Opinion: Customer service

POSTED: 11/7/11 4:52 PM

Zappos is an American company that sells shoes and apparel online. The company’s CEO, Tony Hsieh, has made customer service the core of the business. Customers must get a WOW-experience every time they contact the firm. That’s the reason the Zappos call center is not outsourced to India or another faraway cheap place. It is firmly established at the company’s headquarters in Las Vegas. Hsieh has so much confidence in his own customer service that he once challenged someone to call Zappos for help when room service at the hotel he was staying at was unable to deliver a pizza to his room. While Zappos is not in the pizza business, the customer rep in the call center wasted no time to provide five phone numbers of nearby pizzerias that were still open.
But when the owner of a beach cruiser store put the call center deliberately to the test, the following chat emerged. The store owner posed as Timmy and he talked to a service agent called Jonathan.
Jonathan: Hello Timmy. How can I help you?
Timmy: Do you know how wide the G-shock Atomic Solar-AWG101 SKU#7403774 is?
Timmy: I mean, how big a wrist in would fit?
Timmy: Timmy has a big fat wrist.
Timmy: Timmy need watch grande.
Jonathan: I’ll see what I can find pout for Timmy.
Timmy: awesome. And can we please continue to talk about Timmy in the third person? Timmy likes to boost Timmy’s ego by talking about Timmy that way.
Jonathan: Jonathan would be happy to neglect the use of pronouns for the duration of this conversation.
Timmy: Jonathan and Timmy shall get along just fine.
Jonathan: Will Timmy be able to measure Timmy’s wrist?
Timmy: Timmy’s wrist is big, but not Biggie-Smalls big. Timmy doesn’t have the required measurement instruments.
Timmy: Timmy is 6’4” 220lbs if that helps Jonathan.
Jonathan: Luckily that is roughly the size of Jonathan’s brother so that does help.
And on and on. The service agent played along with his funny customer, helping him in any possible way, without ever losing his cool, and he even upgraded Timmy’s account on the fly to VIP status which meant that all his future orders would go out with 1-business-day shipping free of charge.
The story comes from Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness. It tells the story of his unlikely rise to the top of a billion-dollar company and his absolute passion for customer service. Hsieh, a son of Taiwanese immigrants to the United States, developed his passion for making money at an early age. He tells with gusto about his bloopers with a worm farm (the worms disappeared in the ground), and about his talent to turn his obligatory music practice into something he considered more useful: he read a book while he played a tape of a previous lesson early morning, giving his parents the impression that he was mastering an instrument, while his teachers were baffled by his lack of progress.
Hsieh gave up a comfortable job at Oracle, founded LinkExchange and sold it in 1998 for $295 million to Microsoft before he turned his attention to Zappos, a company that was snapped up for $1.2 billion by Amazon in 2009.
After reading his book, we were astounded to find in our own environment countless examples of businesses that place customer service so low on their corporate totem pole that it makes you cringe.
Recommended reading for everyone who wants to rise above the rest.
Tony Hsieh: Delivering Happiness, a path to profits, passion and purpose. We bought it at Le Grand Marché for just $10. It’s worth every penny.

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