William Wang knows about keeping things in perspective. As one of 96 survivors aboard a Singapore Airlines 747 that took off on the wrong runway in Taiwan, struck a construction site, and broke in two, Wang instantly realized that the difficulties of his various technology businesses weren't such a big deal. Not when 83 passengers and crew members were killed that day in 2000. Wang shut down all his businesses after the crash, and in 2003 got into the flat-screen TV business by launching Vizio.
William was born and raised in Taiwan. He moved to California with his parents when he was 14. It was a difficult adjustment because of language problems, cultural problems he admitted. Despite coming to the U.S. without any knowledge of English, he went on to USC, graduated from the engineering school in 1986, and started work at a Chinese company that sold computer monitors. I was in tech support, answering customers’ calls. After a while, I thought I could build a better computer monitor than the IBM standard. So I started Vizio. I was in my mid 30′s, fearless, young, and foolish.
On the incident that almost took his life he quoted; Instead of runway 5-L, the pilot took off in runway 5-R. The runway was under construction. So we took off and half the plane was in the air, 180 miles per hour, and on its way to lifting off when it hit some of the construction equipment and the plane blew up. It was a 747 ready for a transpacific flight, so it was full of fuel. The plane came back down on the unfinished runway and it kept on going because of the speed at which it was traveling. I was in the front. Fortunately, it went straight forward and just skidded. It was just the front of the plane–the back was gone already. It was like a silent movie. I don’t even remember any noise. I assume people were screaming. When the plane stopped moving, I just got out. I couldn’t breathe anymore because of the fumes. I was running for air, I was running for an exit. Half the passengers died. I wasn’t really injured physically–I did have carbon monoxide poisoning. I guess several things went through my mind when the plane blew up. One thing was my family. The second thing was that all my headaches were suddenly gone. I was still stuck with all these bad businesses, but I had a better attitude. I mean, at the end of the day, we’re all going to die, right? So after the plane crash, it took a year or two to clean everything up.
Regarding VIZIO and his partnership with Costco that has taken the industry by storm, he acknowledged the importance of customer service and customer satisfaction. “That is our focus, our main focus,” he says. Wang explains that great customer service and satisfaction require great teamwork. To be successful, you need to team with your employees, customers, distributors, everybody. “In a sense, they are all our customers. Costco is our customer while Costco’s customers are also our customers, and so on, so our job is to make everyone happy and to make Costco successful. That requires great teamwork.”
Great customer service requires a few specific actions, Wang says. First, you must learn about your customers like what they like and dislike. The customer is always first. “Maybe, more important, you have to listen to your customers. Do not force it. Don’t just listen to your own business philosophies, but hear the philosophies of your customers,” he said.
“You simply must take customer satisfaction seriously. That means not being too greedy. We take profits and pump them back into the televisions, back into the company, to make it even better for our customers.” Given all of the above, it should not be surprising that, for Wang, the key to business success is to “give the customer more than they expect.”
Almost all entrepreneurs mention the importance of customer service. But Wang is one who actually took that idea to its logical conclusion: Customers are not just the end-users of your product or service. Instead, that word encompasses everyone dependent on your success.
So consider taking a page out of the William Wang success playbook. Expand your vision of just who constitutes your customer, and you, too, may conquer the world, one big-box store at a time.