Tag Archives: Zappos.com

If the shoe fits – Zappos takes #1 for customer service

Computerworld reports that the online shoe retailer Zappos.com has nabbed the top spot in online shopping sites by rating agency, StellaService LLC. The firm rated the 150 largest Internet retailers on 300 factors, such as online tools and their Web sites’ user interfaces. The evaluations included usability tests, orders (and returns) of several products, and more than a dozen interactions with customer service representatives via phone, e-mail and live chat.

This isn’t news for Zappos, who boasts numerous awards for customer service. So what’s the secret ingredient?

NACCM 2009: Culture in Action: Applying the Zappos.com Culture to Your Organization ‘ Building a Brand that Matters

What does Oprah, ABC Nightline and 60 Minutes have in common? They all have featured the online retailer Zappos.com because of their customer service excellence. Maura Sullivan, Customer Loyalty Team Manager shared how Zappos.com leadership, under the direction of CEO Tony Hsieh, has built a solid foundation on customer and employee centricity.

Founded in 1999, Zappos.com has grown to a total of 1,400 employees, located in the Las Vegas headquarters and the Kentucky fulfillment center. They have over 10 million customers and on any given day, about 75% of purchases are from returning customers. Sales have grown from $1.6 million in 2001 to $1,014 million in 2008.

Zappos.com has focused their efforts on what the customer sees, what the customer experiences, and what the company does internally to help employees meet customer needs. The customer sees several value propositions on the Zappos.com website which include 24/7 customer service, 800 number on every page, free shipping, free return shipping, and a 365-day return policy. Returns average 35%, high for industry norms, but they factored that into their business model says Sullivan.

What the customer experiences is fast and accurate fulfillment, friendly above-and-beyond service, and occasional referrals to competitors for out-of-stock product. They see the value in these competitor referrals because of the ‘wow’ factor it produces. Also, they don’t limit handle times for customer calls or have sales-based performance goals for reps. The telephone is one of their best branding devices available, says Sullivan.

Their internal policies include hiring the best front liners. Interviews are 50% based on core values and culture fit. New employees receive 5 weeks of training on corporate culture, 10 core values, customer service, and warehouse training. They even offer to pay $2,000 to trainees in their second week to quit if they don’t want to work for Zappos.com after all. 98% of them stay. They even have their own Culture Book where employees can post their feelings and thoughts about working for Zappos.com. No surprise that they were rated #23 on Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Companies to Work For.

Sullivan shared these 7 steps for building a brand that matters:

1) Decide. Decide sooner rather than later

2) Figure out values & culture. Originally there was not a core value list. A list of 37 values was created but they chose to pare it down to a list of 10.

3) Commit to transparency. Be real and you have nothing to fear. Twitter has opened up getting to know other employees. An ‘Ask Anything’ company newsletter allows employees to ask questions and get answers. Extranet allows vendors to check inventory levels and create purchase orders as needed. Tours and reporter visits are encouraged.

4) Vision- Chase the vision, not the money.

5) Build relationships. Be interested rather than trying to be interesting.

6) Build your team. They hire slowly and fire quickly, says Sullivan.

7) Think long-term.

Put a little Zappos in your day. You can email msullivan@zappos.com to get a copy of the presentation or a copy of their Culture Book (include your mailing address). To receive a tour of their Las Vegas headquarters, you can contact them at tours@zappos.com. They will even pick you up at the airport!

One final quote: ‘People may not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.’

Zappos.com Remains a Customer Service Rock Star

It’s no surprise that Zappos.com comes in the Becky Carroll’s list of top customer service rock stars of 2008 in her latest post in Customers Rock! Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com once mentioned to Becky that they are a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes. Their main focus is keeping customers happy, as Becky explains when a customer service rep recommended a competitor’s website to her when they told Becky that she would not have her sandals in time for Christmas. Few companies do this, and this is what makes them stand out from the rest. Is your company focused on keeping customers happy?

Using Online Tools to Communicate With Customers

The age of bloggers venting online and getting nothing in return has ended. I came across this article in the NY Times in which blogger Brandon Dilbeck received an email message in response to a blog post he wrote complaining about ads Comcast posted on its programming guide. What’s interesting here is that Comcast has switched its focus from being reactive and are now proactively attempting to communicate with consumers through social media.
In an attempt to revamp its online outreach, Comcast has even created a new position, Digital Care Manager, headed by Frank Eliason alongside a team of 10 other staff members who regularly monitors public comments on blogs, message boards and social networks for any mention of Comcast. Comcast though, is not the only company who has begun to utilize social communities to reach out to its customers. Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods Markets, Zappos, and Chipotle are among some of the businesses who have started to reinvent traditional online community communication.
Even though having someone always ‘watching’ is considered creepy by some, the benefits seem to make up for it. Frank Eliason mentions how he can only remember seven instances in which a customer had called him creepy.
What’s your company doing in terms of searching through blogs, forums, discussion groups, social networks, and twitter for customer conversations regarding your business? It’s important that organizations begin to look at social media as a means of communication to consumers since the trend is moving away from call centers and becoming more online social media centric.