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Customer Service Lessons from Steve Jobs via the Business Insider

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?

How to Get Good PR

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?

Southwest Airlines Makes Flying Fun

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

Should Creative Cuts Rethink their Customer Strategy?

First Haircut
Creative Commons License photo credit: pawpaw67

My experience today at Creative Cuts got me thinking of the importance of delivering stellar customer service in today’s uncertain times. It was really quite simple—my local Creative Cuts outlet posted a sign notifying customers that after March 9, 2009 they would no longer be honoring their card that offers a free hair cut after the ninth paid hair cut. This offer is the reason I use Creative Cuts. I have a large family and it makes sense to me to forgo the fancier salons in order to get this benefit.

So, what is Creative Cuts strategy? I wondered as I sat in the chair why they were making this move. Yes, my hairstylist explained that business was down and many people were waiting longer between cuts. This made sense. But, it still did not make sense why Creative Cuts would take the coupon away. Won’t other customers begin to wonder which of Creative Cuts’ competitors are still offering coupons?

Apparently management did not read the March issue of 1 to 1 Magazine. Elizabeth Glagowski writes in “Retailers Look to Service Experience During Tough Times” :

Shoppers are scarce. But one bright spot is that the current economic situation is forcing many retailers to take action to improve the customer experience. Companies can’t afford to pay lip service to customer service anymore.

Glagowski explains:

It’s not about acquisition anymore. One-time discounts or store layouts won’t build customer loyalty. Companies have to improve both the shopping experience and customer service to keep customers coming back.

How are you ensuring that your customers are receiving the best possible customer experience?