Extreme Customer Service: Winning Customer Loyalty

by David Eckoff · 5 comments

It’s not just what happens that matters, but how a company responds to something that matters.

This issue of Business Week has a great cover story “Extreme Customer Service”. The article showcases Amazon, and explains how when things go wrong with the customer experience at Amazon, the company aims to make things right for the customer with its customer service.

…when things go wrong at Amazon—and they occasionally do—the company’s employees get involved. That may be where Amazon stands out most markedly from other companies, and helps explain how the company earned the No. 1 spot on BusinessWeek‘s customer service ranking this year.

One recent February day in Manhattan, Jeff Bezos… talked about the distinctions Amazon makes between customer experience and customer service. The latter is only when customers deal with Amazon employees—and Bezos wants that to be the exception rather than the rule. “Internally, customer service is a component of customer experience,” he says. “Customer experience includes having the lowest price, having the fastest delivery, having it reliable enough so that you don’t need to contact [anyone]. Then you save customer service for those truly unusual situations. You know, I got my book and it’s missing pages 47 through 58,” he says, breaking into a booming laugh. Fixing customers’ problems builds loyalty with people, says Bezos.

What’s YOUR take? What are examples of superior customer service that have turned you into a loyal customer and maybe even a promoter? What are examples of customer service that have turned you into a detractor?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Josh of Cubicle Ninjas February 27, 2009 at 2:49 am

A few days ago my wife ordered shoes online for the first time. Nervous, she accidently shipped them using regular mail instead of priority. Luckily the store had a phone number, so she called and explained her situation and hoped to pay a bit more to have them shipped two-day.

The customer service rep was amazing. She made her feel this wasn’t her problem, thanked her for being a first-time customer, and switched her to overnight shipping for free. My wife left the call being told she was the rep’s customer of the day and that if she ever needed any help, to ask directly for this associate.

The name of the company is the legendary Zapatos.com.

Now, I don’t get ordering shoes online. Some things you need to test before you buy. But this customer service was so shockingly positive I feel I have no choice. They’ve converted us both into rabid customers in one interaction (and likely anyone who I share this story with as well). That is the power of exceptional customer service!


2 David Eckoff February 27, 2009 at 2:31 pm

@josh of Cubicle Ninjas

Thanks for reading my blog, and thanks also for sharing that story of extreme customer service!

The name of the company your wife bought shoes from is Zappos.com and they are not only legendary for customer service – they are building their business on customer service.

I had a similar experience with Zappos, where they upgraded me for free to overnight shipping. What an unexpected positive surprise!

The CEO of the company, Tony Hsieh, is an innovator and I’m looking forward to meeting him at SXSW, where he is speaking.

Tony is very active on Twitter and I recommend you follow him at http://twitter.com/zappos

One of my favorite tweets from Tony: When he tweeted about an upcoming Zappos company picnic, and invited fans of Zappos who happened to be in Vegas that weekend to attend the picnic. How cool is that? Inviting your customers to your company picnic!

Here’s a great video about Zappos and customer service from Nightline:



3 Josh of Cubicle Ninjas March 1, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Yikes – you’re absolutely correct. It is Zappos.com. Zapatos means shoes in spanish and I keep mixing up the two.

And thank you very much for the great resources. I’ve subscribed to Tony’s twitter feed. I think the two articles are note-worthy as well:

Keep up the great work, and looking forward to any SXSW news!


4 David Sanger May 27, 2009 at 6:49 pm

A classic example of “How Not to do Customer Relations Management 101” is Cultured Code and their Things product.

After a splash entry at MacWorld in 2008 they released their product early without key features such as syncing multiple Macs.

Users promptly complained on the user forum and the company either 1) ignored them or 2) made promises that it was their highest priority, but still did not deliver the feature.

In a triumph of chutzpah Cultured Code then removed all links to their user forum from their support pages, leaving dissatisfied customers in a echo chamber. They even went as far as disabling Google indexing of their own user forum !!!

Reading the forum is an amazing exercise with running skirmishes as users try to add links to help people find the forum and the company deleting them.

Cultured Code has a promising product, but could learn a lot on the customer relations side.


5 Mr. Audio December 30, 2009 at 12:13 am

Amazon is totally new school. I say new because I have never witnessed such jaw dropping customer service in my life. Most businesses put on their smiley faces to get you their product and brag about customer service, but when things go south, they just make excuses until you wear them out and they either take care of your problem finally, or give you the boot. Not Amazon. Let me tell you about my first experiences with Amazon.

I ordered quite a few items and paid to have them all shipped in 2 days. After my order had been shipped I found that they had split my order into two parts and the second half of my order was going to arrive in 4 days. I called Amazon and sternly told them that it was unacceptable for me to pay for 2 day shipping and get half my stuff in 4. He looked it up and said, “Ok I can see where that’s a bit of a problem so I’ll just issue a credit for all the shipping on this order. Is there anything else I can help you with?” No fight, no excuses, and as nice as could be.

Soon came time for those items to arrive at my place. FEDEX being the total morons that they are left my Amazon package on my front door step. This is very bad since I live in an apartment complex. It goes with out saying that the package was stolen from my front door step. I called FEDEX and they accepted absolutely zero responsibility for their stupidity of leaving something like that out in the open where everyone can see and take it. They told me to call Amazon. Now, it wasn’t even Amazons fault to begin with. However Amazon apologized PROFUSELY for my inconvenience and sent out a replacement on that day with overnight shipping at absolutely no charge to me.

That’s how good they are. They’ve always got your back. Because they more than understand that in their business stuff like that is going to happen since they rely on other businesses besides their own to serve their customers. They remove all fear of buying online because no matter if the delivery truck caught fire and your package was incinerated , they will make sure that another reaches your hands at no additional cost to you.

That’s what I call new school. It’s time for retail establishments to considerably start stepping up their efforts to serve their customers properly, bringing down some of their ridiculous prices, and carrying a much greater variety of products. Because if they don’t they’ll never see me in their stores ever again. Amazon has raised the bar very very high. It’s about time somebody started doing things right. Thanks Amazon.


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