The Transformative Powers of Compulsive Servitude


As Jimmy Johnson, the great football player, coach, and commentator once said, “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little bit of extra.” That mantra was more than encouragement for his defensemen to get out there and dish out CTE like Halloween candy. It turned the Dallas Cowboys from a 1-15 team to back-to-back Super Bowl Champions (‘92, ‘93). When you make a powerful operational change that becomes part of your DNA, it can be the drive your team needs to try harder than their competition. It can also become the backbone of your brand positioning. While you’re mulling over your locker room sermon, here are some more examples of how Empowered Challengers use a little extra effort to give the Goliaths of their industry permanent brain damage.

Rackspace gets fanatical about support

Have your servers ever gone down during business hours, leaving your employees no choice but to kick up their feet while your IT department is serenaded by your hosting company’s on-hold music? It’s a tale as old and haunting as Hansel and Gretel, and it’s how Rackspace was able to challenge cloud-hosting behemoths like Google.

While Rackspace, the #1 managed cloud company, may not have the resources to go toe to toe with a Fortune 50 enterprise, they did identify one area where they could make a name for themselves, customer service. In order to seize this opportunity, they created the Fanatical Support Promise, which revolves around five key elements of customer service:

  • Responsiveness
  • Ownership
  • Expertise
  • Resourcefulness
  • Transparency

This bulleted list is more than a series of buzzwords, it’s a promise that every Rackspace employee can recite in their sleep. And if you think that sounds crazy, just wait till you see what the most dedicated Rackers (a.k.a. Rackspace employees) receive as an award for their Fanatical Support.

In case you can’t watch videos at the moment, it’s a straight jacket, and it speaks volumes to just how committed (no pun intended) Rackspace is to customer service.

Hilton Challenges AirBnB With AI

Aside from Paris Hilton challenging our concept of what it takes to be famous, we rarely associate the Hilton name with challengers. After all, they have over 765,000 rooms in over 100 different countries. That’s pretty impressive, until you consider that AirBnB has over 1 million listings in 190 countries. Several years ago, AirBnB would’ve been the David in this scenario, but now it’s Hilton and the rest of the hotel industry that are looking for ways to stop AirBnB’s unbelievable growth.

Hilton’s latest attempt to win back guests is Connie, a hotel concierge with the skeletal structure of C-3P0 and the brain of a former Jeopardy champion. No, not Ken Jennings. Watson, IBM’s frighteningly intelligent cognitive computing platform.

 Is this the beginning of the future Terminator warned us about? Maybe, but in the meantime, just appreciate the fact that Connie can scan the Internet for directions, food recommendations, and event tickets faster than a human with eleven fingers on each hand. Connie is currently just a pilot program at the McLean, Virginia Hilton, but it’s only a matter of time before every location has a concierge robot that can scan your Facebook profile and plan your perfect trip before you reach the check-in desk. To some, that’s terrifying, but to the innovators and early adopters who left the hotel industry for AirBnB, this revolutionary use of technology could be a game-changer.

Alamo Drafthouse remembers their target market

Some companies (e.g. Rackspace) have a “The customer is always right” policy, which applies to ALL customers, no matter how crazy the request or complaint may be. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema takes more of a “We are always right” approach, and if you don’t like it, they’ll turn you into a viral video.

While the angry patron above may not appreciate Alamo Drafthouse’s no talking or texting policy, legions of movie buffs have launched this cinema from a single theater in Austin, TX to 22 locations spanning the entire country, and they are growing rapidly. Why? Because the founder of Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Tim League, IS a movie buff who values the theater experience more than ticket sales. Instead of trying to cater to everybody with $12 in their pocket, Alamo Drafthouse only focuses on moviegoers who appreciate cinema as much as Tim, which makes Compulsive Servitude as easy as treating customers the way Tim wants to be treated.

Tim knows true film fans don’t want their movies interrupted by someone talking or answering a text message, because Tim doesn’t want his movies ruined by someone talking or texting. He knows there’s a market for cult classics, because he loves cult classics. And he knows people would rather watch YouTube clips before their show versus advertisements, because he would rather watch YouTube clips. When you truly stand by what you believe in, like Tim, those who agree with you will appreciate your willingness to stick up for them and become diehard fans.

 Are you ready to serve?

Do you have an INSANE commitment to your customer’s happiness while others are just “passionate” about it? Do you invest millions of dollars in artificial intelligence while others just worry about high-speed Internet? Or, do you just not give a crap about winning over people who don’t appreciate your business? As you can see, there are many ways to become an Empowered Challenger through Compulsive Servitude, but if you’re not willing to put forth that little bit of extra to make it the crux of your brand ethos, the only thing you’ll be serving is another victory to the Goliaths of your industry.

Back to The Empowered Challenger →