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A SONOS update and the emergence of the good customer

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy December 10, 2013
Despite my earlier mauling, SONOS came up with a solution to my issues. In doing so, I see deeper learnings around discovering the good customer.

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In my SONOS sux post, I was pretty scathing about the way SONOS has used technology to solve user problems but without thinking through the longer term customer service implications. I guess that is in the nature of most customer service: solve the problem and move on. However - and this is a common problem in many companies - problems that repeat time and again should be handled differently.

It turns out that Error 1013 is a generic error message that could have multiple causes but which all relate to the way SONOS interacts across different network scenarios.

While SONOS had attempted to provide a set of steps to help users, they were inevitably confusing. In my case, an engineer spent two and a half hours walking me through a variety of tests and diagnostics before we discovered how the problem appears to be occurring. We discussed these at length and confirmed the steps taken in order to resolve my situation. The engineer said that my circumstances were unusual and that the company had not seen them before. That's usually the precursor to giving up but not in this case.

At each stage, we ran diagnostics the engineer can see as a record to report back to the main engineering groups and help him/her interpret current activity on my network. That's a good process because it ensures there is a full history of what is happening as each diagnostic step is taken. That's professional.

Without going into the nitty gritty, the way the support engineer provided instructions was idiot proof. There's a lot of deep stuff going on but that doesn't matter. I don't need to understand what the engineer requires, only that I follow the steps.

As a final step, the engineer asked me to send over router configuration details so they could investigate whether there are specific issues with the wifi router I use. Again, this is not difficult to discover but provides them with valuable information with which to consider further analysis by their product engineering teams.

In tandem, there was a thread running on the SONOS support forums discussing this situation. I let them know an engineer was on the case. At the conclusion, I suggested that SONOS revisit its forums with a view to clarifying how 1013 can manifest itself and how users can self help themselves. They have now taken that on board. 


I am constantly surprised how much customers understand but which is often ignored by the service providers. I cannot count the number of stories, posts, Facebook messages, Tweets etc where a customer says something like: "If only X company did this then life would be much simpler," only to see the same message repeated over and over.

On the other hand I am not surprised that the vast majority of customers don't care. They just want their problem solved and move on.

On the flip side, very few customers share what they learned once a problem is solved. It is great when a company turns from 'zero to hero' but that's not enough. I believe companies need to encourage the emergence and use of what I call the 'good' customer. This is one who is prepared to share learnings from which others can benefit. Why would anyone do this?

The good customer

I have come to the conclusion there is a class of customer that is not well understood but which exist in every market. They are what I term 'the good customer.' Here is who they are and what they do. This description is a work in progress.

Good customers influence up and down the value chain. They don't do this out of altruism but out of a self-ish sense around learning. They have what Richard Dawkins might call 'the selfish gene.' They are curious. They constantly ask 'why is the world shaped this way?' They are seekers and disseminators of the best information. They are disruptors and want to make a dent in the universe. They are not to be feared or held in awe, only listened to and, where appropriate, act upon their thoughts/ideas. They are people with which companies can and should work closely. This might sound odd but I don't necessarily see them as brand champions in this context because they rarely have a loyalty that is anything other than that which is self-ishly driven. But...they do love what works and they do like simplicity.

Internally, I liken them to 'Betty in Accounts.' Betty is the go to lady we all recognise who has found the workaround to most conceivable problems. She knows what works and what doesn't and is very often someone management rarely know exists. If you've worked with shitty systems then you know exactly who I mean.

Do you agree? Does this sound overly self serving and preening or do you recognise this kind of person?

Featured image credit: © Krasimira Nevenova -

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