Nike: Turning Customers into Fans

I’m a runner. I don’t bother with the air-conditioned calm of the gym; I just pull on a pair of trainers and head out on the road everyday. It’s a great way to stay fit and is the best possible buffer between the working day and evening that I know.

I use the Nike+ app to track my runs. I’m not obsessive about aiming for times, but it’s good to have targets and to know how far I have gone. Recently the social aspect of the app has started to become more fun as friends are competing to see who can cover the most distance in one month – I’m still beating you Keith.

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I usually listen to books while I am running so I get a double-whammy when I go out pounding the streets – I can progress through a new book using my Audible app and get fit at the same time; right now I’m listening to Bill Clinton’s two-volume memoir.

I usually just start the audio for my audio-book, then switch to the Nike+ app and start tracking the run – then I head out. But on Wednesday this week my iPhone updated Nike+ to the new version and they had made a few changes to the software. I found that it was impossible to run any audio on another app because when starting the Nike+ app it would shut off the audio from anything else. My audio book was killed every time I tried to start the running app.

It’s possible to run audio from inside Nike+, but really it’s only designed for music – it supports both Spotify and iTunes. However the only thing I have on iTunes now is that free U2 album sent to everyone in the world and although I have the biggest data package my phone company offers I still don’t want to stream music on 4G as I run. I have loads of offline playlists on my Spotify app, but Nike+ can only access Spotify for streaming.

So I had to complete that run without any sounds. It was OK, but that time could have been used to get through some more of Clinton’s memoirs. I tweeted my disappointment about this change in the app to Nike when I got back home.

I expected them to acknowledge the problem and maybe schedule an investigation, so it might be fixed far in the future when a new version of the app is released, but I soon got a surprise.

About two hours after I had been on my run, I got a personal direct message from Eric Rosario, who explained that he is the director of engineering at Nike and has responsibility for the Nike+ app. Wow – the boss got in touch with me directly! We spent over an hour working together on various ways to try fixing the problem and testing different possibilities that evening.

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I couldn’t find the answer and I needed to sleep, but yesterday Eric got back to me with a few more ideas. We swapped messages back and forth and I tried all his suggestions. It still didn’t fix my problem.

Then today I woke up and saw that Eric had messaged me. The Nike engineering team had found the issue, fixed it and built a new version of the Nike+ app. He promised that it would be on the Apple app store within a day so I can return to my books and running.

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Of course this was not just a problem for me. As soon as I mentioned it on Facebook, other friends mentioned to me that they use various apps for podcasts or music and found that the new Nike+ app was killing their sounds too. However what Eric and his team had done was to focus on my problem as a way of resolving this issue for all Nike+ users.

Eric offered to directly send me a version of the app in advance of the app store release, but I said I could wait for it to pop up on my phone. He put me on the Nike+ Beta programme so I can get access to new versions of their system and give Nike feedback before they release it.

I’m speaking at the Engage Customer summit in London next Thursday (Nov 26) about the future of customer service and my talk includes references to various technologies and strategies such as the omnichannel, but my experience with Nike this week proved something else. Good old-fashioned service can also be when the boss jumps in to help out a customer and says to the team:

“we are going to work on this until it’s fixed guys.”

I had a great experience with Nike this week. Even though I had a problem with their product, the way that Eric and his team behaved has proved to me that this is a company I want to engage with much more in future. Their openness and desire to help is a great recipe for turning customers into fans – every company with a customer service team should take note because this is the future of customer loyalty, not worthless loyalty points.

The next time I need some new running shoes, I know which brand is right at the top of my shopping list.