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Customer Service Lessons from Steve Jobs via the Business Insider

Social Media: The Eight Stages of Listening by Jeremiah Owyang

Social Commerce is Now via the Altimeter Group

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh WOWs By Delivering Happiness

Last night I was lucky enough to spend nearly 90 minutes listening to Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, discuss how he got his start, his company, and why his number one priority is getting the company culture right. According to Tony, if Zappos gets the company culture right then everything else will turn out right.

Tony is currently on a multi-city bus tour aptly titled the “Delivering Happiness Bus Tour” which meshes with the recent launch of his best-selling book “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose”. According to the tour web site, the mission of the tour is to “inspire and be inspired.” He certainly did that last night at the Milken Institute.

Tony started his talk recounting when and why he sold his first company LinkExchange to Microsoft for $265 million back in 1999 at the age of 24. He had co-founded the company with a friend and they in turn hired more friends. After about 20 hires, according to Hsieh, they ran out of friends and then started hiring people who were going to make the company really grow and be successful. But that’s when it stopped being fun for Tony. The company culture had changed and it was no longer fun to get out of bed.

His next move was joining Zappos originally as an investor and adviser and eventually as CEO. Tony was determined that the most important thing to make the company successful in the long term was to get the company culture right. And equally important to Tony is to make sure the company is making an emotional connection to their customers.

Tony’s mantra at Zappos is “Wow. How do we wow our customers and our vendors?” And to Tony that means taking the money that they would spend on advertising and folding it into customer service, because, “we just want to be about customer service and maximizing the customer experience.”

In order to make sure they are “wowing” their customers,  Zappos throws out a lot of the accepted industry practices around call centers. Many call centers’ mission is to get customers on and off the phones as quickly as possible to decrease the average handle time and thereby maintain their profits. Zappos is the opposite. Tony boosted that Zappos Call Center had recently broken a company record by having a 7 ½ hour customer conversation.

Although 95% of all the sales go through the Internet Tony believe that the telephone is one of the company’s best branding devices.  Tony reported that since every customer calls at least once it was extremely important that they get this one call right. And this is one of the reasons that the call center is really at the heart of their business.

Everyone that is hired at Zappos—no matter their position—goes through a four week call center training period with two of those weeks being on the phone as call center agents. But getting hired is even trickier. To Tony there is nothing more important than hiring the right people who are going to fit into the culture and not disrupt it. And to get hired you must be a fit with everyone including the driver that brings you to and from the airport for your interview. Every voice matters.

Tony spoke a great deal about the science of happiness and how he has rolled that into his own company’s mission. Back in 1999 Zappos defined their brand and vision as providing “selection”.  In 2003 the company defined their brand and vision as “customer service.” Today the company sees their brand and vision as “delivering happiness.”

Tony stressed the importance of “chasing the vision and not the money.” He believes that you can use happiness as a business model and that businesses with a higher purpose make money in the long term.

You can learn more about the “Delivering Happiness Movement” at   http://www.deliveringhappinessbook.com/jointhemovement/.

Can his ideas work in your company?

Retailers Adopting Social Strategy Whether They Want to or Not

Retailers are being forced to adopt a social strategy according to new research published in August 2010 by the Aberdeen Group and reported by eMarketer today. eMarketer reports that consumers are using “social networks and other tools like Twitter to discuss brands and products and to get advice and feedback from friends and family on potential purchase decisions–and retailers have noticed.”

According to retailers surveyed by Aberdeen the top social media tools used by retailers included social networks (85%), microblogging (51%), and blogging (41%).  Furthermore, eMarketer noted:

In Q1 2010, the e-tailing group also found that social networks were the top community or social tool retailers used or planned to use in the next year; Facebook fan pages specifically were cited by 91% of respondents to that survey. Four in five used or planned to use Twitter, 72% blogs and 71% Facebook Connect. The e-tailing survey was conducted before Facebook introduced its “like” feature, which has also been widely adopted by retailers including Levi’s and Sephora.

How about your company?  Are you working on your social strategy? Your customers expect it.

To be Fair, HRBlock responded after 16 hours

I hate doing my taxes. Every April I pledge to NEVER again do them on my own and every March I am again slogging through all my paper work and once again doing my own taxes. For years I have been using TaxCut now known as H&R Block At Home. On Tuesday of this week I was finally wrapping up and ran into a problem. The return wouldn’t print.


So, since being so successful just two days before with @BestBuy on Twitter, I tweeted @HRBlock.

No response.

I was surprised that just two days before the deadline all I heard from @HRBlock was dead silence and especially after being so happy with Best Buy.

Sixteen hours after my first tweet to HRBlock I tweeted:


I not only heard back from HRBlockAnswers I also heard back again from my friends at Best Buy.



By the time HRBlockAnswers contacted me, I had already finished my taxes and worked around the printer issue. I was pleased they finally responded and that they apologized. As a bonus, I also found out that I was getting $25 back from Best Buy since my washing machine has an extended warranty plan. And more than likely, even after swearing off preparing my own taxes next year, I’ll probably be purchasing another tax preparation software program come January 2011. But, I will be doing my homework on which tax preparation software program delivers the best customer support via Twitter.

Best Buy Responds In 5 Minutes


This morning the tub door seal on my Whirlpool Duet popped off after a wire popped off underneath. My husband quickly got to work to see if he could fix it and I quickly turned to Google after scanning my Best Buy service plan. Two years before I had purchased the washer online along with the service plan but discovered the link to the receipt no longer worked.

So, I turned to Twitter.


Within 5 minutes I heard back.


After a few more tweets I was on the phone with Jason and a fix to my problem was in the works. Tomorrow the technicians arrive and hopefully everything will go as smoothly as today. But for me, what was important was that Best Buy was listening (on a Sunday morning!) and willing to engage me online to ensure I was pleased with their customer service. Is your Brand listening to your customers?

Altimeter’s Social CRM: The New Rules of Relationship Management

Southwest Airlines Makes Flying Fun

How do you build customer loyalty? Southwest builds loyalty by making the safety instructions fun!

Listening to Your Customer

Student and Teacher
Creative Commons License photo credit: Wonderlane

“There are still too few companies that make the most of their customer relationships, whether by gaining product and customer insight from customer feedback or by realizing the full revenue potential of their customers,” reported Jeremy Nedelka in the March 2, 2009 issue of 1 to 1 Weekly in the article “Turninig Customer Voices Into Revenue.”

In the article, Nedelka writes that according to a recent report by the CMO Council less than40 percent of companies collect customer feedback more than annually while the rest rely on customer satisfaction surveys and ignore tools available to them via the Web to listen to what their customers are saying.

By ignoring the conversations going on online via message boards, blogs and other social networking groups, marketers are missing a significant opportunity to understand their customers. And without an ongoing dialog, customers are left feeling that they do not have a good relationship with the company.

How are you listening to your customers’ conversations on the Web? How are you responding to your customers?