3.06.2014

It's ALL About #CustomerService

I sometimes feel like the old adage, "the customer is always right" is no longer recognized or practiced. It often seems like companies - or their representatives - look at customers as being a given. Like we owe them our hard earned cash and unfailing loyalty, simply because they exist. One of the things I missed the most while living overseas was the customer service of the U.S., and yet when we returned we were appalled at the change in attitude (Verizon comes to mind...). It was disheartening.

I know there will always be rude customers, the ones you would rather punch out than help - I've worked retail. However in business, as in life, I have found that if you treat people like human beings and acknowledge their frustrations, much of the animosity will dissipate and solutions can be found. Although you might not be able to make it perfect, you can drastically reduce the tension by being proactive and acknowledging that there was an issue (whether real or imagined), the complaint has been heard, and a solution will be found.

While there's always a better way to deal with frustrated customers, what's the best way to handle customer service? Well, in my opinion - as a customer - it is to take a pro-active approach and leave the customer impressed before an issue ever surfaces. Go above and beyond - not to try to pacify an angry individual, but to WOW someone who's still weighing whether they will become a regular user of your product or service.

Unfortunately, there are few companies that take such an approach. In years past, I have become loyal to those who have shown that kind of initiative, like L.L.Bean (my call is picked up on the first ring - recognizing that my time is important) and Chick-fil-A (hiring friendly people and providing clean restrooms - both appreciated when traveling!). However, what prompted this post was an email I found in my inbox early this morning...
Dear Carrie,
We’ve got a surprise for you—your order has shipped! We’ve also included your tracking info, so you can track your order to its final destination.
Shipping Method: 2-Business Day Shipping
XOXO,
Zappos.com
After realizing that all the shoes I owned were fine for sitting at a desk, but killer to the toes if one needed to walk more than a few yards at a time, I decided to go for quality over quantity and invest in some classically styled shoes that wouldn't make me cringe if I needed to take a hike on the pavement. I'd heard a lot of good things about Zappos, including their free shipping - both ways, so I decided to look there first.

My selection of shoes arrived yesterday, and unfortunately all three pairs that I tried were a half-size too small. However, while disappointed, I didn't fret because I knew I could return them up to a year after purchased and for free. I set up my return, then reordered larger sizes and a different style, choosing the free shipping option (5-7 business days). I exchanged a couple of Tweets with Zappos in the afternoon (not about shipping), and this morning I was surprised to discover that they upgraded my order to 2-Business Day Shipping at no additional cost!

Now, I don't know if the shoes that are coming will fit, but I do know that Zappos, by being proactive in their customer service and surprising the heck out of me, has just earned a spot on my list with L.L.Bean and Chick-fil-A. And a blog post - because I'm totally impressed, and that's not easy to do. Well done, Zappos team. Well done.


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