If the Shoe Fits

October 15, 2007 at 12:36 pm | Posted in Customer Service | 2 Comments

There’s a good article about Zappos.com in the October 07 issue of Direct Magazine. The article talks about Zappos’ “maniacal focus on a customer service-driven culture”. Having purchased shoes from Zappos, I can attest to their unfailing desire to go above and beyond what is expected. And that’s the point isn’t it….I mean isn’t good customer service merely delivering on what is expected in terms of product or service. Isn’t GREAT customer service giving something more—something unexpected that totally wows your customer. I wonder how many of us really do that wowing on a consistent basis. I’m a customer and I’m rarely wowed; in fact, most often I am sadly disappointed in the service quality that is delivered. Have you had any customer service WOW experiences recently. If so, please share!

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  1. Hi there. I think ‘wow’ customer service is dead. I don’t know who killed it and when it actually died, but I see it so rarely that I don’t expect it anymore. Strangely, I think this is a big reason why people have transitioned to online/e-commerce transactions much quicker than the marketing experts had predicted. Sure, the technology is a factor and integration with credit cards and blah blah blah. All of that matters, but I think many people shop online because it really doesn’t make a difference anymore. Offline customer service generally sucks, and online customer service is kind of like the ref in a football game: he does his job when you don’t notice that he’s there. People expect very little and they get very little.

    Sorry to be so depressing. But this is just how I see things. And I don’t know why it’s like this. It probably has to do with leadership — the guy throwing my coffee towards me at Starbucks, who knows nothing about eye-contact and has an aristocratic sense of entitlement (where that comes from is a mystery to me), is probably being treated like a widget by some cardboard-cutout leader/manager and so doesn’t see any reason to go above and beyond. It seems that ‘wow’ customer service these days is really more about intrinsically motivated individuals — people who would deliver wow customer service because of who they are, not the context of where they work — than it is about a ‘culture of customer service’.

    Depressing, isn’t it?

  2. Hey, now this is odd. A couple of days after this post (“If the Shoe Fits”), I experienced the best customer service in…probably years.

    Here’s the thing that took this experience to a totally different plane of customer service. This person (whose name was Marissa, and if for some reason she’s reading this: hi, I’m Jason, I’m a Pisces, I like long walks on the beach…) wasn’t responding to any problem. It’s not that some incident took place and she ‘solved it’ through great customer service. Often, that’s really the only time I’ve seen or experiened high-level customer service — in response to a problem, a complaint, a weird demanding customer…that kind of thing. So against that backdrop, “great customer service” emerged.

    What happened here wasn’t like that. This person simply beamed — against a very ordinary, everyday background. So it wasn’t that there was a contrast between tense situation/great customer service rep. rising to the occasion. This was extraordinary customer service rising out of the ordinary. This was a person who just WAS great customer service. There was no agenda, there was no attempt to get praise, there was no plastic “have a nice day” robotic insanity…this was just a brilliant employee. If I needed someone in a customer service role, I would have offered her a job on the spot. Seriously.

    Which leads me to a point that is similar to a bunch of other points I’ve noticed: great customer service starts — significantly — with recruiting. It’s my developing understanding that customer service simply can’t be ‘trained’ into an organization. You can train people to do things that resemble customer service, just like you can train a robot to resemble a caring human being. And maybe that’s fine. But to really get to wow customer service, I think it starts with recruiting — getting wow people; people who deliver extraordinary customer service because that’s simply how they engage reality itself, be it on the job or off. They’re walking, talking, living customer service people. If dropped onto a desert island and in charge of a new culture, that culture would ‘have’ customer service as a natural expression.
    It may be — and probably is — unrealistic for companies to hold out for these kinds of superstars and only hire them. But any company that can get a few of these kinds of people — natural customer service people who are genuinely humble, competent and disciplined — should, at the very least, put them on the recruiting panel because they know what to look for. Is it no amazing to notice sometimes that the people hiring for customer service have very bad customer service skills?


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