At the Social Media for Customer Service Summit in New York, I listened to Scott Klein and Marlene Kanagusuku speak about how customer service is managed at Zappos. It's what the online shoe store is famous for, and is certainly like no other company's offering.
Zappos employs a team of ten people to manage social customer service. What sets these agents apart is the absence of any policy dictating what they can and can’t say via the company’s Twitter account (@zappos_service). The only guideline is for them to be themselves and provide ‘WOW’ customer service.
How can it be possible to let staff loose in public in this way? It's not something that can easily be copied - Zappos has customer experience and customer service at the very heart of the business.
Deliver WOW through service is Zappos’ family core value #1:
“WOW is such a short, simple word, but it really encompasses a lot of things. 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. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver. We are not an average company, our service is not average, and we don't want our people to be average. We expect every employee to deliver WOW.”
Hiring and training is fully focussed around going the extra mile to make customers happy. This extends well beyond direct sales objectives. If Zappos doesn’t provide a particular product, a staff member will help you to find it from a competitor. There are no lengthy approval processes to resolve an issue; Zappos’ employees are empowered to deliver the service they see fit. Thank you cards, cookies and flowers can be sent to customers by any agent.
How do Zappos prepare their employees for this level of autonomy? Newly employed agents go through an initial four week on-boarding process, after which they are offered money to leave - they actually get paid to quit. This might sound crazy, but it ensures that only people who really want to work for the company stay. If they stay (and 99% do), Zappos’ newest recruits spend a week working in the warehouse, to make sure they appreciate and understand all parts of the business. This is followed by 3 weeks intense coaching on the phone.
The Zappos’ family core value #1, Deliver WOW through service, is its founding principle and one which is every employee is inculcated with from day one. Liberated social customer service is simply an extension of the way business is done, and always has been done, throughout Zappos.
The growth and success of Zappos is the story of a quick adaptor to a changed game. Social media is one contribution to a popular demand for more service-centred companies. Power has been shifted back the consumer to control a company’s public image, and they expect the businesses they buy from to take care of them.
Although you might not be able to copy Zappos' model for social customer service in its entirety just yet, there’s plenty to be learnt from this progressive company. The conversational tone of voice needed for social networks means that it can be hard to dictate a strict communications policy. As has been shown by other companies in this series, Fedex and Best Buy, ‘socialising’ your customer service team means more than handing them a new manual. As social networks have specific communication requirements, so should your agents. It’s important to have friendly agents who really want to help your customers, and who you can trust to respond publicly on behalf of your brand. Without this, you can never deliver truly social customer service and allow these channels to scale as a customer service route.
Who knows, as the demands on companies in this area become clearer over time and customer service is forced into the heart of businesses, maybe every company will evolve to become more like Zappos.
Also in this series:
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