Tag Archives: metrics

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.

4 Things to Make Sure Your Boss Knows About Employer Branding (The 5th is Optional)

“Employer branding is the new black,” according to George Anders’ recent article on Forbes.com. LinkedIn is spreading the word about the significance of having a strong employer brand while also providing more tools and resources to help companies promote one on their platform.

So you’re not Apple, Amazon, Deloitte, or Disney. Don’t despair. That doesn’t mean you can’t have an employer brand or employer value proposition of your own.

Here are 4 things to tell your boss when you’re putting it into your 2013 budget:

It’s not a headline or tagline within your recruitment marketing materials.
Your employer brand is the essence of the employer/employee contract. It contains the reasons people join your company and the reasons they stay. Intuitively this
information may be known to some or all of your organization, but going through
the exercise of defining your brand architecture, your differentiators, and your employer value proposition will make sure that you’re all speaking in one voice. 

Once this is defined, it may never appear in any of your recruitment marketing
materials or internal communications. 
But the essence of the employer value
proposition can be communicated in a multitude of ways, varying by business
unit, country, or corporate initiative.
It makes the company money.
A well-defined employer brand will be integrated with the business strategy and articulate the shared responsibilities for achieving success. The ROI is not an HR metric (cost-per-hire, time-to-fill) but rather a metric of revenue growth. In March 1994, the Harvard Business Review wrote about the service-profit chain. Employee satisfaction drives customer satisfaction, loyalty, and revenue growth. This relationship still holds true today. Employer branding fuels employee engagement, which fosters productivity, which fuels profitability.


It saves the company money.
Good employer branding connects employees with cultures, reducing the chance of a hiring misfire. There is transparency in the employer-employee contract and
everyone knows the deal going in. Both turnover rates and recruiting costs go down.

It doesn’t cost a lot of money.
Those of you who have attended my employer branding presentations already have many of the tools to do it yourself. But even going outside to bring in an employer branding expert doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. Communication audits and employer branding surveys can get the ball rolling, and executive interviews and internal focus groups can be selectively added. For a small research plan, costs can be as low as $10,000. If you’re lucky enough to get a bigger budget, I recommend you survey external constituents to really provide context and color to your internal findings.

You will have more fun at work.
Yes, it’s true. Once you have gone through your branding exercise and embedded the essence of your competitive differentiation into your careers website, videos, recruitment and social media marketing, and internal communications, you’re all set to reap the rewards. Happy hiring managers, increased employee referrals, more unsolicited resumés coming in from top talent, lower turnover, and greater retention. You’ll have more time to work on other critical initiatives like workforce planning, talent management, or diversity and inclusion. Or maybe just steal a few extra minutes to read a blog or two.