E-commerce customer service can be easy to overlook. After all, e-commerce is inherently a form of business that presents a bit of detachment from the consumer compared to traditional retail. Still, while your crunching numbers in an attempt to squeeze every bit of value from your budget, customer service is something your business better be careful not to undervalue.
For this article, we’re going to use Zappos as our example for why you shouldn’t scoff at pouring resources into quality customer service. The shoe and clothing retailer is the gold standard in e-commerce customer service.
Based in Las Vegas, Zappos was founded in 1999 and acquired by Amazon 10 years later for $1.2 billion. An impressive 75 percent of Zappos’ transactions are from repeat customers. That’s not a random coincidence. It’s the results of Zappos building its entire business model around providing an exceptional customer service experience. It’s been a staple of the company from the beginning. In fact, Zappos doesn’t even call itself a retailer. Instead, it claims to be a “service company that just happens to sell all the nifty shoes, clothing, accessories and whatnot.”
Everyone is heavily involved in the customer service experience at Zappos. That includes CEO Tony Hsieh, who has been with the company since its early stages. It’s this all-hands-on-deck approach that allows Zappos to execute e-commerce customer service to perfection.
Here are just a few of the ways Zappos’ Customer Loyalty Team provides elite customer service:
Real people, not machines
There’s nothing automated about Zappos’ customer service. When a consumer reaches out to the business via phone, chat, or email, they are put in touch with a real person who engages in a discussion unique to each consumer. There’s no “press 1” or “say this” to navigate through the call. Everyone can appreciate the potential frustrations eliminated by not speaking to a machine or recorded message.
Nearly everyone has spent an unreasonable amount of time searching for a phone number to contact customer service only to never find it and become increasingly frustrated. And sometimes when you do find that number, it’s not the right one or you get redirected in circles without speaking to anyone helpful. None of this happens with Zappos. When you visit the website, the first thing you see in the top right corner is a drop-down menu dedicated to customer service. Right next to that menu is the customer service phone number, displayed front and center.
No time limits on calls
If you call Zappos, a customer service representatives will speak to you for as long as it takes to find a solution or put you at ease. There’s even been a reported customer service call of nearly 11 hours. It doesn’t get any more dedicated than that.
Authentic conversations without scripts.
Not only can Zappos’ customers speak with real people in real time, but there are also no scripts. It’s not simply an agent trained to say this, then this, then this, and so on. The reality is that would be no better of an experience than speaking to a recording. Zappos understands giving customers a conversation that feels “real” is a very important part of the service experience.
Zappos’ customer service can be reached around the clock. This is more of a luxury than a necessity. The company has built so much on the back of its superior customer service, things are at a point where the expectation is having agents available at any time.
In a Forbes article from 2017, former Zappos customer service agent Ryo Hanalei Zsun told the perfect story explaining what their customer service approach is all about. As the story goes, Ryo spoke with a woman who was inquiring about returning a pair of boots she’d purchased for her father. Sadly, her father had died. When she explained the situation to Ryo, he told her to keep the boots and Zappos would refund her money anyway. When the call was over, Ryo sent the customer some flowers. She responded with a letter and a photo of her late father.
That is doing customer service at a level that cannot be outdone. And that’s a major reason why Zappos was built into an e-commerce customer service perfectionist that sold for more than $1 billion.