Rackspace Gets Fanatical About Customer Experience

by Jeannie Walters

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CXPA 2013 MIEBen Hart, Senior Director of Customer Loyalty at Rackspace, was the Keynote Speaker for the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). Rackspace is a $1.3 Billion hosting company that is the # 1 specialist in the hosting and cloud computing industry. They serve 60% of the Fortune 100. They’ve been in the Top 100 Best Places to Work for the last four years and they’re fanatical about customer experience.

According to Hart, “fanatical support” happens anytime, anywhere, and any way imaginable at Rackspace. The way the teams are built within the organization is a critical ingredient to their recipe of customer experience success. The entire team is rewarded together, based on the success of the customer account. If a customer has a billing issue, the entire account team wants to make it right. It’s a wonderful strategy that has improved Rackspace results across the board. “Greatness is achieved when customers say we’re great.” – Rackspace CEO Lanham Napier

Fanatical Moments 

  • All Rackspace employees call themselves Rackers. (This reminds me of the recommendation from Monster Loyalty about giving your community a name!)
  • The balance between customers and employees is a critical part of the equation.
  • Understanding how to close the feedback loop
  • Rookie O: Starting each employee at Rackspace with the right mindset through events that help them understand what it means to offer Fanatical Support!

50088733_58935531ce_z Balance Employee Outcomes with Customer Satisfaction

  • Rackspace pushes the limits to ensure employees are happy, but without creating a culture of entitlement.
  • The mission of the organization has to stay focused on the customers and the appropriate outcomes for them.
  • Open office is a former mall in San Antonio. No doors are there – it’s totally open.
  • The Fanatical Jacket (an actual straight jacket) is awarded to the Racker that provides the most extraordinary support to a customer. There is a Wall of Fame with each winners picture.
  • The office includes places that are directly related to customer feedback.
  • Rackspace is a Strengths-Based Organization – let people be their best selves.
  • The Racktivity Room is a large, open conference room in the middle of the “Mall” to have a space with a problem to solve. The room is always there and people are always working on whatever issue needs attention. You can walk in or schedule, but it invites collaboration.

Once Upon A Time…

Rackspace had a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of NEGATIVE 11. It was based on typical complaints about outages, lack of support, etc. Customers were not happy. Things went wrong in hosting. It’s a complex business and customers often don’t necessarily understand it. Even the original missions were about real estate, adding more servers, and getting more.


  • Around 1999, David Bryce founded Fanatical Support at Rackspace.
  • There is transparency. Rackers are all “insiders” and know what financials look like. Nothing feels hidden.
  • Now they consider themselves a service company, which is not where they started.
  • There are no phone trees, so customers always get a live person.
  • They tied NPS results with churn rates. They now track exactly the metrics that drive business results.
  • They recognize the impact of the “bouncing” customer – those who get moved from one person to another. Now, they proactively call customers before they get bounced around to help delight and resolve the issue.
  • Rackspace is obsessed about being a leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. In March, 2012, they were recognized as a Leader. It was right around then when they realized their business as it is today won’t be around in a few years. Cloud computing is changing the game.
  • Rackspace is changing their business model and offering products for cloud computing. The NPS is somewhat neutral now. Their current challenge is determining how to move into this space while keeping their focus on service.

Basic TenetsFanatical About Customer Experience

  • No team should be too large – you should be able to feed them with 2 pizzas or less. (They call this The 2 Pizza Rule.)
  • Account managers all own accounts, but none of them own a quota. Problems happen in this complex business, so the account managers should be able to choose service customers over sales.
  • Embrace the 5 – 10 core strengths that you are good at and enjoy. Each Racker goes through training to understand theirs and others. Each Racker has their top 10 strengths posted publicly.
  • We need the right people in the room to resolve issues immediately. A primary driver is the ability to respond with the right person to solve a complex problem in a complex business faster than anyone…times 1000! This is directly related to how they build teams.
  • We have fun!

Photo Credits: SuperFantastic, Jing Qu via Creative Commons

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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