The Truth about Social Customer Care at Zappos

Sometimes little things have big effects. Think Jack and his humble beans sprouting up to the land of giants.

Social customer care is like that. In essence, it's simple: be real. Simply treating your customers like real people on channels they're actually using can grow your business immensely, by keeping your current customers happy and attracting new ones. But that's easier said than done, not least because every customer -- and every channel -- is different.

If there's a brand in the retail world that's known for giant-sized social customer care, it's Zappos. And that makes sense, because when your motto is "powered by service," satisfying your customers has to be your first priority.

But does Zappos really live up to its reputation? The short answer is yes. There are four things any company can learn from Zappos about how delightful social customer care improves your business and turns even the soberest product into something that's engaging and fun. They have certainly set a high bar, but then again, so did those giants.

1. Maintain a 100% response rate

Zappos reports having 24 million active customer accounts. That's a whole lot of customer service. But remarkably, they maintain a 100% response rate on social media. When 7/8 of social media posts to companies go unanswered (which is also remarkable), responding to every single customer who contacts you on digital channels might seem like an impossible ideal, but it should be the baseline.

 

Social Customer Care Zappos responds enthusiastically to every incoming query, even the simplest.

On average, a Zappos customer service agent answers 5,000 calls a month, and 1,200 e-mails a week. And these aren't simply "yes" or "no" questions. The longest customer service call the company reports was 10 hours and 29 minutes. But Zappos is also known as being an innovative, fun place to work. It actually attracts so many applicants that it's now statistically harder to get hired by Zappos than it is to get into Harvard. So clearly those agents have some pretty powerful CRM software to help them sort, prioritize and route all those Tweets, Facebook posts, calls and live chat posts incoming from customers.

Demanding that your customer care agents sit at their computers with multiple tabs open for multiple social media accounts to monitor any incoming queries is about as up-to-date as hiring a team of switchboard operators. Social customer service software is the best way to provide efficient, engaging customer service in real time, whether you have 24 million customers or 240.

2. Go out of your way

Being truly proactive on social media is about much more than responding to indirect brand mentions. That's a great idea too, and there are a number of companies like Hilton that show how listening to the online conversation and joining it when it's about anything related to your product or industry can bring you new customers. But like everything else they do, Zappos takes this one step farther, making it their mission not to simply engage with potential customers, but to go above and beyond the call of business to bring delight to their customers' lives.

 

Social Customer Care Besides selling to their customers, Zappos strives to bring delight to their lives.

A quick glance at Zappos' social media shows how often they make their customers happy by surprising them with an unexpected gift, service or interaction. As a result, the company's social media streams are full of ecstatic customers showing their love. That's pretty good PR, not to mention the kind of word-of-mouth that will bring in new customers.

In order to do this well, your care agents need a real sense of creativity, a love of making people happy, and an intuitive ability to do so. But it's helpful to have listening software that allows you to filter out the din of the online conversation to focus on your customers and anyone who might be looking for a product like yours. Once you've found them, it's about taking any chance that presents itself to make a real connection with them.

3. Make your tone flawless

Ah, tone. It's that old aspect of writing that everyone agrees is super important, but no one can really define. Simply put, tone is the emotional quality of language. Great social customer care agents have an impressive command of how words can subtly inflect communication with emotional meaning. Of course, it's simple if you've got a script to follow or a very specific stylesheet. But Zappos -- which has no customer service scripts -- proves that letting your agents be first and foremost people interacting with people is often more effective. But that's no guarantee of perfect tone.

 

Social Customer Care Even when the answer is no, Zappos agents take time to compose proper answers.

In terms of tone, Zappos agents are often at their best when they're dealing with disappointment. The above example shows Zappos' pitch-perfect tone in action. It's easy to imagine how many companies would respond with something like "Sorry, no," if they responded at all. But this answer delicately balances apology with praise, all while using complete sentences that show this is more than a simple brush off. It's a small thing, but one that adds up fast when you have millions of customers.

4. Be quirky!

Humor is a kind of tone, but the humor Zappos care agents use goes beyond a few one liners now and again. There's a zany edge to much of what Zappos posts, and that makes it entertaining to see what they're going to come up with next. How many other shoe sellers do you follow on Twitter? Afraid of appearing weird in public, many brand refrain from the kind of random hilarity that Zappos deploys on a daily basis.

 

Perhaps ironically, posts like this will engage customers in a real way more often than sales announcements and product pictures. Jokes are a great bridge builder, because it's affirming to realize you share a sense of humor with someone. That's the kind of connection that breaks down the normal barriers of customer and customer service agent.

Zappos knows that customer service isn't just a department any more. It's a way of approaching your business that can set you apart from the competition and inspire appreciation from your customers. It's important to have skilled customer service agents, and it's also important to have the right tools to help them do their work. We'd love to tell you more about how Brand Embassy can help you inspire your customers by giving them the fastest, most efficient and engaging customer service across every digital channel.

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