Here's how you do it well, courtesy of Zappos (of course). Yesterday I tweeted:
I think my wife is having an affair with someone named "Zappos". He sends her a package at least every third day. I am on to you, Mr Zappos!
Almost immediately, Zappos' customer service Twitter account replied:
@jkottke I'm sorry sir, but our relationship with your wife is strictly professional.
Great, right? A company that gets the joke and participates meaningfully in an actual conversation with a full awareness of the context.
Here's how not to do it, courtesy of United Airlines. Mena Trott, a co-founder of Six Apart, had her flight to NYC randomly cancelled on Monday night by "a robot". (They actually blamed it on a robot!) In a series of three tweets, Mena voiced her displeasure:
Thanks @unitedairlines for randomly canceling my miles booked ticket for tonight, taking the miles & not letting me rebook for lack of miles
And then hanging up on me after I waited for an hour! I hate you @unitedairlines
Apparently the automated voice recognition system can't tell what I'm saying through my tears @unitedairlines #IhateYouSoMuch
Reply from @unitedairlines? Nothing. But then while on her rebooked flight the next morning, Mena tweets sarcastically:
Thanks to @unitedairlines I can finally watch that Frasier episode I missed in 1994.
And unbelievably, @unitedairlines replied, pouring burning acid into Mena's obviously still-tender wound:
@dollarshort "...I hear the blues a-callin', Tossed salad and scrambled eggs.."
That is some serious customer service tone deafness right there. It would be easy to blame whatever social media jockey they've got manning the Twitter account for the faux pas, but obviously United customer communication problems run deeper (and originate higher up the pay scale) than that.
Zappos' CEO Tony Hsieh on why he sold his company to Amazon. Bascially most of Zappos' board of directors didn't approve of Hsieh's focus on employee and customer happiness at the short term expense of profits.
I left Seattle pretty sure that Amazon would be a better partner for Zappos than our current board of directors or any other outside investor. Our board wanted an immediate exit; we wanted to build an enduring company that would spread happiness. With Amazon, it seemed that Zappos could continue to build its culture, brand, and business. We would be free to be ourselves.
(via the browser)
From last week's New Yorker, a snapshot of the cult of Zappos just before the Amazon acquisition. I found it somewhat odd that the CEO, Tony Hsieh, doesn't particularly care about the products his company sells:
"I've never been into shoes -- and I'm still not," he said. Zappos has begun to expand from shoes, as Amazon did from its base of books, into other categories of merchandise: handbags, clothes. "Kitchenware, housewares, whatever," Hsieh said. But he's not really interested in those things, either. "I much prefer experiences to stuff," he said.
Hsieh also doesn't downplay the cultish aspects of the company either (unintentionally or not):
Though he has become increasingly visible as the face of Zappos and spends almost all his time proselytizing its culture, Hsieh resists the idea that he is powerful, or that the perpetuation of the brand rests on his shoulders. "For any company or movement or religion or whatever, if there's one person that personifies it then that puts that company or vision at risk, if the person, say, dies," he said. "What's gonna happen to Apple if something happens with Steve Jobs? That's why it needs to be about a movement, not about a person or even a specific company."
From this quick overview of why internet shoe retailer Zappos is such a great company, this clever hiring practice:
When Zappos hires new employees, it provides a four-week training period that immerses them in the company's strategy, culture, and obsession with customers. People get paid their full salary during this period. After a week or so in this immersive experience, though, it's time for what Zappos calls "The Offer." The fast-growing company, which works hard to recruit people to join, says to its newest employees: "If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you've worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus." Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit!
That's pretty fucking brilliant. It applies a direct incentive of cold hard cash against what the company wants: employees dedicated not primarily to their paycheck but to the company/customers.
Online shoe seller Zappos demonstrates how to provide customer service on a human level:
I was just back and not ready to deal with that, so I replied that my mom had died but that I'd send the shoes as soon as I could. They emailed back that they had arranged with UPS to pick up the shoes, so I wouldn't have to take the time to do it myself. I was so touched. That's going against corporate policy.
And that's not even the best part...read down to the end. (via 37signals)