Zappos has built up a reputation for excellent customer service, and owes much of its success to this. The fact that 75% of its business comes from repeat customers provides convincing evidence of its importance.

I’ve been asking Jane Judd, who is the senior manager of Zappos’ Customer Loyalty Team,  and was one of the keynote speakers at the recent Internet Retailing conference, about the company’s approach…

How has customer service helped shape Zappos since it first launched?

Our customer interaction has been the ultimate marketing tool since Zappos began. Especially in the beginning when there wasn’t a ton of money to be put into marketing, we decided to provide the best customer service, which proved to be our marketing strategy by word of mouth. 75% of our business is repeat customers. 

Can you tell me about the Zappos Customer Loyalty team? How is it structured?

Currently we have 380 people in our Customer Loyalty department. CLT is primarily made up of our phones team as well as support teams such as our Resource Desk, Order Verification (fraud team), Quality Assurance, Kaizen (continuous training), Canada, Email/Live chat, and Business Units.

Each team is has a Team Lead that oversees the day to day business of coaching and providing feedback. The size of the teams average ten team members per Lead. These Leads reports to supervisors, who report to managers, and so on. There are five Managers in our department.

How does Zappos ‘go the extra mile’? Can you give me some examples?

Our team members send personal handwritten thank you cards to customers of their choice. They can also put in a request to send flowers or a ‘WoW’ package (culture book, stickers, other Zappos items we have on hand, etc.). Usually we’ll send flowers for a celebration such as a wedding or to offer our condolences for a family/friend who has passed. 

How can retailers in general improve customer service online?

By not hiding their customer service number. Also, it’s the simple things that mean the most to everyday people, it’s about caring and listening to the customer. Many times retailers are about the sale and not the experience. We try our best to be personable and we don’t upsale our customers or put a time limit on our calls. 

Many of our team members don’t need to ask a Lead/Supervisor for permission to extend a coupon for receiving defective merchandise, they can make those decisions themselves.

How useful has Twitter been for Zappos? Has it been a sales driver or more of a customer service tool?

Twitter has been a great way for us to reach customers who may not ever call in. We don’t use it to drive sales, we’re really there to offer assistance and to provide another forum for customers to provide us with feedback. 

Do you receive / solve many customer queries through Twitter?

We do! If someone’s wondering where their order is, we’ll contact them with the information they’re looking for. Sometimes it’ll be product related or order specific. 

Which social media sites or tools have been most useful for Zappos?

Twitter has definitely been useful. Also, the basic tools with phone/email/live chat have been very effective. We are also on Facebook and our site has a Zappos blog that allows customers and employees alike to post comments. 

How do you measure the effectiveness of Zappos’ social media engagement in general?

We don’t! We see social media as another way to personally connect with our customers. 

What tips can you offer for other e-commerce startups? How has Zappos been able to consistently get customers to keep coming back?

Be real and hire slowly. It starts from the top down to drive the culture and then it’s the people you bring in who keep your culture alive and well. You can train someone to answer calls, but you can’t train someone to be positive and happy. Hire the right people and the rest should fall into place.

Empower and trust your employees. When you take care of your employees
they take pride in the work they do, which helps to provide the
ultimate customer service.