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Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom by Matt Tenney

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Chapter 5Delivering World-Class Customer Service

In 1995, Nick Swinmurn graduated from of the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a degree in film studies. For several years after graduation, he bounced around between several jobs and, in 1999, ended up doing contract work for a tech company in the San Francisco Bay Area. One day that year, Nick was looking for shoes at the mall in the city. He found shoes that were the right style, but not the right color. He then found shoes with the right color, but not the right size. After an hour of searching without success, Nick went home to try his luck on the Internet.

Nick's online search was also unsuccessful. The only people selling shoes online were a couple of “mom and pop” stores that had very small selections from which to choose. It was at this point that Nick had a revelation of sorts. He realized that at this time, at the onset of the Internet boom, no major online retailers were specializing in selling shoes, and he recognized a tremendous opportunity. His idea was to create an online store that offered the absolute best selection in shoes. The store would have the most brands, styles, colors, sizes, and widths, so that people could always find the perfect shoe within a few minutes. He thought he had stumbled upon pure gold!

Unfortunately, no one else saw it that way. Everyone he told about his idea replied by telling Nick that he was crazy. “People, especially women, will never be comfortable buying shoes online,” ...

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