How do you create an online buying experience that is better than – or at least comparable to – almost any retail store? According to Zappos, it all boils down to one word: WOW. Zappos.com, a three-time Customer’s Choice Awards Top Ten company, is as well-known for its corporate culture as it is for its vast shoe selection. We wanted retailers to know more about this unique environment, so we asked Aaron Magness, Director of Brand Marketing and Business Development, a few questions about the company’s unique approach to customer service.
Describe the Zappos.com WOW philosophy.
Our goal is to provide the very best customer experience. We want the word “WOW” to actually be used by customers, vendors, partners and employees. By focusing on culture, we’re able to not have to spend a lot of time worrying about customer service because the people that make it through the hiring process are already looking to provide great customer service.
What kinds of training programs are in place that reinforces your commitment to quality service?
Every employee, regardless of their role/position, goes through the same training as if they were joining our Customer Loyalty Team (CLT is what we call our call center). The training is a five-week program with the first two weeks learning the history of the company, focus on customer service and basics of our systems. The second two weeks is when all new hires actually get on the phones and take calls, place orders, issue returns and everything else that happens in CLT. The fifth week sends all Las Vegas hires to our distribution center in KY to learn the processes of picking/packing/etc.
We should also note that at the end of the first week, all new employees are offered $2,000 to quit. This is a standing offer that goes through the end of training and into their first 90 days on the job. We want to make sure that the employees that are here are really here for something more than a paycheck. The exciting thing is that very few people actually take the money and leave. There is a large investment in this training program, but it really gets everyone grounded on why we’re here and what we’re about. Having the training class consist of people from all over the company really hammers home the importance of service to the company.
You have millions of loyal customers who come back time and time again. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned on how to build customer loyalty?
Customers just want to be treated like real people. It’s really not that difficult. When they’re shopping, they don’t want to deal with back-orders (which is why we inventory 100% of what we sell and only show items that are in our warehouse and ready to ship). When they place the order, they want the product delivered as soon as possible. If they have a question, they want to talk to a real person that understands their question and has the authority to help them. These are all pretty basic. We are constantly improving our site to improve the shopping experience. We don’t script our CLT members, which allow them to listen to the customers’ needs and react accordingly.
How do you expect your approach to customer service will change in the coming years?
It’s all about relationships. We try to form personal connections. We’ll just continue to look for ways to do that. We’d love to talk to every customer every day by phone. That’s not practical, so what are other ways we can engage them? We are active in other areas like Live Chat, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, etc. These are all just natural extensions of the phone that allow us to interact with our customers.
What kind of challenges do you face as you strive to maintain your standing with customers, as well as your reputation for quality customer service?
As we scale and grow, maintaining the right company culture continues to be the top priority. If we get that right, the rest of the things will continue to happen on their own.
Because Zappos.com is an online retailer, do you think it is more challenging to provide customer service since your customers do not have face-to-face interaction with your sales team?
It’s not more challenging, but it’s different. A department store may bring you a bottle of water when you enter and that may be considered great service, but that’s not what our business model is about. We want to continue to improve and innovate on the customer experience at every touch point. Fast, accurate fulfillment of the products you want is a great service. Talking to real people that have the autonomy to make decisions to help you is a great service. So, no, not more challenging, but just different.
Do you have a mechanism in place for measuring customer satisfaction and the responsiveness of your employees?
We are big believers in Net Promoter Score. We track that score over time from customers that just interact with our site and those that interact with CLT. We also do monthly “Happiness Surveys” to get a pulse on what the employees are feeling. This allows us to stay focused on the things that are important.
To read about Aaron Magness’s thoughts on retail as a career destination, visit the NRF Foundation blog.