A few months ago I read the book Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh the CEO of Zappos an online shoe and clothing retailer in the United States. It’s a great read and was number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Tony together with his team at Zappos has built a unique company culture around delivering happiness to its customers by offering the best possible customer service. Importantly no lip service is paid to this quest and employees who don’t deliver are bribed with hard cash to leave! New employees at Zappos undertake a rigorous induction course. At the end of it they are offered their full salary plus $2000 as a bribe to walk away if they don’t believe they can deliver the level of customer service expected.
Last year I had the privilege of interviewing the COO of Zappos Alfred Lin. He said something simple and yet profound at the same time. With all the hype around social media, Alfred believes that the phone is still the best device for building a relationship with a customer.
Call centre operators at Zappos are not measured by the number of customers they serve, or the duration of a call, but rather by how happy the customer is with the customer experience. Most call centre operators are measured by the speed with which they move onto the next call – not a Zappos, where this industry benchmark is not even measured. Customers who have heard about the level of service commitment have even tried to test Zappos by phoning them and ordering a pizza (not shoes or clothes which Zappos sells). Not surprisingly the Zappos call agent made a plan and had a pizza delivered to the customer.
This attention and commitment to the customer experience may not always result in an immediate sale, but word gets around. Where so many internet startup fail, Zappos has grown to over a billion dollars annual sales revenue in under ten years, seventy-five percent of its customers are repeat purchasers and last year was sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion. Whoever says customer service doesn’t pay should take a look at what the clever folk at Zappos are doing.