“Customer Service Isn’t Just A Department” – Tony Hseih, CEO, Zappos
When you decide to make customer service your competitive advantage, you are making a huge commitment to your customer. This commitment would not come to fruition unless there is a concerted drive to build this into the company’s culture. And no company has quite perfected that art like Zappos.
Las Vegas-based Zappos started in 1999 by selling shoes online, and has since grown to a US$1 billion per year retailer. It has expanded into clothing, handbags, sunglasses, and numerous other categories. The company early on decided to focus its marketing budget towards delivering exceptional customer service. To enable this, they have manufactured from the bottom up a very open culture in the organization. From allowing vendors to view what products are in stock along with prices and profit margins to allowing other companies to have a look at the way they run their Contact Center operations, Zappos has built a very strong image in the minds of the industry of what they are trying to achieve. Even internally, their Contact Center agents are not given scripts and are not bound by rules which force them to complete calls quickly (the record being 4 hours for a single call). Zappos sees their greatest brand building opportunity in speaking with their customers. They encourage trial of their products with a guarantee that it can be returned even a year after purchasing it, thus building a very strong chain of trust with the customer. This and many more such initiatives place Zappos on a whole new pedestal in the minds of the customer.
Taking this sort of positioning in the market can be a very daunting task. But Zappos have made this belief in customer service all pervasive across the company. This can truly be achieved when the initiative begins from the top. Tony Hseih has always believed in living and breathing the values set by Zappos. Many companies have similar values stated in the reams of company literature they print every year, but delivering on them sometimes needs motivation and a directive right from the top.
If you are looking to implement customer service the Zappos way, a very conscious effort is required. It may well need a complete overhaul of processes, people, culture and most importantly - a healthy dose of top management directive.
This is what we think, what do you think?