Monthly Archives: November 2012

Guest Post: Create a Zappos-Like Culture of Customer Service With Performance Metrics

We’ve written about Zappos’ great social media efforts, but the online shoe retailer has other impressive qualities, too. In this week’s guest post, Software Advice’s Ashley Furness tells you how to create a Zappos-like culture of customer service using performance metrics.

It seems traditional marketing increasingly turns away customers in today’s Yelp and social media-obsessed world. Advertising, PR, and other promotional spending fall on deaf ears while bad messages travel further, faster.

This has prompted a sea-change in the way some companies approach their marketing budget. Could a Zappos-level of customer service provide a better return on investment?

“Zappos invests in the call center not as cost, but the opportunity to market,” Zappos Loyalty Manager Joseph Michelli explained to me recently. He authored a whole book on the concept, called The Zappos Experience. This has resulted in as much as 75 percent of their sales coming from return customers, who spend on average 2.5 times more than first-timers.

So how do you create this Zappos-like culture? It starts with the basics – performance metrics.

It’s About the Wow Moments
Making the customer feel appreciated is a priority for Zappos. They do this by grading calls on a 100-point scale they call the “Happiness Experience Form.” Every agent is expected to maintain a 50-point average or higher. This score is based on several factors, including:

  • Whether or not the agent tried to create a personal emotional connection with the caller
  • Whether or not the agent continued the conversation if the customer responded positively
  • Whether or not the agent identified and responded to the customer’s unstated needs
  • And whether or not the agent gave a “wow” experience or went above and beyond

“Customer service creates an environment of one-to-one communication. That intimacy creates a special opportunity to build a relationship as opposed to a top-of-mind impression through advertising,” Michelli said.

At the end of the month, management identifies agents with less than a 50-point average on the Happiness Experience Form. Those agents receive extra training. Top performers are rewarded with paid hours off and other incentives.

Watch Those Idle Chats
Zappos also monitors “abandonment time,” or periods when an agent has a chat session open even though the customer already disconnected from the chat. The reason this is so important is two-fold:

One, idle chats are a symptom of chat avoidance – or the agent purposefully creating conditions so they don’t have to respond; and two, when agents aren’t responding, customers wait longer. The longer they wait, the more apt they are to abandon the session.

This strategy zeroes in on the cause of unproductivity in the chat setting – idle chats – without deterring agents from expressing the values in the Happiness Experience Form.

Still Measuring Call Quantities?
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.

“It’s more important that we make an emotional connection with the customer, rather than just quickly getting them off the phone,” says Derek Carder, Customer Loyalty Operations Manager for Zappos.

Instead of valuing quick time to resolution or processing high call volumes, Zappos looks at the percentage of time an agent spends on the phone. Every agent is expected to spend 80 percent of their time on the phone, in chat, or in an email response. This metric is a way to empower the team and to utilize time in a way that best promotes customer loyalty.

Attendance is Key
Absenteeism can be a huge detractor from your customer service productivity. Zappos uses a program they call Panda to combat this trend. 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.

This decreases the days missed by employees, but also increases job satisfaction. What Zappos-level strategies does your company use to create a customer-centric culture? Let us know by commenting here.

Ashley Furness is a market analyst with Software Advice.

Giving Back at Thanksgiving, With Kiva

All it takes is one person to believe in you.

Organizations across America have believed in Brandemix to develop branded communications that attract, educate, and engage their target audiences.

During this time of year, we feel it’s important to give thanks for that trust and to give back as well. That’s why we make regular contributions to Kiva, a nonprofit organization that enables people like you and me to extend microloans over the web to low-income entrepreneurs in struggling communities, whether as far away as Africa or as close as Staten Island and New Jersey.

We chose Kiva out of many other microlending sites because eighty percent of its recipients are women, who are sometimes single-handedly supporting large families. As a certified woman-owned business enterprise, we believe in strengthening women around the world.

No matter how difficult our lives at the moment, people are suffering far more in many places – too many – across the world. Please take the time to visit www.kiva.org and give to the worthy cause of your choice. It’s not charity; it’s a loan, and more than 98% of Kiva recipients repay the loan with interest.

Lending through Kiva creates desperately needed capital in some of the poorest parts of the globe. It bypasses corrupt governments and predatory banks and ensures that the money goes directly to those who will use it. When the loan is repaid, you can give the money to another entrepreneur, donate it to Kiva’s general fund, or simply withdraw it. It’s a great way to give.

We hope you’ll join our efforts to fight poverty around the world and here in the US. From all of us here at Brandemix, happy Thanksgiving.

It Takes A Hurricane

Brandemix is always ready to celebrate brands, but this week, I want to celebrate our own brand – and the brand that is New York City. Though many others faced much tougher challenges, we at Brandemix knew that, despite all the hardships caused by the storm, the calendar hadn’t changed.

Our clients throughout the country still had important, immovable deadlines. And while the city canceled the Halloween Parade and the NYC Marathon, we knew we had to keep our commitments to our clients.

Two of us live on Long Island and had to evacuate. One of us lives in Downtown NYC, and lost water, power, and gas. But all of us found a way to continue creating strategies and solutions for our clients.

I took this photo on Factory Pond Road in Locust Valley, NY. A tree is dangerously leaning on power lines.

In addition to our people, technology is a real star of the story. Through smart devices and software, servers and Starbucks, we were able to continue to work miracles together without missing a beat, a watt or an email (but yes, possibly a bath!).

We’re up and running and back at full strength. We hope you all fared as well. 

At times like these, I’m grateful to be in the city of New York, particularly because I love New Yorkers. And I want to thank the Brandemix team, particularly Kathryn, Dana, Jason, Clarissa, and Mike, who did everything they could to make sure our service wasn’t interrupted despite all the devastation we faced.

Stay safe and stay strong.

Jody

Engage Your Audience With Infographics

In the past few years, infographics have been taking the internet by storm, turning seemingly innocuous blog posts into viral sensations. Beautiful, funny, and charming works of art, they turn boring statistics and information – like “50% of all smartphone owners drink coffee between 7 and 10 a.m.” – into something that’s not only informative, but also easy on the eyes. 

Great news: You don’t need to be a statistical genius or a brilliant artist to dazzle your audience. 

Here are a few simple steps towards making them great.  

1. Find a Viral Topic

Whether you’re trying to detail something as expansive as the history of the internet, or something as simple as the latest Kindle, relevance is important. If you’re creating a comparison chart between the Kindle and Nook, but you completely leave out the fact that the iPad Mini was just released, you’ll be missing out on a huge opportunity to create something that people might want to share with everyone they know – and that’s the point, right?

So think about relevant current events, topics, products, crises, scandals – anything. If people are talking about it, creating an infographic that’s reflective of those events is a simple way will make people far more likely to share that infographic.

2. Keep it Simple

Perhaps the best element about infographics is that, like Twitter, they force us to be concise.

Chances are that if you’re reading a lengthy report or a case study, there’s a lot of unnecessary information.

So focus on the things that matter – the differentiators, the key takeaways, the glaring discrepancies, whatever they may be.

With that in mind, just because you’re focusing on the essentials doesn’t necessarily mean that the infographic has to be short. It can be small, like this one from Hubspot or huge, like this one from Pop Chart Lab.

Just don’t fill it up with tone of useless information. This Kindle vs. Nook chart below is a great example, as it focuses on one thing  the price of books in their respective e-book stores  and keeps it as straightforward as possible.

3. Just Build It

Creating an infographic is extremely difficult and expensive, right?

No, not really. In fact, there are a few free – that’s right, 
free – resources that enable anyone with a few minutes of time, some interesting statistics, and a handful of unique ideas to create things that are as pretty as they are shareable.

One simple (and free) resource for doing so is called Easelly, which lets users create infographics like this and this with minimal effort.

Beyond that, sites like Infogr.am allow users to easily import statistics into a wide (and constantly expanding) range of infographics. Want more? Infogr.am allows you to make those infographics interactive. It’s magic!

Those not your dig? Here are a few alternatives. Still not doing it? Hire an agency.