In 2003 Tony Hsieh, the dynamic founder and CEO of Zappos, moved his customer call center, deemed the Customer Loyalty Team, from San Francisco to Las Vegas. According to Hsieh, not many San Franciscans wanted to work in a call center due to various factors, including the high cost of living and the stigma of customer service call jobs as merely temporary.
“We needed to make sure customer service was the entire company, not just a department,” noted Hsieh.
So they picked up and relocated.
Hsieh’s revolutionary view of customer service, and furthermore, innovative corporate culture (where the employees essentially constitute a family) capitalized on one of the biggest issues occurring in company-customer relations: crappy, awful, terrible, horrific and utterly hair-pulling customer service.
So basically it all comes down to the individual employee, to that first interaction a customer has with a company. The integral point—that decisive moment—will forever shape that customer’s perception of the business.
For example, an article in the Februrary 2012 issue of Inc. Magazine referred to a study based on a series of customer surveys. The findings: customers who witness disrespectful employees (who even gripe about each other) form instant views of that company’s corporate culture and overall customer service.
“Ninety-two percent of the respondents said they subsequently made negative comments to other people about the company, and nearly half of those surveyed said they were less willing to repurchase the company’s products or services,” reported Inc.’s J.J McCorvey.
Knowing this, we did a bit of research.
We contacted five of the highest rated internet-based companies (to maintain a control on customer service outlets) ranging from e-commerce to online retail to Internet travel sites, using data from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index.
We pretended to know nothing about their services, because it wasn’t really about the questions we were asking. The pertinent factor centered on the customer service representative’s reactions to those questions (whether broad and inane or specific and actually intelligent).
The companies that displayed the highest quality of customer service had similar qualities. They dealt with us as individuals, and they were not reading from a script (we could tell). One representative said his goal was, first, to identify the customer’s issue, and second, to look at as many solutions as possible to solve the problem. And he urged us to keep calling back, that he would continue to help us.
Another representative was extremely candid. He said some of the reps he worked with were “irate and moody…. not the nicest blokes.” He failed to comprehend their poor attitudes because they were GETTING PAID. But he was quick to mention that, because the company records every customer call, those delinquent employees would be fired.
The absolute worst companies made it impossible to speak with an actual representative. In one instance, the auto attendant directed us in circles (back to the main menu—no matter which button we pushed) until “she” finally said “Good Bye!” and hung up on us. Another company kept us on hold for over 15 minutes.
After we concluded our experiment, one thing became exceedingly clear: some businesses actually care about their customers. They will take their time, laugh with you, and answer questions outside of their expertise, just to keep you coming back. To them, you are not an inconvenience. You are their business…in every sense of the word.
At Telonium, we understand Hsieh’s intention. His goal of creating a positive atmosphere, a corporate culture, so healthy, that exceptional customer service is a natural progression.
“We knew that it wasn’t just about building a business. It was about building a lifestyle that was about delivering happiness to everyone, including ourselves.”