March 16, 2011

Learn Customer Service from the Best

BY John Paul Narowski IN Customer Service 2 Comments

customer-serviceIf you want to make your customers fanatic in their devotion to you, you just can’t offer a “better mouse trap.”  You have to bring more to the table then a killer product or service.

Google and Facebook’s Biggest Mistakes

These two titans of online life both have some of the most innovative and powerful products this world has ever seen.  Yes, what they do and make is truly revolutionary and has changed our world forever.  But they drop the ball in one huge way.

Customer service!

Have you ever had an issue on Facebook (their ad platform, technical questions, etc)?  If you have, then you know the help offered by the company past their set F.A.Q.s and tutorials is zilch.  Their own help discussion boards don’t include answers from Facebook staff.

Even if you’re paying to run ads, unless you’re dropping north of $25,000 a month, you don’t get an actual rep to talk to and your questions are ignored.  Not very social for a social media company…

Google isn’t much better.  Unless you’re a big dog, you don’t get much help from the Adwords team.  Your ads can be pulled, website de-indexed and you can watch your business grind to a hault without so much as a reply to emails from the Google team.

You can spin it and call it them protecting their technological secrets, business models and plans or whatever you want, but it all boils down to the same thing; bad customer service.

Be Like Zappos

Zappos, the online shoe and clothing outfit, is known around the world for their fanatical devotion to customer service.  If you’re looking to emulate anyone, it should be them.

Customer Service as a Competitive Advantage

While this idea has been around for a long time, Zappos is the best example of how you can over come competition, pricing and inventory woes by simply offering a better customer service experience.

We come back to Facebook and Google because we have to; Zappos doesn’t have that luxury.  Everyone and their brother sells shoes, t-shirts and jeans online.  But Zappos customers come back in droves because of how the company treats them.

Exceptional Customer Service

Their customer service reps aren’t judged on the time they spend on the phone.  Thus, they don’t try to get through your call as quickly as possible.  Instead, they work with you, treat you like a person and create a memorable experience.

They also are allowed a budget to spend as they see fit to increase customer loyalty.  Take this example, found on The Consumerist:

My wife had ordered a pair of sandals from Zappos. When they arrived, she found that they didn’t fit. She tried to order the right size, but Zappos was sold out of her size. So here’s what the company offered: she could return the sandals (for free), Zappos would refund the purchase price and they’d send her a $25 coupon toward her next purchase. But wait — there’s more! Zappos also offered to try to locate a pair of the sandals in her size from another vendor. (Hah! Sure, they will!) Fifteen minutes later, the company called my wife and told her they’d found her sandals, in her size, at another online merchant — “and,” the Zappos clerk told her, “they’re even cheaper at this other site!”

There was even one instance when a customer called to return boots her recently deceased husband had ordered.  They took them back (past the standard return period), paid for the shipping AND sent flowers to the funeral!

Company Culture

All of this is achieved because from the CEO down, Zappos creates a company culture that is completely focused on making the customer’s experience the best possible.

They offer new hires $2000 to leave after a month; thus weeding out people who don’t truly want to be there.  They focus their hiring efforts on how well someone fits into the company culture versus standard criteria like education, experience etc.

The company’s employees all work to create a culture where the customer is paramount and the organization itself allows the means to do it.

Learn More

If you’re interested in learning more about Zappos and how you can mimic their awesome customer service, then:

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

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