I first heard of Zappos from a colleague that attended a seminar on Social Media Marketing a few years ago. At that seminar, they were one of the examples mentioned – the ones that got it right, not the other variety of example. Zappos is known for selling premium shoes ; that’s the product category they began with though they’ve now expanded to many others. While that’s the primary product they sell, they figured out early that the benefit to women buying premium shoes is the boost it gives their confidence. So they used Facebook to identify themselves with that benefit, not just with the product they were selling – their Fb page spoke about female confidence and boosting this through corporate dressing, apt make-up for work, etc. and shoes were just a small part of it.
Heard of them again recently from another colleague who’d just moved back to the U.S. This time it was their amazing customer service that impressed both of us; this is a company that actually lives up to the ‘powered by service’ tag-line.
Prior to a hiking holiday, the colleague and her husband had bought hiking shoes on Zappos, but realised on delivery that the shoes didn’t fit. They needed to return two pairs of shoes and the Zappos team erroneously mailed them only one return label. So the couple rang the call centre and explained the problem to the rep – since they were travelling soon they didn’t even have time to select another pair on the site and have them delivered, and hence it had to be a return, not an exchange. As I said earlier, this company actually lives up to their promise of good service, the problem was promptly resolved.
But after that, in contrast to a usual call centre’s robotic “thank you for shopping with us. We hope you choose our services again” dialogue, the friendly Zappos rep asked the couple where they were headed and chatted about the trip, the national parks they were visiting, etc. When he found out that they were landing in Vegas before driving to the Grand Canyon, he actually invited them to drop by and visit the Zappos factory which is in Vegas – a gesture that totally wowed them and made them Zappos loyalists for life.
This article mentions some of the reasons that Zappos reps are so different from typical call centre reps. Some excerpts below:
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 what smart marketer doesn’t want that??
He also firmly maintains that every phone call is an opportunity to WOW their customers.
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.
For more on Zappos customer service, you can also read this article.
- Zenobia Driver
With inputs from Roshni Jhaveri and Gunjan Bhatia