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Are You Zappos Of Your Industry?

Are You Zappos Of Your Industry?

One of the most legendary customer service companies is Zappos.

Tom  Hughes
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One of my favourite podcasts is CBC's (Canada Broadcasting Corp.) "Under The Influence". It's a program about advertising, marketing and the like. A couple of weeks ago they did a show on exemplary customer service. There were lots of great customer service stories but this one just blew me away. This is taken from their site. The 'I' is podcast host Terry O'Reilly.

One of the most legendary customer service companies is Zappos.

It's an online retailer that began as a shoes-only site. And it goes to extraordinary lengths to keep their customers happy. It all begins with their hiring practices. During their four-week training course, the company offers people $1,000 to quit. It's unheard of. But there's a reason - they want to weed out people who don't share their philosophy of empathy, kindness and humility.

In 2007, 3% of the candidates took the money.

In 2008, 1% did.

In 2009, no one took the money.

So Zappos upped the offer to $2,000.

At every step of the job training process, Zappos is trying to determine if their values line up with the applicants. It's the same philosophy Danny Meyers uses in finding people for his restaurants.  Most companies who rely on phone centres to do business have time limits - they want their staff to process a certain number of calls per hour. But not Zappos - they field over 5,000 phone calls per day, and there no time limits.

As CEO Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay) says, they actually want to talk to their customers. He believes the telephone is one of the best branding devices out there. The way he looks at it, you have your customer's undivided attention for 5 or 10 minutes - and which smart marketer doesn't want that?

He also firmly maintains that every phone call is an opportunity to WOW their customers. First of all, there is a 365-day return policy. That's right, you have a year to return items. Zappos is also okay if you want to order 10 pairs of shoes, try them all on, and return the nine you don't want. All returns are free. No questions asked. If you're not sure of your fit, order a size 7 and a 7 ½, try them both on, then send back the other pair.

Zappos also knows how to deliver. Not only is shipping free, it's often done overnight. That means if you order up to midnight, your shoes will be on your doorstep eight hours later when you wake up in the morning. That kind of service creates that WOW FACTOR. More importantly, it creates emotional impact. As a matter of fact, people are so amazed their purchase arrives so fast, many of them literally scream when the package arrives. UPS delivery people said they had to get used to that reaction when it comes to Zappos. If an item is out of stock, Zappos staff will search out three other competitor's websites and direct customers there. Even though they will lose that sale.

But there is a reason they do that: They are not trying to maximize the transaction, they're trying to build a lifelong relationship. I can't stress this enough. In the end, excellent customer service doesn't cost money, it makes money.

One last Zappos story. CEO Tony Hsieh took some clients out for a night on the town once. After the bar closed, they all went back to their hotel. One of his clients had a yearning for a pizza, but it was 2 am, the hotel kitchen was closed.

So Hsieh suggested she call Zappos and see if they could find her a pizza. You have to understand what he just suggested. He told his client to call his company, a fashion retailer at two in the morning - and ask for a pizza.

So Hsieh's client called Zappos and asked for a pizza. There was a short pause on the other end of the line, then the Zappos operator found three pizza stores near the hotel that were still open, and ordered the pizza.

That moment floored the clients, but I bet it didn't surprise Tony Hsieh. Because he has instilled in his company an overwhelming desire to make customers happy.

That's why Zappos reached $1 billion in sales in only their eighth year of business. There's another lesson here. 75% of Zappos customers are repeat customers. They call more often, and they spend more money. And they keep shopping at Zappos because they've never been treated better in their lives.


Contributed By Tom Hughes

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