Zappos. I’ve heard so much about their legendary service, and had a chance to experience it first hand today. The short version is that I bought a pair of boots there, that I’ve been dreaming about for years, and when I got them a zipper was broken. It was terribly sad, but you don’t find out about a company’s service until something goes wrong, and at that point Zappos transcended all my expectations.
I have wanted a sleek pair of knee-high boots to wear with skirts since just about forever. Unfortunately, the few pairs that I’ve seen in stores have all been embarrassingly too tight through the calf. I have what people euphemistically call “athletic calves”, which sounds almost desirable, right up until you can’t get the zipper more than 2/3 of the way up in a tall pair of boots, or can’t get the buckles closed around a pair of ski boots. It’s darn inconvenient, actually. [I have actually had guys compliment my legs before (bless them, I still remember each instance and love them for it), but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s hard to find tall boots that fit.]
Then I move to Yosemite where shopping is extra difficult. I mean, it’s great if you’re looking for keychains with images of Yosemite, T-shirts or mugs, but tall boots are just not the kind of thing that we carry here.
Enter this magical internet thing, and when you type “wide calf boots” into Google, suddenly not only do you find that there are tall boots in this world which will fit, you discover that there are even many styles to choose from. There are whole categories devoted to women who have the same problem that I do. A whole website even. You have no idea how great that feels.
So, I shop around, find a pair I like, and then start doing price comparisons, and Zappos happens to win out.
The boots arrive on time, exactly as scheduled and I joke with my husband that it would be interesting to see an example of Zappos’ customer service in action, but really I just want my boots to fit. They fit. They are beautiful, but the zipper is broken. Sadness. Disappointment. I start doing the calculation of how long it will take to return them and get another pair, and resign myself to that.
At least Zappos makes it easy to return merchandise. They have easy to follow instructions included in the package. You just go into to the website, click a return button and you get walked right through the process of printing out a free shipping label for the return. The refund comes in either a credit card refund or a store credit – but they sweeten the store credit option with the promise of free 1-day shipping ($25 value). I choose that because I know I’ll just re-order the boots. I find the boots and start the checkout process but can’t figure out how to apply the store credit, so I click to do an online chat.
Lucas says that the credit doesn’t become available until the boots are returned, but he’s happy to help me now with an exchange. He’ll send the new pair out right away, and he’ll upgrade me to the 1-day shipping so I’ll get them fast. Please send the old pair back in the next two weeks, using the free shipping label I created already. Oh – and even though I didn’t ask, he also noted that the price had decreased since I purchased the boots and he credited my card for the difference. I’d noticed that the price had gone down when I went to the site, but had expected a straight exchange. That would have been fair. To get the sale price on top of the expedited shipping, was much more than I expected.
Great customer service is something that you can sell. The first thing I did after getting off the line with the Zappos chat agent was run over and tell two other women about their great customer service and how they should feel comfortable buying things from Zappos. And then I wrote this blog post. It’s not exactly viral, but word-of-mouth marketing is big these days, and even though this is a very small private blog, I hope that a little bit of the good guest service karma trickles back to them.
Obviously, this isn’t a brand new business strategy, and marketers have been talking for a long time about customer service. DNCs GuestPath program is just and example of the way companies are trying to codify and measure that service, as I mentioned before. But it’s always interesting to notice how I respond to those strategies, and it gives me more incentive to try to make experiences great for people coming to visit here (even though I have almost no direct customer contact at this point.)