Legendary Customer Service

If you’ve ever bought shoes online, it’s quite possible that you have heard about Zappos. It’s well known for its quirky company culture as well as its legendary customer service. The company’s founder Tony Hsieh wrote an amazing book, “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose” in 2010, soon after he sold his company to Amazon for $1.2 billion.  Many of us wondered if Amazon would try to change the company’s culture or its systems and processes.

Well, I have firsthand evidence that Zappos’ culture and commitment to customer service are alive and well. And I think there is something meaningful that we can learn from this company.

Here’s the back story: My eldest daughter Alex buys shoes from Zappos. She was sitting at home one night, thinking about buying shoes and what a hassle it is to go to the mall. (Like daughter, like mother, I have to say!) So she went to Zappos where she can order as many pairs of shoes as she wants, in any or multiple sizes, with no hassle whatsoever because you get FREE SHIPPING to have the shoes come to you and when you return the ones you don’t want!

A few months ago, Alex ordered a pair of running shoes. Apparently, they were delivered to her house, but she never received them. So she emailed Zappos with her predicament and they promised to put a UPS tracer on the shipment.

But Zappos dropped the ball. She did not hear back from them at all, and she had already been charged for the shoes.

So, last week, Alex contacted them again, by sending them this email:

Hi there!

About 6 weeks ago I contacted Zappos about how my order never arrived to my house. The person filed a claim with UPS, and UPS followed up with me. I confirmed with UPS that I never received my shoes, and UPS said they would work with Zappos to resolve the issue. Well, the issue has still not been resolved and I am out $90 without shoes. I went to the Brooks website directly to buy shoes because I couldn’t wait any longer for Zappos to get back to me.

Please let me know what the status of this is, and when I can expect my $90 to be refunded to me.

I have heard great things about Zappos’ customer service and hope you all live up to the great things your loyal customers are saying.

Thank you,


Within four hours, she heard back from customer service:

Greetings Alex!

I, the Amazing Magician James, would be happy to help you!

You have my honest apologies that it has taken us this long to get back to you. I’m not sure what happened to cause the delay, but I’m more than happy to make sure this gets fixed right this instant.

As of right now, your card has just been refunded $97.15, which should show up in 2-10 days, depending on your bank. On top of that, I’ve also issued a $20 coupon, which should be arriving in an email after this one with the code number to use on our site. It’s a one-use coupon, but can be used on anything at all at Zappos.com.
Past that, I’ve sent an email with your admission to the VIP program in it. From now on, anything you order is going Next Business Day Air for free. All you need to do is go to VIP.Zappos.com in the future, and you should only see the option of Next Business Day Air for your orders. It’s a magically fast speed for a customer we certainly dropped the ball with!

If there is anything else at all we can do to help, please don’t hesitate to call, chat, email, send a magical owl, or even a messenger ferret. Your best bet will be with the first three though. The ferrets keep attacking the owls. Really delays the messages.

Magically yours,

The Amazing James!

Zappos Customer Loyalty Team

A picture of the inspiration wall at Zappos HQ. Source: Zappos Insight

What did I learn about customer service?

1. All organizations make mistakes when serving their customers. Amazing and Empowered organizations have people who admit when they flub it up and are empowered to make it right with their customers.

2. When you are trying to make it right with a customer, just giving a refund or apologizing is not enough. The best organizations go the extra mile to show their commitment to customer service.

3. Sometimes it’s good to be a bit silly and even outrageous (thus the owls and messenger ferret). That email sure made me smile. And it kind of defused any anger anyone may have been feeling.

4. Please note that The Amazing James’ department is Zappos Customer Loyalty Team. Not, customer service.

In this age when standing out from the crowd is key to business success, maybe it’s not so bad to make a mistake…if you are empowered (or empower your team) to remedy a problem situation and make lemonade out of lemons.

What do you want to accomplish with your clients. Service or Loyalty?


P.S. Zappos offers a free Zappos Tour Experience to show off its legendary customer service office at its headquarters in Las Vegas. You just have to make a reservation. For a fee, you can sign up for special Q&A after the tour. The company also offers corporate training programs.