Lessons from People Manager All-Stars, Part 3

May 5, 2016 View Comments


I’ve taken on the professional goal in 2016 of becoming a better “people manager.” 

One of the activities in my plan is to interview peer-nominated “People Manager All-Stars.”

Thanks to Sheryl Tullis, I was introduced to Rick Zimmerman, who is our headliner for part 3 (see part 1and part 2).


“Don’t ever think there’s a finish line.” 

In every interview I’ve done, there’s a “money line,” where the interviewee shares the absolute core nugget.  Rick did it off the bat.

It’s almost like the “Never Stop Marketing” version of people management.

Once you are leading a team or leading people, you are never done, he says.

“You need to make it part of your process. You can NEVER check it off the list.”

People change. Situations change. The world changes.  So, as a result, there’s an evolving benchmark of what people expect from you. You will change in your own eyes.  So you can never be complacent about being a good leader or a good people manager.

Rick, who’s spent a long time working in the CPG industry, said there are two things which are critical.

The first is (and yes, it’s obvious in both theory and reality, but sometimes difficult to remember in practice) is that “people are different.”

He offers that as you get to know someone, you will have opportunities to ask questions upon questions so that you understand them better. However, there will be a moment, a time in which you ask THE question which gets to their absolute Core (think City Slickers for those of you who remember it. YouTube for those who don’t).

You want to find the CORE that truly reveals who the person is. What makes them absolutely positively tick.

The sooner you find it (and we all have it), the better off you as a people manager are AND the better off the individual is…as you’ll be in a position to help him/her thrive.

Ideally, you want to look for this CORE issue during the interview process.

Push people on career inflection points. What happened? Why? What’s your biggest regret? 

As Rick says, “what’s the one question I can ask this person to reveal who they are?"

Keep asking until you figure it out.  By NOT probing, you are doing yourself a disservice and doing them a disservice. 

No one wins when there’s a bad hire. (I’ve learned the hard way on this one).

And the second thing…VULNERABILITY.

Rick told a powerful story about a previous boss, a former army officer.

In Rick’s words:

“We had an energetic debate -- a bit out of character for both of us, as it was really intense, with raised voices and sharp words.  Upon reflection that night, I felt I had “stepped over the line” -- after all, he was my boss.  So, the next day I sought him out to apologize. 

When I entered his office, he told me “I’ve been looking for you” and I thought I was in “trouble.” 

But the fact was he was looking for me to apologize to me because he felt he may have “stepped over the line.”  Which then led to us hugging it out.

Then the real kicker was, 16 years later when we were catching up on stuff, he remembered the episode as vividly as I had.”

So the experience was less about him or me being wrong.  And more about each of us reflecting on what had happened and how that impacted the relationship.  A bit rare, I think, for boss/subordinate, especially for an ex-Army officer.”

We saw in part 2 of this series…everyone has vulnerabilities. Show yours as a leader first. It’s actually a sign of strength.

In short

  1. The journey is never over
  2. Figure out the CORE of each individual
  3. Show your vulnerability

Bonus Material

Rick shared a best practice from one of his companies that I think makes a lot of sense and dovetails with my next goal (Clarity in Communication)—see chart below borrowed from the G2C2 framework.

He said that every memo begins with “THIS document serves THIS PURPOSE” as the opening line, so people can more easily understand the context of the memo/email.

Lessons from the People Manager All-Star Team, Part 2

March 21, 2016 View Comments

I’ve embarked on a journey to become a much better people manager. 

As part of that, I’m interviewing peer-recommended “best people managers”.  This is Part 2. If you missed Part 1, here it is.

REQUEST: If you know of someone who is a great developer of talent, I’d love the referral and the chance to interview him/her.

First off, let me recommend this podcast that Josh Duncan sent my way. It’s great. Be a Super Boss and also this article on Facebook’s favorite job interview question.

Now, on to the show.

In round 2, I had the chance to chat with Susie Sedlacek, (nominated by Shira Shimoni) and Evan Bernstein(doubly nominated by the husband/wife team of Adam& YaelFaleder)

So what did I learn this time about becoming a great people manager?

A few (new) themes emerged which I might narrow down as:

  1. Nobody’s Perfect
  2. Show your Human Side
  3. Over-invest in the Relationship

Nobody’s Perfect

Susie could not stress enough how important it is to hire right in the first place. However, you can’t always pick your entire team.  Regardless, you want to figure out what each person’s weakness and vulnerability is as soon as you can.

You don’t do this to expose them, you do this to protect them, the organization, and yourself.

“The sooner you find someone’s vulnerability, the sooner you can make sure it’s not exposed….everyone has one

,” she said.

To help identify it, Susie is very upfront about her own vulnerabilities and weaknesses.  That openness and honesty builds immense trust and loyalty.

People feel pressure to be perfect, both in interviews and as bosses. Once you get rid of that, you are getting to the “real” part faster and you’ll get results faster.

The converse is also true though.  Everyone has one thing that they can uniquely add. Your job as a coach is to find it and build on it, so that the weaknesses become irrelevant and you can push them to the background.

Evan echoed this sentiment, albeit in a slightly different way.  When something goes wrong, he says, he always “gives the benefit of the doubt and seeks to find out what is going on.” Always.

Show Your Human Side

Evan is an elementary school principal in Montgomery County, MD.  Not only does he have support staff and teaching staff, he has two other constituencies, the kids and their parents.

He makes sure he is visible to all of them, but not in a pro-forma way.  He’s outside every morning greeting as many of the 750 kids by name as he can. He has gotten on the PA system and done a rap about a school event and even had himself duct-taped to a wall.

His focus on the relationship is complete and total. Which brings us to the next point.

Over-invest in the Relationship

The “diamond” moment in my conversation with Evan came when he said, “to be a good manager, you need high expectations and collaboration, but you can’t get any of that without a relationship.”

So ANY investment you make in that is well worth it.

As Susie said, “every human being has something value, you need understand what motivates them, spend time w/people to get to know them. Try to understand the human being.

“And give people the benefit of the doubt. You never know what is going on in their lives, so taking that time before rushing to judgment will buy you understanding and loyalty.”  Something that Susie echoed as well.

When all is said and done, people want to be heard and understood.

Evan left me with 2 recommendations.

The first? Read Lincoln on Leadership.

The second? Ask these 3 questions of everyone on your team.

  1. tell me something you love about your job that you don’t want to change
  2. ]tell me something we can do better
  3. tell me something about yourself

Two more great interviews. Thanks to both of them for generously contributing their time and expertise.

Lessons from the People Manager All-Star Team

March 2, 2016 View Comments

Over the past few weeks, I’ve interviewed nearly 6 peer-nominated “all-star people managers” to help me reach my personal and professional developmental goals for 2016.

Since some have asked (and because writing it will make it stick), I’m going to share some of the themes that have emerged.

Hope you find this helpful.

It All Starts With Smart Hiring

Obvious, I know, but every single one of the interviewees talked about making sure you have a rigorous hiring process to screen for the right candidates.

It’s the proverbial “Get the right people on the bus.”

While there were some differences, the idea of a “Growth Mindset” as Carol Dweck advocates came up A LOT.

Lori said “Look for people who are confident, but not cocky. Ambitious with a passion for learning.”

Les said “Look for strong players who are self-motivated. The best people on teams want the feedback. They crave it.”

I’ve seen this myself…the cost of a bad hire is enormous and the difference between a “B” player and an “A” player is not a multiple, it’s an order of magnitude.

Les further stated that you want to find people who have a process that is repeatable, as that is an indication that they really understand their craft. 

Even better (as Jim advocated)…involve the whole team in the hiring process, as that will pay dividends down the road, because the team will hold each other accountable, saving you (the coach) from having to do so.

Understand Their Goals and Ambitions

The best way to motivate people is to remember what it was like to be in their shoes, as Jim said. In fact, that came up a lot. Put yourself in their position.

They may not care about your ambitions and goals, but if you understand theirs, you’re in a much better place to help them achieve it…and tap into their intrinsic motivation so they can achieve both team and personal goals.

Remember the Person…Always

Every one of the interviews stressed the importance of knowing the whole person.

“If someone is having a personal challenge, you need to know about it,” said one of them. “Otherwise, you can’t give them the flexibility they need when they need it. And, if you can do that…it will come back 10-fold when you really need them.”

Jeff boiled it down beautifully into his own version of the “4 Questions:”

·       Who do you care about?

·       What do you care about?

·       What do you have to work with?

·       What battle can you not afford to lose?


He then went on to challenge me (and all managers) with the following:

•   People want to be recognized for who they are…are you doing that?

•   People want to belong to a community…do you make them feel that way?

•   People ask themselves: do I like myself better when I am around you? Are you leaving them with that feeling?    

Candid Feedback…But It Comes In Different Ways

So this one was really interesting for me, probably because it helped extend my toolkit most.

Every one of my interviewees said that you need to give direct feedback often.

Lori nailed it, I thought, when she said, “practice transparency with diplomacy. Make feedback a regular event, not a quarterly or an annual event

In fact, in every conversation, you have the opportunity to give it.

[For a great article on this (and really an overall management style that makes a lot of sense to me, see: Radical Candor.]

What was really helpful was the advice on how to coach people who may have a more difficult time taking the feedback right off the bat.

Two of the interviewees recommended that you engage by asking questions along the lines of “how do you think you are doing?” instead of just beginning the feedback (which works for some people).

Even better…creating a blank report card that you and your direct report fill out separately and then reviewing it together to look for areas of discrepancy.  That provides the grist for the conversation.

For those who don’t mind or “crave it,” just jump right in, but this approach prevents a “one size fits all” angle to feedback and ultimately serves the employee better.

Get Rid of Weak Performers….FAST

When you keep weak performers, you are doing even more damage than you realize.

  1. You are hurting the company. Obviously.
  2. You are hurting that employee, but not giving them an opportunity to achieve fulfillment in their jobs.
  3. You are sending the message that sub-par performance is acceptable.
  4. You are cheating your “A” players of valuable time to make them even stronger…because you are spending too much of your time with (or compensating for) the weak performers.

Promote and Celebrate

Finally, it’s not about you.

In fact, you should go above and beyond to get your people the right visibility…even if it means leaving your team.  In fact, according to Lori, “sometimes you make trade-offs that favor the person at the cost of the organization.

A corollary to this is “remove obstacles for your team.” The more you do this, the more they will be in a successful position where you can celebrate them.

It’s a different mindset from being an individual contributor… your put others first, whenever you can.

As Jim said, ““when the team is winning, you’re in back. When team is losing, you’re in front."


Meet The All-Star People Manager Team

·       Lori Deo (nominated by Adam Schorr, Dawn Kidd)

·       Jim Macchitelli (nominated by Adam Evers)

·       Jeffrey Lang (nominated by Karin Schwartz)

·       Les Russell (nominated by Eric Marterella)

·       Kristen Kavalier (nominated by Sprinklrites)

·       Dan Swift (nominated by Sprinklrites)

Lyft, a Marketing ROI Story

February 29, 2016 View Comments

As a marketer, one of the things you always ask is: "Is there any value to the giveaways that companies hand out?"

And, if so, how do you know how much value?

Well, I've got one story of ROI for the Lyft marketing team.


I've been a very satisfied Uber customer for a while now. A few hiccups here and there, but generally very pleased with their service. 

Over the past few weeks, I'd been hearing more about Lyft, particularly as I recall, via my pal Jeremiah Owyang's report on the collaborative economy.  I really had no reason to switch aside from my interest/curiosity in how the world is changing because of technology, so I figured I would, but I never had a compelling event.

Lyft Marketing to the Rescue

The other night, I went to the Washington Capitals hockey game (they lost). During one of the intermissions, I walked around the concourse and came across a table with some Lyft field marketers.

They offered me a pink Lyft headband (which I took) and a card for a $10 ride off (which I also took).

When I asked why Lyft was better, I have to say that the arguments weren't particularly compelling, but they did try.

  • "we pay our drivers more."  Nice, but as a customer, not really on my list of things I care about. If you don't like how much you make at Uber, don't drive there.
  • "we are in more international countries."  Maybe, but I've used Uber in Brazil, UK, France, Germany, and Israel, so I'm happy with that.
  • "our surge pricing is less."  Good, but I think I've only had an Uber surge price once, so hasn't hit me. Good to know.

Still...I liked their efforts and appreciated their consideration of the Lyft brand.

The promo code links the Caps game to any ride I take (nice job in connecting offline to online, Lyft!)

I set up a Lyft account on the way home, entered my promo code and then went to bed.

Opportunity Strikes

Normally when I go to the train station, I drive myself. It's faster and cheaper. However, as luck would have it (for me-bad, for Lyft-good), my car had a flat tire yesteday and I had to drop it off at our preferred mechanic, so it wasn't available to me on Monday morning when I needed to go.

It all came together.

I figured, "ok, let's give these Lyft guys a try."

6 minutes later, the car was there.  I had connected to PayPal (a nice feature which I don't believe is available in Uber, but was really helpful as I didn't have my credit card handy and that saved me some time).

The driver was great and he said, "I LOVE working for Lyft."

And, to their credit, it seems like they took the silly pink moustaches off the front of the car and now it's inside (and apparently turns on at night for easier identification--nice idea."

With  my $10 discount, it cost me $31 to get to the train station which was very reasonable and definitely cheaper than a cab.


Lyft marketing team...your field activation worked. Your headband swag reminded me of you when I got home and your intro $10 off coupon incentive as a CTA made it work.

And, as a bonus, I've told this story to 2 people (before blogging it) and both of them said, "hey, I'll give Lyft a try now," so there you go...more ROI.

Book Recommendation: Tech, Biz, and Office Politics

February 24, 2016 View Comments

Plowed through 3 books recently. All enjoyable and for different reasons.

Thought I'd share if you are looking for a good read.

E-A Novel

What makes this so clever is that the entire book is written as a series of emails. Every single thing is an email. The novel unfolds as you see the intra-office politics played out via emails that are bcc'd, cc'd, and forwarded. If you work in an email intensive office, you'll love this.


The Circle

Obviously our lives have been changed dramatically by social media (heck, it's why I have a job, right?)  This book is a look at what happens if we continue along one path of continued sharing.  It's pretty intense and reminds us of the need to strike a balance between sharing and privacy in a stark, powerful way.


How the Mighty Fall

A bit more traditional business book, but a great study by one of the authors of Good to Great and Built to Last.  In this book, he examines the 5 stages through which great companies go as they descend into irrelevance. Some lessons for all of us so we can identify the warning signs..and some advice on how to avoid it. Think: Kodak, Polaroid, Compaq, and others.

Personal Story: How I Got To Sprinklr

February 22, 2016 View Comments

I was asked by the People Development team at Sprinklr to share some of my experiences for others in the company.  I thought it might be fun/illustrative to share it here.

Perhaps not. Let me know.

Feedback welcome.


What do you currently do at Sprinklr? 

I'm currently the VP of Marketing. I'm responsible for global field marketing, marketing operations, analyst relations, partner marketing, events, and marketing for the Advertising business unit.


Where did you start out? How has your career grown?

I started out as the VP of Marketing over 4 years ago, so I suppose you shouldn't really take much advice from me as clearly I haven't been able to get promoted since then.


What's been remarkable in that time, however, is that when I started I was the only person in marketing, Sprinklr had 30 people, and we had no brand awareness or reputation of any consequence.  


The amount of skills I have picked up across the entire marketing spectrum is mind-boggling to me. 


My career has grown because with every single day, I have had the opportunity to take on new challenges and new opportunities.  The single most important element is that I've been surrounded by people who courageously gave me constructive criticism in order to make Sprinklr and me better.


That's actually been a hallmark of my career at every step. I live and die by my professional and personal network. I am always trying to meet new people, ask them questions, and understand their worldview. Then, I try and keep in touch with them in a passionate and genuine way so that I can learn from them over time.


One thing I've done for over 20 years now is to call people on their birthday. I make about 1800 calls a year. It gives me a chance to keep in touch, but also helps me understand how they see the world.  By hearing all of these different voices--and reading a ton--I feel like I have a respectable understanding of how the world is changing. That prepares me to do my job better and adapt to change quickly.


What path & opportunities have you taken? How did you get them?


My professional career began in Tokyo. I dropped out of graduate school to join a company doing what we might now call "Digital Marketing."  After doing that for a year, I moved to New York to join an e-commerce start-up during Internet 1.0. I worked in sales for 2 years. 


After 2 years of that, I left to start my own company with my brother. After the Internet 1.0 bubble crashed, we raised $500,000 and ran our company for two years.


Eventually, I moved to Washington, DC where I live now. I worked at Microsoft for 6 years, doing mostly marketing for the partner community.


One day, I was sitting in a meeting with about 25 people in Redmond, WA. We were going around the table sharing ideas of how we could do marketing better and I suggested that we use something called "Facebook."  There was a guy there...we'll call him B*** since that's his name...who said "Facebook? That's the craziest idea I ever heard. We don't control the platform. It's built on a competing technology. We can't do that. It's a stupid idea."


I walked out of the room feeling a bit embarrassed and also recognizing that although Microsoft had been very successful for a long time, their view of the future of marketing and mine were very different. So, soon thereafter, I decided to quit and start my own consulting firm.


I called it "Never Stop Marketing," which I like to say is not just a company, but a mantra and a way of life.


The focus was on helping clients understand not just that social media was here to stay but on HOW the world (and marketing) would change because of its arrival.  I started doing that and the best part was 2 years later when Microsoft called me to hire me to teach their marketers how to do it.


How did you get or what led you to your current role?

It was through my work for Microsoft that one of the attendees in a class said to me, "you know, I have a friend named Ragy Thomas. He says a lot of the same things you do. You guys should talk."


I still remember the day that Ragy called me (and where I was) when he called me. I answered the phone and he didn't even introduce himself. He just said, "Hey Jeremy....I read your blog. It's brilliant. You need to come work for me.'


And I was thinking..."this guy is crazy" (and I was right about that).  I said, "you don't understand...I have a pretty good gig here. I make great money, get to travel around the world, or I get to stay at home, wear shorts, and walk my kids to school in the morning."  


He said..."YOU don't understand. I'm going to build the next big enterprise software company."


The "You don't understand," "No, YOU don't understand" went back and forth for about 4 months until one day I went to New York and met with him in the office on 30th Street.


I saw the platform and fell in love...well, it was profile properties and profile tagging to be exact, and I said, "ok, this guy has figured out how to scale what I've been talking about."


He said, "there are a lot of marketers our there, but none of them who understand Social. I need someone who does. I need you."


I agreed, went home, told my wife that I was taking a 70% pay cut, and shut down my business.  Been here ever since.


What's your advice for people who want a role like yours? 



There are a few things I would say.


1. Always, always, always grow and cultivate your network of contacts...in a genuine way. No matter what, it is people who make the world go round.


2. Read a ton about anything you can. Never stop learning.


3. Change is the only constant in your life and your career.  It's FAR better to force the change upon yourself than to have it forced upon you.  Practice adapting to change by seeking it out instead of being afraid of it.


4. Take smart risks. That's the best and fastest way to learn new skills which you can apply.


You Can't Market Without Great Talent

February 9, 2016 View Comments

I've dedicated 2016 to becoming a much better people manager.  

I actually prefer the term "coach," as it's really more in line with what I am trying to accomplish for the people whose careers for which I am responsible in helping to shape.

When I take a step back and think about it, it's actually a pretty solemn responsibility, so I am taking it much, much more seriously.

Now, there are some managers who don't take it seriously. There are others who do.

Then, there are those who have been preaching the gospel for a long time...waiting for those of us who need to hear it to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee.

In my case, Halelly Azulay is one of those people.

I've known her for over 7 years now and her song has been consisent: Grow Your Talent.

In fact, it's the name of her company, TalentGrow.  She's also a pretty savvy marketer, as you'll see in this blog post.

A few weeks ago, I called her (it was her birthday) and I mentioned my goal for 2016.

Well, wouldn't you know it that she then sent me not one, but TWO, books to help in the journey.  The first was her own, Employee Development on a Shoestring.

The second, "Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go."

Bottom line: I recommend them both.

What I like about them is how they give you very practical advice on how to develop employees.  What's more, it's contrary to what most of us think and, probably, have experienced.  It's not about the Annual Review.

It's about spending time, listening, asking questions, and turning each moment into a learning opportunity.

And, as Halelly's title tells you, it doesn't need to be expensive.

If there's something I've learned in the past 4 years at Sprinklr, it's that you really can't do great marketing without great talent. If you find the people with the right ambition/passion, however, it's possible to cultivate that talent...which turbocharges your outcome.

I encourage you to read both of these books and sign up for Halelly's blog while you are at it.

Say HELLO to Great Marketing

February 8, 2016 View Comments

Full disclosure: I received a free product sample and my friend, Adam, is the CMO of the company


I was recently introduced to Hello, a company that is trying to redefine the oral healthcare market. I know, I know...it's a crowded space, so how are they doing it?

Well, if I had to summarize it, I'd say "It's the purpose-driven Tom's of Maine approach with some bangin' flavors and some great design."


Forget, for a moment, the purpose-driven side of it. Though all of us want to do right by the environment, how many of us are willing to truly practice what we preach when it comes to taste..particularly in toothpaste?

Not many...which is why that's the first thing Hello had to get right. And they did. I personally love "Mojito Mint" (and how can you not love the name?)

Then, there's the design, which wisely encompasses two elements...it has to look stylish (it does) AND also connect back to the purpose--so the packaging meets the necessary recycling and environmentally friendly requirements that you would expect.

Finally...purpose (and passion-driven)...it oozes (weak pun intended) out of every part of their marketing, particularly near and dear to my heart on the social channels. And you can see it refelcting in their fan base, say on Facebook.

So, yes, I got the samples for free and yes, my pal is their CMO, but it's not worth my credibility to shill for him.  I would pay money for this product on all three levels: taste, design, and company purpose.

What I think they have done is successfully executed the Simon Sinek "Start With Why" and I believe that's the core of great marketing today.

No Excuses to Not Better Yourself This year

December 31, 2015 View Comments

We're on the eve of a New Year.

Time for resolutions.

If you want to be a better person, I'm all for it.

If you want to be a better marketer, I'm all for it.

All I know...there's no excuses for either.

Case in point:

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to become a better team leader at work.


OK, so I got a head start by beginning a few months ago, but what can I say? I'm aggressive that way ;-)


So, I signed up for a course via Coursera (for free) taught by 2 University of Michigan,  Ross School of Business professors called "Leading Teams."


The course itself is very interesting and informative. The lectures are delivered in bite-size chunks and they creatively integrate the coach of the Men's basketball team. There are quizzes, video, external articles, and the discussion forum.


Much like a traditional classroom setting, the discussions are what you make of them. Participate and you get something out of it.


I'm about 50% of the way through the class, but the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) experience so far has been very valuable for me, with a ton of useful information.  


The point is...if you want to get better at anything, you have more access to more bright minds and more people who can help you than ever before.  


Go for it.




Happy New Year.

Lessons from OnePlus #Fail...Marketing is About Experience

October 19, 2015 View Comments

Last year, I bought a OnePlus One phone and I fell in love with it.

You could not find a more passionate advocate. I probably sold 15 phones for them both with invites and otherwise.

Their marketing was inspired. Clean, crisp and a mantra of #NeverSettle that really resonated with me.

But "their marketing" was "marketing" in the traditional sense...a website, how they talked about themselves, and the look and feel of the product.  That was all great.

About 6 months into my ownership, I got my first warning sign, downloading an update that crushed my battery life (the best part of the phone) and sent me into a bit of a tizzy. Fortunately (and maybe to OnePlus' credit), they had a strong community of people like me who were able to help address my issues (for the most part).

But their actual customer service? Basically non-existent.

I'm all in favor of leveraging your community of raving fans, but you can't completely outsource customer care to them.

Still, as an early adopter, I'm primed to accept glitches and set backs. It's part of the deal, and for the most part, the phone did its job well.

So, when I heard that the new OnePlus Two was coming out, I bought it the moment I got the invite and didn't really think about it.

Until I got the phone and discovered that there was no NFC included.

Now, maybe for many people that's not a big deal, but NFC is critical if you want to use Android Pay (think Apple Pay for Androids) and even the mere act of transferring your data from one phone to the next with minimal hassle.

I've used Google Wallet (Android Pay's father) many times and expect to many more. There will be more digital payment options in the future, not fewer, and I couldn't understand how the company could make a phone without NFC. Still, their call, but I decided to return it.

And that's where the hassles began..

Where I think OnePlus is failing now is not recognizing that the brand and their mantra of "#NeverSettle" is not just about creating a great product. It's about a great experience at every touchpoint.

I contacted customer care to get an RMA so I could return it. 4 days went by and nothing (despite a promise of 24 hours or whatever and multiple outreach attempts).

Their emails support@oneplus.net would bounce back.

Finally, I had to tweet their CEO and two different OnePlus handles which got a response and told me what I needed to do.

I sent in 6 pictures of the phone (which I had used for all of 10 minutes) to show it wasn't damaged. Multiple days go by...and nothing.

I even opened up a PayPal dispute. Nothing.

My friend Jon, after hearing this story, said, "you know, Amazon has ruined all of us."

He's right.

We expect the returns process to be frictionless and painless and when it is, we keep coming back...ultimately buying more.

OnePlus, though they make great phones, hasn't figured this out.

The returns process is full of friction and pain which means that I'm not going to buy phones from them anymore. Nor will I advocate that others do it.

And that's the lesson, my friends.

You can make the world's best product, but if you don't at least meet customer expectations on what the FULL experience of interacting with a company should be (think about what Amazon, Uber, etc. have done to set the standard), you're going to disappoint.

It's a tough game, but we're all playing it.