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Is Zappos a BAD example of customer service?

Nike shoes.Image via Wikipedia

I read an interesting post recently by Robert Bacal in which he argued that Zappos Retail Inc. (and Nordstrom Inc.) is a bad example to idolize in the area of customer service:

"These companies are singular companies. That is, they exemplify what works with ONE company, with a very specific culture, in a specific industry and often the success of these companies is because of the people who drove the companies to be extremely customer service oriented. You don’t have those people. You don’t have the culture or any of the variables that you will need to effectively model your business on theirs."

It's an interesting argument. And as a graduate of Disney University's School of Customer Service, I get Robert's point. My small consulting firm in Des Moines looks nothing like Walt Disney World in any way, shape or form. I was enthralled to learn about all that Disney does to serve customers exceptionally well, but the differences between Disneyworld and c wenger group are so great that the application of service strategies and principles can be an impossible stretch.

I've always argued that the key to successful customer service is knowing:

You don't have to be Zappos or Nordstrom to figure that out.

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The point of these articles is to demonstrate how doing the "opposite" of leading trends can can be sucessful. The way the "experts" talk there's only ONE WAY to do things. The point of Zappos is to rock the way we think about customers taking advantage of being extreme customer focused. Take the ingredients of some of these programs and create your own recipies. Anyone who reads a book and thinks it's a scientific formula is a dolt. C'mon give us "regular smuck leaders" some credit.

Tom - I've just read Tony Hsieh's book and the common theme here is culture. HIS culture and the culture his group created. It's impossible for somebody to pick up this book and model a culture that is not...theirs. However, having said that if business can start to "think" of how to create a customer centered culture by KNOWING what their customer demands...BINGO. This ain't rocket science...but it is...work. Thanks for including it...got my attention.

You make a great point, Millerd. It's obvious from your comment that you get it and I'm happy to give credit where credit is due. Creating your own recipe with the ingredients you pick up requires thought, time, and intention.

What I'm sadly finding far too often are those who blindly want to follow the prescribed recipe of the fad of the moment, thinking that it's the easiest route to success. Ultimately, they find that they've wasted their time trying to cook up a formula that won't work for their business.

As you aptly said, you gotta be willing to take the ingredients and find a recipe for success that will work in your business.

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