Ask any company “is customer service important in your business?”, and you will likely get a resounding “yes”. Yet, if you ask “how does your company deliver outstanding customer service and convert great service to loyal customers?”, you may draw a blank.
In his book, Delivering Happiness (read our Delivering Happiness book summary here), Tony Hsieh shares his personal journey in entrepreneurship, including how Zappos grew to become a successful global company with over $1 billion sales, eventually being acquired by Amazon for >$1.2 billion. The book is less about numbers and strategies, but more about creating a happy workplace that is rewarding and fulfilling for its employees, and meaningfully profitable for the owners and stakeholders.
The three pillars behind Zappos’ success are: customer service, culture and training. In this article, we shall zoom in on the area of customer service.
What does it really mean to embrace customer service as an inherent part of your culture and product/ service offering? Besides reading the book (which includes several case studies and examples, including internal emails and memos to bring real-life examples to life), Zappos also organizes tours of its offices, where they proudly show-and-tell how and why they do what they do.
Here are some snippets of how Zappos lives and breathes customer service, and what we can take away from their experience.
10 WAYS TO INSTILL CUSTOMER SERVICE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION
In his book, Hsieh shares 10 powerful ways to weave customer service into every part of your organizational fabric. Let’s zoom in on some key ideas which you can apply in your own company:
Commit Organization-Wide: Customer Service as a Core Value
Core values aren’t supposed to be dreamed up by a team of management staff and “enforced” throughout the organization. They are the sum of what the people in the company truly value and embrace as individuals. In short, these are values that you actually own and live on a day-to-day basis, as an employee.
At Zappos, “delivering wow through service” is right at the top of their list of 10 core values, supported by fun, creativity, constant learning, passion etc. These values are printed on the back of every employee ID badge and in their Culture Book; People are hired for these core values; Employees are openly discussing and sharing stories that bring these values to life; “Heroes” who exemplify these values are recognized and celebrated…. you get the drift.
Food for thought: If customer service is important to your organization, is it in your list of core values? Is it top-of-mind for every employee, and an integral part of their work and life?
Be accessible and talk to your customers. Display your numbers prominently.
How much are you spending on marketing campaigns to reach your customers, engage your customers or to acquire new customers?
If you are prepared to invest in advertisements and marketing, shouldn’t you invest in an opportunity to engage/retain/ acquire a customer who takes the effort to reach out to you?
Rather than hide their contact details and filter customers through layers of auto-direct options on the phone, Zappos proudly displays its contacts, and each call is treated with utmost importance. They understand this fundamental truth: A satisfied customer is a loyal customer, and a powerful word-of-mouth marketing machine.
In fact, the record at Zappos for the longest customer service phone call was a whopping 10 hours and 29 minutes. The staff wasn’t even talking about shoes and bags for the bulk of the conversation. Wow.
Food for thought: How accessible are you to your customers? Do they feel like you want to know them and talk to them, or are they just a statistic on your client list?
Great service is for EVERYONE
A common “mistake” that companies make is to direct customer service only at their customers. If great service is a fundamental value in your company, it should extend to everyone, including your vendors, employees, partners and community at large.
And, because customer service is so highly-valued at Zappos, everyone is trained in customer service, regardless of their role. At any point in time, about half of their staff are dedicated to customer support, and it’s not unusual for staff from different departments (e.g. marketing, finance etc.) to answer customer calls.
After all, if customer service is a core value, it should be embraced by everyone regardless of job role!
Food for thought: Is customer service just a department/job role, or is it something that everyone in your organization is equipped, empowered and expected to embrace?
CUSTOMER SERVICE IN ACTION – 3 TOP STORIES
There are so many stories from Zappos, but these are 3 of our favourites (thanks to Infinit-O for putting together some of these examples in easy-to-read slides).
Is customer service important in your business? Do you truly believe in and are committed to providing great service?
If you answered “yes” to the 2 questions above, then we hope this article has given you some great ideas to work with. You may want to check out more stories in the book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, or register free for more business/ personal development tips !
Learn more about Zappos’ story and its CEO Tony Hsieh’s journey!