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07/01/11

Customer Service: A Key Component to a Company’s Brand

On a recent trip back from India, I was reading “Delivering Happiness,” written by the CEO and Co-Founder of Zappos.com, Tony Hseih. In the book, Tony talks about how Zappos views its customer service as the core essence of the Company’s brand. For Zappos, this makes perfect sense; the customer experiences this right from their first visit to the Zappos website or while speaking to customer care. For example, in the U.S., Zappos offers free shipping both ways to make transactions as easy as possible for the customer and there is no limit to this: the customer can order 10 pairs of shoes, try them all on, and decide to return all 10 pairs within 365 days, no questions asked. Wow! Even if you don’t want to place an order, one can call the toll free number and be treated with a “joke of the day” (read to the end of this blog and I will share the joke I heard when I called Zappos.com on June 29, 2011).

But the main focus of this blog post is the customer experience and the importance of it in building your brand. Thought of by many as “old school,” I feel the telephone experience can and should set your organization apart from the rest. The success of Zappos.com is a classic example; and they have built a $1B company leveraging customer experience as its core differentiator.

Ask yourself: if a customer calls your office on the afternoon before a major holiday, what will they experience? Will someone even pick up the phone? How many rings will it take before someone does? Will the caller be put on hold; for how long? If someone does pick up, will they do whatever it takes to satisfy the customer’s request? Will the person picking the call act happy to be speaking with them? Or will they act disinterested, more inclined to start their holiday early? Zappos.com has got it right: instead of looking to minimize the overhead of telephone customer service, they embrace it and view it as a chance to give undivided attention to the customer and in the process retaining them as a customer for life.

Today, marketers are consumed with social media, advertising and other platforms which helps them in reaching out to (potential) customers; this is understandably so. But when they are lucky enough to connect with the customers, what’s the experience that they create? Do not under-invest and underestimate the importance of customer service in building your brand. And in my next blog, I will give an example of how a poor telephone experience lost a $5M deal for a consulting company (lesson learned: good customer service doesn’t apply just to B2C companies).

So if you’ve read this far, I would like to thank you first and now, I will share the Zappos #800 joke of the day that I heard when I called their toll-free number:

“Question: What underwear do clouds wear?
Answer: Thunder wear.”

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