This article about a customer experience story with a happy ending is especially geared toward company owner and leaders in any industry, but I really believe it will resonate with many readers. (The names used in this real-life example are fictional.)
A Customer Experience Story
Several years ago, Ben Jones, a sales manager for an east coast tech firm, was almost finished packing for a business trip to San Francisco when the front doorbell rang. “Just in time!” Ben said to himself. The day before, he had ordered a new pair of dress shoes for the trip, and they arrived with almost no time to spare. His airport car service would be arriving within the hour.
But Ben’s excitement immediately gave way to disappointment when he tried on the new shoes and found they were the wrong size. He packed his “old” shoes and made a mental note to get a shoe shine at the hotel.
On the way to the airport, Ben called the customer service number for the company from which he ordered the new shoes. Ben explained the problem and also explained that he was on the way to the west coast, that he had left the shoes back at his house, and that he wouldn’t be back home for a week.
Shawn, the customer service representative, was appropriately apologetic and assured Ben of the company’s flexible return policy.
“I’m so sorry for this mix-up, Mr. Jones. You go and enjoy your trip, and I’ll put it on my calendar to give you a call when you return home so we can arrange the exchange.”
“I appreciate that,” said Ben.
Shawn asked, “By the way, where are you headed?”
“San Francisco,” replied Ben.
“Have you been there before?” asked Shawn.
“Yes, I have,” said Ben.
“It’s a great city,” said Shawn, “I’ve been there a few times myself, and I love it. It has some of the best restaurants I’ve ever eaten at. Do you have a favorite restaurant?”
“Yes I do,” said Ben, and he told Shawn the name of that restaurant.
“Where are you staying?” asked Shawn.
Ben told him the name of the hotel, and Shawn told Ben that he knew of that hotel.
At that point, Shawn again apologized for delivering the wrong shoes and reiterated that he would call Ben in a week to resolve the problem.
Several hours later, Ben arrived at his hotel. The first thing he saw when he entered his room was a box on the foot of his bed with an envelope on top of the box.
Ben opened the envelope to find a card bearing this inscription:
Hello Ben. I hope your trip out to San Francisco was uneventful. It’s a magnificent city, and I know you’ll have a great time. Please accept the enclosed $100 gift certificate for that favorite restaurant of yours. And what you’ll find inside the box — if you haven’t already — is a pair of the shoes you ordered — in the right size.
Let’s Reflect On That
I want you to think about something as you reflect on the above customer experience story.
I want you to imagine the process that customer service representative Shawn had to go through to get the authorizations to give Ben a $100 gift certificate and to get a pair of shoes delivered same day, at no charge, without requiring the original shoes to be returned.
How many people do you think Shawn had to talk to?
How many memos do you think had to be initialed?
How many hoops do you think he had to jump through?
Ready for the answer?
Shawn had to do nothing.
That’s because Shawn was a member of the Zappos Customer Loyalty Team.
It has been an integral part of Zappos’ culture — buttressed by training and policies — to encourage and empower Zappos customer service representatives to make sound decisions, at their own discretion, by taking ownership of each caller’s experience and of any adverse issues the customer expresses.
And that’s what Shawn did that day, and dollars to donuts, that experience turned Ben Jones into a customer-for-life.
So here’s the other question I have for you:
What kind of culture are you inculcating in your team members? Are your team members empowered to take the kind of initiative that wows customers, makes them customers-for-life?
Stay tuned, folks. Next week I’ll be posting a follow-up article I think you’re going to want to read. It’s about a conversation I had with the executive in charge of corporate culture at Zappos. I asked him some questions about this particular customer experience story and about the potential downsides to empowering customer service representatives like this. I think you’ll be surprised by his answers.