6 professional customer experience hacks we learned from the world’s best call center
Imagine a webshop with 7000 incoming calls each day, most of them answered within an average of 20 seconds. The customer service staff randomly surprises customers with flowers, cookies, and meaningful conversations up to 11 hours long. Zappos, an online fashion retailer based in Las Vegas, operates the world’s best customer service 24 hours a day. Read more to learn: what is a wow-effect, why is it important to have a flower list and when does the customer deserve a cookie?
So, what’s the secret to the company’s countless customer experience awards? Most probably their simple yet fantastic philosophy: their goal is to impress their customers every day, or as they say, to deliver the wow-effect in every customer interaction. As one of the programs of the American ICMI conference in mid-November, we had the opportunity to visit them and we were impressed by what we saw.
Usually, the miracle is made up of several elements, as a perfect constellation of conscious customer experience planning, technological solutions, and simple human attentiveness. Here are the 6 most exciting CX hacks we learned from Zappos:
1. Making meaningful contact with the webshop customer: on the phone
Surveys show that consumers are increasingly going online to deal with their issues. What else would be the case in a webshop? Well, just the opposite: at Zappos, the phone is still the most important customer channel.
Though the webshop manages 95% of its sales online, they do their best to make personal contact with their customers to get to know them better. Warranty exchanges, return shipping, and similar issues are not the only topics they discuss over the phone. They get more personal by talking about everyday issues.
It is a legendary story that one of their colleagues chatted with his client for a stunning 10 hours 43 minutes. After completing the order, they simply didn’t want to hang up: they talked about restaurants, vacations and a lot more. Since then, they are really good friends.
Zappos has realized that the phone is still the most suitable channel to strengthen customer commitment. During our visit, they let us know that some conversations are like mental health hotlines, but they don’t mind a bit.
2. In 20 seconds everyone will be queued (though sometimes 14 is enough)
The customer service is not only happy to answer the phone, but also fast. The leader of our visitor group showed the statistics of the call center that day: when we looked at the board, they were on 6129 calls completed, which were answered in an average 14 seconds, far exceeding the 20sec standard. Those who are not answered immediately can listen to the joke of the day by pressing 5 on the keypad. Assuming the punch line comes fast enough.
Along with the phone, there were 1720 chat and 1281 e-mails running the same day – the chat was processed in 16 seconds, while the email was processed in 3 hours 20 minutes. To ensure that this speed can be provided every day, 1,000 customer service representatives are needed (almost two-thirds of the company with a 20% overhaul), but they also have a lot to thank for their call center software that handles call lines quickly. We’ve also heard of such clever solutions.
3. Returning customers are the most important
Zappos uses almost all of its tools to retain existing customers and strives to commit them to a lifetime. The strategy is so good that 75 percent of their turnover is now provided by returning customers. Satisfied customers are also happy to share their experience, so word-of-mouth marketing and PR also result in many new buyers. The visit has made us believe even harder in the phrase: don’t let your old customers drop out because getting new ones is much more expensive.
4. Be nice or be effective? If possible, be both
One of the most important indicators of success in the world of call centers is the average talk time. This KPI, of course, does not say too much in itself: low value may mean extraordinary efficiency, but also that we try to get rid of the client quickly.
At Zappos, this is not the way to measure success: as we have seen, they explicitly encourage their colleagues to devote as much time to each call as they need. So the most important measure is their total call time.
Of course, they don’t want every conversation to last for 11 hours, so they use a lot of other metrics to be both friendly and effective at the same time. It is worthwhile from time to time to rethink what success means for our own organization and business. You may not want to measure the same as the others – feel free to experiment with new KPIs.
5. The first person in the company is the customer service representative
When you enter their customer service, you might think you arrived at a spontaneous birthday party. It turns out you are not at all wrong: the call center of Zappos is the realm of never-ending parties, where each of their colleagues is celebrated separately.
Balloons, serpentines, bright-faced colleagues everywhere who do their work with visible cheer. At Zappos, organizational culture is based on the philosophy that the customer can only be happy if the customer service colleagues are also happy.
However, the road to happiness is not a high salary, in fact, the Zappos wages are heavily localized.
The secret is simple: the agent here is not a trained worker, but a client manager with autonomous decision-making rights: a problem-solving person, a counselor, and a life coach at the same time, who fully enjoys what he does. Tony Hsieh, the CEO, is also working with the team, and in peak times, he is hitting the phones just like the others.
6. Love your customer and always have your list of flowers
Years ago, Zappos based its reputation on trying to surprise its customers at every moment. Simple as it is – mostly a nice gesture or a spontaneous gift. For example, if an agent hears children in the background, they may also pack a baby blanket next to your order.
Once a lady wanted to send back a pair of boots that she had ordered for her father who had died in the meantime. With a good empathic sense, the customer service advised her not to bother with the return. She could keep the boots, and the agent also expressed his condolences to the grieving client by sending a nice bouquet the following day.
Colleagues can send flowers, cookies or other gifts at any time if they feel they can deepen their relationship with their clients. There is also a separate list of available surprises for this purpose.
The system is working
Founded in 1999 with a just a few people, Zappos was bought by Amazon for US$ 1.2 billion in 2009. They could still retain their autonomy as a spectacular recognition of their effective business philosophy.
Zappos utilizes amazing energy and money to keep its customers. It’s enough to think of the 20 percent overhaul of the staff – not many companies would allow that to themselves. However, after experiencing their sincere interest and enthusiastic dedication to their clients, we don’t see why any other customer service couldn’t do things similarly.
So when should a client get a cookie? Always whenever possible. It’s the least you can do for your business.
Photo credit: Comnica / zapposinsights.com / thehappystratupschool.wordpress.com / callcenterkihimin.blogspot.com