There is a wonderful story going viral about the actions of a customer service representative at the online fashion retailer Zulily. See the story here.
It’s a pretty simple one really. Basically, a Texas woman had ordered a coat that, once she’d tried it on, didn’t really work for her. She called their customer service line, and the agent immediately offered a refund. When the customer asked how to send the coat back, the response from the agent was: “Please don’t ship it back. If you know anybody who could use a winter coat this season or if you have a favorite charity that you would like to donate the coat to, please do that. That would make us very happy.”
It Was A Brave Move
Most consumers don’t realize how unique – and how brave – that kind of corporate behaviour is. Imagine proposing this policy to the executives of most retailers. There’s a good chance you’d be laughed out of the boardroom. Most are so terrified of the worse-possible-scenario of having opportunistic customers coming out in droves that they wouldn’t even consider the benefits.
To be fair, this kind of behaviour is absolutely at risk for abuse. But Zulily has wagered that the good-will and loyalty they create will far outweigh that risk. Based on the gigantic amount of social exposure they have had in just a few days, I’m guessing they wagered correctly.
The message that customers get when they have this type of experience is “We value more than just your wallet,” and the power of this message can’t be understated. Despite what many people will tell you, consumers actually want to find places they can be loyal to. And this is exactly the type of message that pushes that loyalty button.
It’s a Good Strategy In The Long Term
Once you get past counting the short-term beans, and start thinking in terms of Customer Lifetime Values (CLV), the value of this approach is undeniable. The hard part, as I mentioned, is selling the idea to people who only see the world in weekly, monthly or quarterly P&Ls.
I know a hotel GM who implemented a $500 policy for all of his employees. Basically, if a guest was having a problem, an employee was allowed to make a decision on the spot to fix things. As long as the value was under $500, they could comp a room, pay for a taxi, buy a theatre ticket – anything – without having to first ask permission. The whole idea was to walk the talk on employee empowerment.
The GM’s bosses in the hotel chain thought he had gone absolutely crazy, and conjured up images of tens of thousands of dollars being given away each month by free-wheeling employees. They told him in no uncertain terms that this was a Bad Decision.
But, as you may have guessed, nothing could have been further from the truth. The results of the new policy has yielded nothing but amazing results.
Maybe it’s time we included “bravery” as one of the descriptors for Wow customer service.