[Yes, that's me in the royalty chair. My take home crown doubles up as a foot sizer.]
So how does a company go about embodying customer service to such an extent? How do words like "powered by service" come to be more than just a tagline and instead a standard that all employees defend fiercely?
Brandeo's Brands: Zappos Brand Based on Great Service Not Lip Service states that "Zappos’ success demonstrates some of the key characteristics of a strong brand: Leadership’s passion for the brand, an unwavering focus on delivering the brand, and a culture that reinforces each employee's responsibility for the brand."
From what I have observed, those three elements - leadership, focus on delivering the brand and strong consistent culture - absolutely make "powered by service" more than just words.
Take this AdAge article from 10/20/2008 titled Zappos: Customer Service First -- and a daily obsession. It makes interesting points. The customer service approach means that 75% of Zappos' sales come from repeat customers. "It's just a lot cheaper to get existing customers to buy from you again than it is to try to convince someone new," says Tony Hsieh, Zappos' CEO. Music to my practical marketing heart!
Success calls for ensuring that all Zappos employees feel as passionate about customers as Hsieh does. That's why each one, regardless of position, goes through a four-week customer-loyalty training session that includes answering phones and interacting with customers. The picture here with the caption "LV Encounter" captures one such session.
Another interesting point: "Zappos employees must check egos and competitiveness. Customer-service reps are trained to look on at least three rival websites if a shopper asks for specific shoes that Zappos doesn't have in stock... We're focused on building the lifelong loyalty and relationship with the customer." Do your employees do that?
And, do you prominently display how to get in touch with your customer service reps to customers? Check out these customer service stories in 12 Lessons From The Best Customer Service Companies. Note Even Online Retailers Need Phone Support: Zappos.
Here's what Zappos COO/CFO Alfred Lin has to say in Building a Brand That Matters, One Employee at a Time: The Zappos Story. Zappos' success has to do with a "crystal clear corporate culture that was created and is owned by employees." I received a copy of the 2009 Zappos' culture book. Every employee participates in personalizing, verbalizing and internalizing the Zappos Core Values which include:
- Deliver WOW Through Service
- Embrace and Drive Change
- Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
- Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
- Pursue Growth and Learning
- Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
- Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
- Do More With Less
- Be Passionate and Determined
- Be Humble
Other points he makes:
+ bring people on board who support your goals
+ get everyone on the same page
+ transparency is crucial
+ be brutally honest
+ a strong corporate culture means that employees can make smart, quick decisions
+ focus on the 'simple' things
What's your reaction to all of this? Do your employees passionately believe in your commitment to customers? How do you get everyone on the same page? How do you stay focused?
This last image offers Zappos' employees a live snapshot of where Zappos products are being ordered. Notice, too, the bell on the left. That is what you ring when you visit HQ and want to share something publicly...