14 Sep 2015 By: Matthew Harmer

What We Learned About Zappos Customer Support

Zappo’s stellar customer support almost outpaces its reputation as an online shoe and apparel retailer. However, that’s the image that the billion-dollar company appears to want to convey. Its company slogan, “we’re a service company that just happens to sell shoes,” says it all. What we learned from Zappos is how to have a revolutionary approach to customer support.

Originally an online shoe retailer, Zappos branched out into clothing and accessories from over 1,000 brands. Since its June 1999 launch, Zappos has grown into a billion-dollar, Fortune 500 company by maintaining a focus on their first core value: “Deliver wow through service.” Yes, business may ultimately be about the bottom line. But, the company’s approach to relationship building has helped it pull the big numbers in a different way.


How They Do It

Dozens of stories have surfaced over the past few years about the extreme lengths to which Zappos representatives have gone to make their customers smile. Their team has sent flowers as a thank you to customers.  They frequently upgrade random orders to free overnight shipping. They even send free shoes to deserving shoppers. In an age when personalization is king, raving reviews can outperform a big marketing budget. This approach has resulted in more than a few lifelong customers. Operating on a loyalty business model, Zappos owes much of its growth to repeat customers and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Putting an emphasis on the customer wow-factor doesn’t come cheap. Zappos takes on significant expenses to offer free shipping both ways on top of its 365-day return policy. CEO Tony Hsieh has stated that the company views the cost as a marketing expense, investing money in its customers instead of advertising. So, does this mean that you need to break out the flowers and (and the big bucks) to improve your company’s customer service? Hence, Zappos is that there are more scalable ways to give great service.


Get Great People

When Zappos got serious about customer support, it stopped outsourcing its shipping and stopped staffing its call centers with overseas workers. The company then moved from San Francisco to Las Vegas in 2004. The move was motivated by the desire to find people who could be passionate about the company and provide the best service. Their deliberate approach to staffing paid off and created opportunities to get the right people on their team.


Humanize Your Brand

Zappos is a great company not only for customers, but also for its employees. Zappos made its debut on Fortune’s list of 100 Best Companies to Work For in 2009. Its current #86 ranking marks its seventh inclusion. Their employees’ satisfaction stems from employees being encouraged to “create fun and a little weirdness,” which also serves as one of its ten core values. In addition, they allow their staff to use their best judgment in customer interactions. The result is a more approachable company that puts the human aspect first.

The bottom line…Think about who is representing your company, and how they are representing your company.



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