Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Zappos Approach - Why aren't Other Companies Following Suit?

Zappos is renowned worldwide for exemplifying exceptional customer service. The company's founder and CEO Tony Zappos wrote a book, Delivering Happiness, that was listed on The New York Times Best Sellers list for 27 consecutive weeks.  In fact, I include this book as required reading for my online marketing course at Columbia University, School of Continuing Education.
“Zappos invests in the call center not as cost, but the opportunity to market,” Joseph Michelli told me. He also wrote a book about the company's model called The Zappos Experience. Oddly, few companies heed their example.
So how do you create this Zappos-like culture. It starts with the basics – performance metrics.
It's About Total Call Time 
Zappos’s longest call on record lasted more than eight hours, and guess what? This interaction was lauded by leadership as a stellar example of serving the customer.
Instead of valuing quick time to resolution or processing high call volumes, Zappos looks at the percentage of a time an agent spends on the phone. Agents are expected to spend at least 80 percent of their time in customer-facing communications. This measure – called personal service level – is a way to empower the team to utilize their time how they see best promotes customer loyalty.
Wow Moments Are Rewarded
Zappos measures calls against a 100-point scale called the “Happiness Experience Form.” This is based on answers to the following questions:
1. Did the agent try twice to make a personal emotional connection (PEC)?
2. Did they keep the rapport going after the customer responded to their attempt?
3. Did they address unstated needs?
4. Did they provide a “wow experience?”
Agents are expected to achieve a 50-point average or higher. Agents earn incentives for meeting their goals, while under performers are required to take extra training.
Idle Chats Are Important
Zappos monitors “abandonment time,” or periods when an agent has a session open even though the customer already disconnected from the chat. Customer Loyalty Operations Manager Derek Carder said sometimes agents do this purposely to avoid responding. This strategy of looking for idle chats zeroes in on the cause of unproductivity. When agents aren’t productive, customers wait longer. And the longer they wait, the more apt they are to abandon the session.
Improving Performance Through Attendance 
Zappos uses a program called Panda to combat absenteeism. Employees receive a point for every day they miss work or come in late. Staff with zero points in a given period receive a varying number of paid hours off. These hours can be accrued and stacked for an entire paid day off, Carder explains.
The primary take away is that Zappos created metrics that emphasize creating a relationship with the customer rather than rushing them through the call. At the same time, these KPIs still successfully improve performance and make employees feel appreciated and rewarded.
Ashley Furness is a market analyst with Software Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. She is a University of Texas graduate with a bachelor's degree in journalism.