse on the organizational health of the company. As a side benefit I want to make sure that everyone felt they could provide feedback to me so I could improve the company.

Understanding the strength and quality of the relationships within the company is the biggest predictor of success for Tahzoo. It’s why we survey you all so often, I really do want to know what people are thinking and how they are feeling. Most CEOs focus on the financial metrics of the company (which are also very important), I know however that if the internal relationships are strong and our people know how to work together, then all other goals and problems are more easily met.

We need to be a learning organization. It is my belief that if we can build and maintain strong working relationships, then we can ask teams from around the global or with many different disciplines and backgrounds to work together to create new ideas. In this way I hope that we can always be addressing the leading edge of the market place and holding our position as a premium brand company. If we are able to maintain and grow this ethos across Tahzoo, we’ll be a great company to work for and we will have ample opportunity to do meaningful work. 

When I wrote out the values of the company, in my mind I thought it would be great if we could create a company that provided employees meaningful work, with an opportunity to grow. It was also crucial that this value of caring for our employees was at the top of the chart because I knew as the company grew it had to remain top of mind for everyone who joined the company. It is also an important filter for making decisions going forward … the simple question is “does this action or decision demonstrate that we are caring for our employees?” It is a great context for deciding “what is right.”

A Mighty Big Country


I am on holiday this week driving from Seattle, Washington to Washington DC with my family. This is an annual trip for me and some of my best thinking and reflection occurs during these holidays. In addition to the family trip every year, I’ll occasionally do a solo cross country trip to really get away and think (and stop at some of my favorite BBQ joints along the way).

It was on a solo trip a little over 5 years ago that I found the courage to start Tahzoo. I was listening to an audio book called The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, his book was born out of a lecture he gave in September 2007 entitled, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”

For those of you who don’t know the book, Randy was asked to give a lecture and share his wisdom and perspective a month after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis. It is a heartwarming, albeit deeply emotional book given his circumstances. The main point of the book and his lecture, is that your dreams and aspirations matter and that setting yourself on a course of achieving those dreams is the cornerstone of a life well lived. As you achieve your dreams you can then focus on enabling the dreams of others. His book had a profound impact on me and has changed the way I live my life. Among them is that I wanted my work to be a source of meaning for me, not necessarily a place that provides me a sense of self-esteem but a place where I can serve a purpose greater then myself.

A big part of the process for me taking inventory of my dreams and what I’d like to be a part of … only after that, did I begin framing out what we’d do and how we’d do it …Tahzoo is culmination of several dreams for me. 

I believe in great customer service. I can think of very few things as satisfying than taking great care of a customer. I often tell people that waiting tables was one of my favorite jobs because I got to create a wonderful evening for my customers. We remember the experiences we’ve had far more than the stuff we’ve bought. The web has made the world more efficient, but mostly at the expense of the experience- let’s change that! I wanted to a build a company that I could take pride in the way that it impacted the lives of others. In our case it’s that we should help our clients deliver an experience that makes their customers happy. We can be responsible for creating millions of pleasant moments everyday… that possibility makes me happy.

I believe that in order for Tahzoo to be a great company we need to take great care of one another. I have been fascinated with how people work together since I was a boy. I have been fortunate to be on several great teams in both sports and in business, I have found this experience so compelling, so profound, that I’ve spent most of my adult life seeking to be a part of or helping to create great teams. Every great team that I have been part of has had one common thread… a high degree of trust and commitment to one another. I see pockets of this at Tahzoo but not nearly enough to feel like we’ve got it figured out. The irony is that a great company is a byproduct of the people… not the actual company. I need your help and your commitment to making your team a great team.

I want Tahzoo to be a platform for all of us to learn and change. We have the opportunity to solve really interesting problems, explore different aspects of our thinking and ideas, all while helping our clients be successful. One of the things that appealed to me was the idea that if we worked on leading edge problems, we could get paid for doing cool stuff. The interesting challenge I am working on is how do we create a company that encourages people with different backgrounds, disciplines and perspectives to work together collaboratively on behalf of a customer? See it’s so much easier to hire a bunch of likeminded people and ask them to work together, however; the best companies, leading 21st century companies are the ones that bring many perspectives together… the best results and decisions are made by teams that work all sides of an issue. That’s an example of how I see Tahzoo as an opportunity for me to explore how to do something better. What is the idea that you’re working on? How are you seeing your time at Tahzoo as an opportunity to explore and deliver a big idea?

In any event, I thought I should share with you how I got here, how we got here. I decided these dreams of mine were too important to just think about or to hope that one day they’d come true. I set out on a course of action to make them happen. I am not done yet and there are more dreams to be shared and pursued. I hope in some way this inspires you to participate in my dreams and I hope that Tahzoo is a place that can enable your dreams. It can be as simple as just being a great place to go to work every day or inventing the next generation of human to computer interfaces … either way it’s up to you. Tahzoo has a remarkable future in large part because of all of you. I am so proud to be a part of this company.

Hi … (insert customer name here) how can I help you?

My first real job was working at Nordstrom, when I was 15 years old. At that time, they only had 7 stores and the beginning of what would become a nationally recognized reputation for great customer service. I grew up at Nordstrom, and in many ways much of how I approach business is a byproduct of the experiences and lessons I learned while working there. So, flash forward a few years, well more than a few … I am running a digital agency that builds branded digital experiences for our clients. We focus on helping our clients create engagement by delivering personalized experiences on any device, in any format, on demand.

At Nordstrom we believed in personal service … we paid attention to you, said hello, created a pleasant environment, and worked hard to make sure you found what you were looking for. It’s a pretty simple approach to making clients happy and building lasting relationships. There are many stories about the legendary customer service, but I’ll save them for another time. Tahzoo is a service driven organization and we believe that if you take care of the client and you take care of the customers, you’ll have a company worth caring about.

I’ve started this blog to discuss how we think and approach building engagement on behalf of our clients. Simply put, just because your experience is online doesn’t mean it can’t be a personal, pleasant and a satisfying experience. I’ll spend the next few months discussing how technology innovations, when applied to the marketing function, are creating a new world of possibility for building customer connections. Most people who know me, know I like to debate so don’t be shy with your comments: good, bad or indifferent.