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Customer Service Lessons from Zappos

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Customer Service Lessons from Zappos
Photo by Flickr user Paul Stevenson

Zappos is a company famous for superior customer service. A few perks that customers enjoy are free overnight shipping and easy returns. But as you explore the Zappos story more deeply, you can see how a customer service focuses their every effort, from management to hiring.

Read on for some of the most remarkable Zappos customer service innovations - and how you can apply them to your own business.

Delivering WOW

One of Zappos' "core values" is to deliver "wow" to their customers: "To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means doing something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that's above and beyond what's expected." Though that usually takes the form of unexpectedly fast shipping, occasionally Zappos customer service reps will show their creativity in unexpectedly touching ways.

Consumerist reports on this story from a Zappos customer who was late in sending a pair of shoes back because of a recent death in the family. The customer wrote: "They emailed back that they had arranged with UPS to pick up the shoes, so I wouldn't have to take the time to do it myself. I was so touched. That's going against corporate policy. Yesterday, when I came home from town, a florist deliveryman was just leaving. I opened the card, and it was from Zappos. I burst into tears. I'm a sucker for kindness, and if that isn't one of the nicest things I've ever had happen to me, I don't know what is."

Make All Your Customers VIPs

CEO of Zappos Tony Hsieh likes to tell a story of how while meeting with vendors, a rep joked about calling Zappos customer service about a pizza. Hsieh was so confident that his team would deliver, he encouraged the vendor to make the call. Without missing a beat, the customer service rep said, "Yes, we can help you," and arranged to have the pizza delivered.

Turning your customers into VIPs doesn't just pay off in the retail business. Book Yourself Solid author Michael Port believes that having only "star clients" that inspire and energize your work will help you do the caliber of work that will help you attract more star clients. The solution is to separate your clients into three groups -- duds, mid-range and stars. Cut loose your dud clients, and decide if you can develop your mid-range clients into stars. Within the book is a series of exercises on deciding what exactly constitutes a "star" client for you. Learn more here.

Know Your Company Values

To Hsieh, developing a customer-focused company is all about being really clear about developing a distinct corporate culture with certain values. Every employee knows these values and can enact them on the job. Zappos values range from "Create Fun and A Little Weirdness" to "Pursue Growth and Learning."

Hsieh is so fanatical about buy-in of these core values that he will famously pay new hires to quit the company after their initial orientation. Having employees who are there for more than money is key to creating a coherent company culture.

Need tips on articulating your company vision? Check out this article on crafting a "killer elevator pitch."

Make Sure Everyone Understands Service

Another Zappos innovation? Requiring all new hires to work in the call center for a period of time, whether they're headed for the warehouse or the C-suite. It's only through that experience, Zappos believes that all employees can closely understand the true needs of the customer.

Want deeper insight on what your customer needs and is saying about you? Consider how you can use social media to hone in on the customer experience here.

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