Saturday, May 02, 2009

The OSI Interview: Justin Flitter

Justin Flitter is a Creative Customer Services Professional with a seemingly unquenchable thirst and enthusiasm for delivering and promoting excellent customer service. Given that the lack of customer service is one of my biggest pet peeves, I was very interested in Justin's championing of the cause. Nine years ago he founded, along with a board of trustees, the NRG Charitable Trust Business Incubator. Located in Wellington, New Zealand, the Incubator housed and supported young entrepreneurs setting up their own businesses. More recently, he has served as Customer Service Manager at and -- which won ‘Exporter of the Year’ and was ranked the 4th fastest growing company in New Zealand. Currently he works for as a Customer Advocate, Business Developer and Cheerleader! His personal site promotes customer service thought leadership, encouraging proactive management and best practice.

1. In the context of your work, which bits of minutiae matter most?

Customer Service: Its the little things that mean the most. Reading or listening to an email to pick out the calls for help, hesitation or feedback that could benefit from a phone call really works.

The other is follow up, if I have replied to a customer with a question that email remains 'pending'. If I have not heard back after 2 or 3 days ill often email again or call the customer to ensure that request is completed.

Being Nosy: With blogging and Tweeting, it's listening that pays the dividends. It could be a comment from someone on your post, or a Twitter discussion that creates a "lightbulb" moment leading to a new relationship, business opportunity or blogpost.

A great example is my recent connection with Laurie Brown, a customer service expert in the United States. Laurie posted a customer-service related Tweet which captured my attention,so I visited her website. Our shared passion for customer service was obvious, so when I had an idea for a new White Paper I approached Laurie to co-author it with me. Recently we published "The Essential Customer Service WhitePaper for 2009" which is available free from

2. Which bits matter least?
Definitely timekeeping and appearance. Firstly I work from home, with a pool and the neighbor's cat' which is partly bliss and partly boring. Given that I physically work on my own' there's little reason to dress up, do my hair or shave every day. I can walk around in shorts and jandals [Note: that's "flip-flops" to you crazy Americans.]. I bought a suit a while back for job interviews, have only worn it once.
Timekeeping is something I'm naturally good at, but having a largely unstructured day means that minutiae of being on time is not one of mine.

3. In the context of your life, what types of minutiae once seemed important, but have since fallen by the wayside? Why?

Over the last year my vision has broadened in that I'm focusing on relationships on a global level rather than a local, community/city level. Where before I focused on building local relationships for professional development, now I'm looking globally so local contacts have become less significant. Local networks are still important (especially when you work from home), but there are far more people and opportunities available when you're not fussed where they live.

4. What types of minutiae, if any, have you had to train yourself to pay closer attention to?

Patience is not my greatest virtue. Yet working at home requires a certain amount of patience and discipline. Working internationally often means I don't get an answer back as fast as I'd like so you have to learn to put things down for a bit. Some of my customer service work is repetitive. It would be easy to take shortcuts to get through the work. But as I've said, it's the small things that matter the most, personal comments and suggestions or a little time spent makes a huge difference. Post-It notes on the computer say "How can you make this better?" and "If it is to be, it is up to me".

5. Just for kicks -- what are your favorite bits of minutiae (personal, from a book, a piece of music, moment in a movie, etc.)?

I have been reading First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham. In it he talks about talents. As managers we recruit for talent but often talents are misinterpreted as skills or as if talent is hard to find. Marcus dispels the myth by saying that "Talents are simply recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior" so "Talents are actually rather commonplace". Perhaps customer service in some companies would improve if staff were hired based on talents like compassion, listening and thoughts of "the customer, before me". This idea has changed the way I write about customer service recruitment, staff coaching and training.

Thank you, Justin!