Nobody does customer service better than online superstore Zappos. Here, Zappos’ insights culture evangelist, Jonathan Wolske, takes us inside the company’s mind.
Q. Tell us about Zappos’ growth.
A. Zappos.com got its start in 1998 as Shoesite.com. The name changed in 1999. Gross sales topped US$1 billion for the first time on 25 December 2008 – Merry Christmas Zappos!
Q. How does Zappos’ customer service differ from other online retailers?
A. Zappos’ customer loyalty team (ZCLT) reps have no scripts to read, no call time limits and no requirement to sell/upsell. Their main goal is to ask, “How can I help you today?” and really mean it. Reps are encouraged to make a personal, emotional connection with customers by listening to what the customer is excited about and engaging in casual conversations during the call.
Q. How does the entire company manage to be led by customer service?
A. At Zappos, customer service principles extend beyond one department to involve the whole company. Everyone understands the core value “Deliver WOW through service” and how important each individual is in achieving this. All staff members go through the same four-week “new hire training” to learn all the processes and policies for the contact centre. This helps to drive home the importance of what they do in the big picture of the service we are all here to provide.
Q. What effect does great customer service have on the customers?
A. On an average day, roughly 70 per cent of our customers are returning customers; they made the choice to return and do business with us again. We also email customers a Net Promoter Survey to gather their views on our service and the experience they had with us. ZCLT has an average Net Promoter Score of 80 per cent, which is a pretty good indicator that the experience was positive and the customers are very likely to share their experience with others. This plays a central role in word-of-mouth marketing, which is one of the highest drivers of new business for us. Customers also send in emails after the fact just to say “thank you” to the rep and to let ZCLT managers know about the great experience the rep provided.
Q. So, your customers really are your greatest source of marketing?
A. Yes! Customers who go on to tell friends and family about their experience with us are a major source of repeat business.
Q. What are some key processes at Zappos that have made a real difference to customer service levels?
A. It is not as much about processes as it is about our big-picture focus on service and people – both team members and customers. Allowing representatives the time to get to know callers and encouraging them to really meet the needs of each customer opens up the “service” experience to a whole new level, because it’s not just about getting down to business. [It’s about] simple things, like thank-you cards that reps can send to any customer they connected with or flowers that a rep can send to a customer who is facing challenges in their life. People want to be treated like people first and foremost and then given the considerations that ought to be extended to a customer.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.
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