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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Zappos & Service

the Zappos mobileDid you know that you can schedule a personalized soup-to-nuts visit to Zappos headquarters in Henderson, NV, outside of Las Vegas? I did just that this past February while at Surfaces to experience for myself the Zappos service mystique.

Zappos' tagline, after all, is "powered by service"; the company is committed to delivering consistent 'wow' service. How does 'wow' service manifest itself within a corporate environment? I wanted to know.

I wasn't disappointed, either.

My visit to Zappos led to my Floor Covering Weekly column titled "Powered by service" in the February 25, 2010 issue. Did you see it? What were your reactions?

I've been accumulating stories about Zappos for several years. The company first caught my attention when I shopped online for a leather handbag - something I had never done. This must have been 2005 or so. I wish I could remember the exact details of Zappos awareness. I think I heard a woman at the gym talking about ordering shoes online from a company with an amazing 365 day return policy, free shipping and free returns. I may have gone to the site on a whim [I love shoes], then gotten more interested when I saw handbags worth exploring. Despite a level of discomfort with not being able to touch/feel the bag, I took the risk willingly because of the return policy.

Note the lesson: Zappos eliminates the biggest hurdle to online shopping - not being able to feel/touch/try product - via a generous return policy. In so doing, it makes shopping online as convenient [possibly even moreso] than through traditional channels.

Opportunity: how can you transform your retail experience to be more convenient for your customers?

Zappos Reception AreaCan you imagine inviting your customers - and potential ones - into your administrative environment to witness the inner workings of your sanctum and see the true you? It's not for the faint of heart.

And, yet, Zappos does so routinely. Simply fill out an online form to get the process going!

My online request led to an email exchange which culminated in several cell phone exchanges the day and ten minutes before the scheduled pickup time. A Zappos car -pictured above- picked me up at the Sands Convention Center [Thank you, Zack!]. I spent a few minutes in the Zappos reception area where I observed employees, vendors and visitors interacting. A recent employee practiced giving her own tour to a Zappos veteran. The reception area doubled up as a concierge desk for employees to handle travel arrangements and dry cleaning.

Many of the articles I've saved discuss how fun Zappos is to work for. I witnessed a celebration of individuality and creative expression, but also saw the fanatic focus on customer funneled through structured measurement so it leads to productive results. Take a look at the chart below which visibly tracks critical measures.

What do you measure religiously? Do you make all of these data points visible? Do you encourage a collaborative and creative approach to improving results?

Consider this article by Jeanne Bliss titled Earning Customer Raves: make These Five Decisions, and Customers Will Grow Your Business for You. Zappos immediately came to mind when I read it. For each of the five decisions, the Zappos answer is surely Yes!

Zappos measures customer resultsFive decisions to make....

1. Do you trust your customers? Do you trust your employees?

2. Do you make decisions with clarity of purpose?

3. Are you real?

4. Are you there for your customers?

5. Do you act with humility when you make a mistake?

When the answer is yes, you can expect customers to willingly and enthusiastically tell your story. As do Zappos' customers. Zappos' culture is unique; it goes deep, too.

This more recent article Zappos Takes Elite Retail Title explains how a good customer experience goes hand-in-hand with good customer service which in turn leans to profits. More specifically:

"On average, the survey found that Americans are willing to spend approximately 9.7% more for great customer service. The survey, however, paid particular attention to the way in which great service impacts the buying decisions of online consumers. It was concluded that consumers in the online retail category are willing to pay an even higher premium for great service (10.7%) than they would in most other categories..."

Customer service according to the article is a function of content, shopping and delivery, and customer support - areas that Zappos addresses enthusiastically, proactively and creatively.

I'll be exploring more of these points over several posts.

What are your reactions so far?

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