Running A Business

Unforgettable Customer Service Lessons from Zappos & Public Libraries

Jul 11, 2020 • 5 min read
Young customer service rep helping a customer over the phone
Table of Contents

      We live in some crazy times—and that’s perhaps an understatement. Toilet paper flying off the shelves, 1-way grocery store aisles, social distancing, stay-at-home orders, city-wide curfews. Yes, crazy is definitely an understatement.

      Some brands are elevating their customer service to provide relief from all the madness. Instead of simply listening to product complaints and providing technical answers, customer service teams are offering small talk, virtual shoulders to cry on, friendship, and even life advice. No time limits, no constraints, no purchase necessary, and no questions asked.

      And, no, we’re not joking.

      What’s this have to do with running a successful small business, you ask? Everything.

      Here are a few compelling customer-support statistics to make you rethink how you handle client relations:

      People consistently reward customer-focused businesses with their wallets and word of mouth. The businesses that put sales on the back burner and prioritize individuals will earn brand loyalty that’s worth much more than a 30-minute, 60-minute, or even 11-hour-long customer support call.

      Zappos Just Wants to Chat

      Need to talk about shoes? Call Zappos. Need help locating your order? Call Zappos. Want to chat about your favorite Brazilian restaurant and your relationship with your mother? You guessed it—call Zappos.

      Since the pandemic, Zappos has established a customer service line that people can call for anything—even just to chat. 

      “Sure, we take orders and process returns, but we’re also great listeners,” Zappos declares on its website. “Searching for flour to try that homemade bread recipe? We’re happy to call around and find grocery stores stocked with what you need. Craving Thai noodles? Burgers and fries? A burrito bowl? We can look into what restaurants are open for delivery near you.”

      Now that’s customer service.

      To achieve top-notch customer service, you don’t need to open an “ask anything” chat line—but there are unforgettable lessons to learn from Zappos’ example:

      • Focus on your customers’ needs. Instead of trying to fix their issue—or upsell them and send them on their merry way—take the time to truly listen.
      • Go above and beyond what’s expected. Customers expect answers to their questions and demands when they contact you—what more can you offer that’ll leave a lasting impression?
      • Forget about time. Call centers focused on cruising through support tickets neglect individuals and prioritize quantity over quality. Give your customers the time they need—whether that’s a minute, an hour, or the afternoon. They won’t forget it.

      Libraries Go Beyond Books—Way Beyond

      When you think about libraries, you likely think about books (duh), movies, free internet, and maybe public printers. But what about a COVID-19 hotline, a homeless shelter, and proactive wellness tracking?

      Due to the coronavirus, libraries’ customer services look a bit different. One library in Minnesota launched a COVID-19 hotline to answer all the residents’ coronavirus-related questions. Whether their answers mean locating food, navigating financial assistance applications, or reporting negligent neighbors, these librarians have become jacks-of-all-trades.

      Staffers at this same Minnesota library are also making “social connectedness” calls to check up on library users. These calls are made to ensure people in the community have the food, medicine, books, and digital library access they need. Taking this a step further, the library has also collaborated with the city to set up a day shelter for homeless people in the town’s civic center.

      Another library in Longmont, CO, turned their staff into personal book-finders. Patrons fill out their recommendation form with their favorite books, authors, and genres, and a librarian will research and send over a personalized list of suggested reads.

      When situations change, your business’s customer support needs to change, too. And these libraries are showing exactly how you can show up for your community, prove that you care, and do something philanthropic.

      There’s No Substitute for Quality Customer Service

      Free shipping, low prices, speed, convenience—they’re all important, but none of these business elements compare to customer support. When the world’s going through rough times, customers usually don’t need a product or a service—they need another human on the other end of the line to listen and talk to.

      Be the available and authentic voice your customers need. You don’t need to be clever, innovative, or tech-savvy to provide top-notch customer support—you just need to be patient and empathetic. An investment in high-quality customer service isn’t just good for your business’s bottom line—it’s also good for our global society.

      About the author
      Jesse Sumrak

      Jesse Sumrak is a Social Media Manager for SendGrid, a leading digital communication platform. He's created and managed content for startups, growth-stage companies, and publicly-traded businesses. Jesse has spent almost a decade writing about small business and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. When he's not dabbling in digital marketing, you'll find him ultrarunning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Jesse studied Public Relations at Brigham Young University.

      Share Article:

      Business insights right to your inbox

      Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for industry news and business strategies and tips

      Subscribe to the newsletter

      Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for industry news and business strategies and tips.