Karo Kilfeather | 11.02.16
Summary >

Imagine that someone asked you to be in a wedding party, and you’re in quick need of new shoes. You’re on a budget, so those fancy designer shoe stores are out of the question. You turn to the Internet for the best deal and find Zappos.

You place an order for delivery on the day of the wedding. But you learn they send the shoes to the wrong location and would miss the deadline.

Panic, right? Not with Zappos.

This story actually happened. And it put the customer in a tight spot with less than one day until the big day. Rather than bury the customer with excuses, Zappos shipped a new pair over night. They also gave the customer a full refund and upgraded him to a VIP member for his trouble.

The customer has since become a lifelong Zappos supporter.

Why should you care about what Zappos does? Because they have an uncanny rate of return customers. Zappos built its sterling field service reputation on the strength of an engaged workforce. They’re committed to positive company values and unshackled from restrictive customer engagement policies. In return, they’ve built an army of loyal customers. In fact, 75-percent of their purchases  come from returning customers.

This story has all the makings of stellar field service engagement. And this is something familiar within Zappos’ customer service culture. So what makes this company so effective with its customer relations?

The best man story is just one example of Zappos’ service model, known as “WOW” (as in, WOW I love Zappos!). The model focuses on creating a values-based internal culture. It involves understanding the worth of customers. And it allows field agents to go beyond “normal” service requests.

Field service managers who want to match Zappos’ success can start with these two tenants from the WOW model.

#1 – Create an Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded Culture

Zappos’ CEO, Tony Hsieh, believes good customer service comes from a happy, motivated, and engaged workforce. He strives to build a workplace culture that employees love. He knows that goodwill translates into improved customer relations.

Zappos’ website says, “we are not an average company, our service is not average, and we don’t want our people to be average. We expect every employee to deliver WOW.” That expectation is born from a culture that embraces individuality and strives to be ‘a little weird.’”

Positive, team-based reinforcement is rampant at Zappos’ headquarters. It creates a passionate workforce, committed to the company (and its customers). Hsieh expanded on this model in apresentation at Stanford:

“We want the person to be the same person at home or in the office because what we’ve found is that’s when the great ideas come out, that’s when their creativity shines and that’s when true friendships are formed – not just coworker relationships. When people are in that environment, that’s when the passion comes out and that’s really what’s driven a lot of our growth over the years.”

#2 – Never Accept (or get too Comfortable With) the Status Quo

Zappos doesn’t force its call center representatives to follow a time requirement. That alone can seem inefficient from a call management standpoint. But it produces unique customer experience stories.

One December morning, a customer called the Zappos service line. But it wasn’t to complain. Instead, the customer wanted to talk with the service rep about living in the Las Vegas area. Instead of gently ushering the customer off the call (or rudely ending it), the rep stayed on the line — for over 10 hours.

Eventually the customer purchased a product, even though that wasn’t the original intent. But the level of service demonstrated by the rep blew the customer away.

Now we aren’t suggesting that your reps spend 10 hours talking to each client. But the desire to please the customer at any cost fuels Zappos’ engagement model.

Where do companies draw the line on providing what the customer wants? For Zappos, the limit is flexible, and constantly evolving to stay ahead of competition.

Hsieh notes that this philosophy pushes back against staid policies. It puts greater trust in employees to adapt and act outside of the box.

“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.”


Want to learn more about the Zappos way? Click here for additional stories of their service. And learn more about establishing a strong culture of service within your organization.