Zappos Wins at Customer Service.
If you’ve ever shopped on Zappos.com, you know there’s nothing incredible about their prices or the products they stock. They do very little advertising, and they don’t offer coupons or discounts. On the surface, Zappos appears to be an average company, doing average things, and yet, Zappos is a household name with $1 billion in sales in less than ten years. The power behind the Zappos brand and majority of their success is attributed to the power of fantastic customer service, which is often overlooked as a sales strategy.
Zappos’s CEO Tony Hsieh’s approach to customer service is unconventional, to say the least, but it’s working. He doesn’t analyze the expense of customer service or the call center. In fact, the metrics he cares about have nothing to do with efficiency, and everything to do with how satisfied a customer is at the end of a service call. Agents don’t use scripts, and they never upsell. Zappos customer service has one, simple goal: Make the customer happy no matter what. Period.
The Customer Service Strategies Behind Zappos’s Success
Create a Culture of People Who Believe in Your Company’s Values
Zappos has developed a set of key values that are at the heart of everything they do, which have come to be the foundation of their company culture. Job candidates are thoroughly interviewed and screened to ensure their values match those of Zappos, and they test new employees’ commitment by offering them money to quit after 2 weeks of training. Zappos creates a culture of caring and friendship by treating their employees well. They encourage a fun, collaborative environment and offer employees perks like a nap room, petting zoo, bowling, karaoke, snacks and more.
To develop a great culture, you have to start with a set of core company values. If a set of values needs to be developed, Hsieh recommends starting with personal values, which should easily translate into corporate values. You can check out Zappos’s Values here.
Understand the Worth of Your Customers
Zappos’s customer base is loyal – even discounts and coupons from competitors typically won’t sway them. In fact, 75% of Zappos’s purchases come from returning customers. In their eyes, the reassurance that any issues with their purchase will be met with great customer service is worth the extra money. Not only are Zappos customers super loyal, but they’re also big fans of the brand, and they want the world to know. An impressive 44% of new customers heard about Zappos via word of mouth.
Give Your Agents the Power to Impress
Would you allow your call center agent to do the following without approval?
- Talk to a customer on the phone for 10 hours and 29 minutes
- Send “get-well-soon” flowers to a customer’s ill mother on the company’s dime
- Refund a customer for a defective product, and then send out a replacement for free
“I think the main thing is just trust [the customer service reps] and let them make their own decisions. Most call centers are set up by policies and so the actual person that’s answering the phone doesn’t really have the ability to do anything. If you…call most customer service places, if you ask for anything that’s not normal they have to talk to a supervisor or just say ‘oh our policy doesn’t allow that’ and whatever. So we generally try to stay away from policies, we just ask our reps to do whatever they feel is the right thing to do for the customer and the company. And that’s actually really uncomfortable for a lot of reps that come from other call centers. We kind of have to untrain their bad habits.
“But I think [customer service reps] are generally not happy because they don’t have control over the situation whereas Zappos…there’s really nothing that a rep can’t do so there’s no reason to ever escalate.”
Zappos is an extreme example of loosening the reigns, and not every company can abide by this concept. However, policies and the need to ask for approval can be too restrictive. It shouldn’t be hard for your call center agents to do the right thing for your customers. Not only does this delay resolution of the issue, but phrases like “against our policy” or “I need to get approval” can be like nails on a chalkboard for customers.
The Bar Has Been Set
Customer experience has become so important that, by 2020, it’s projected to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Companies that are known for their customer service, like Zappos, are setting a standard in service that consumers expect from every company with which they do business. If you think it may be time to re-evaluate your customer service strategy, keep Zappos’s success in mind. They’ve certainly proved that their approach works.