Interview with Rob Siefker of Zappos – Part 2 of 4


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This is the second of a four part interview with Rob Siefker, the Director of the Customer Loyatly Team at Zappos. In this part of the interview, Rob discusses how Zappos motivates members of their customer loyalty team, what programs they have in place to recognize good service, and what service metrics the company tracks and how.

You can read part one of the interview here. To read this part, click “read more.”

Service Untitled: So how do you motivate Customer Loyalty team members? And then how do you keep that motivation up over time? A lot of companies institute programs and then see enthusiasm over time drop off.
Rob: Yeah, I mean that’s a great question. I think the biggest thing that we’ve been able to offer our employees to keep them engaged is opportunities to learn and grow and do different things. And you know we have a wonderful culture that we’ll strive to continue to make as solid as possible for our employees, and each and every one of us has a part in doing that. We invest a lot in the new employee’s right from the get–go so they see that there’s this tremendous investment in them, and there is a lot of enthusiasm for people when they first start in the call center.

One thing that people talk about with trying to keep motivated is how do you recognize performance? And we do a lot of different things to recognize performance that are both formal programs and informal programs that are related to specific job function and things that are expected of our employees. And then in terms of earning raises, we have a program where you know, there are a lot of different jobs within the call center. Examples would be there’s kind of a continuous training team. There’s a team that does work for leadership development. There’s a team for live chat and one for email. So those are very specific skill sets, and that’s what we have, the skill set progression so people can learn different skills. They work on a team for a specific amount of time depending on the role. It could be three to six months or more. And they can earn pay increases based on their performance for learning and growing in which pursue growth, and learning is one of our core values. So we try to keep things in the context of our value system in every case of everything that we do obviously. And we also want to make sure that the way we motivate fits within that, and the way we recognize fits within that. And we are very good listeners to our employees and we talk to them, and we listen, and we understand where we can make improvements to further engage them and further encourage them to stay involved.

And there’s always an ebb and flow you know. There are peaks and valleys in every person’s employment. It doesn’t matter what jog, whether it be a call center or other jobs. You’re going to have peaks and valleys. And we understand that. We don’t want somebody to fall off a cliff and not do anything at all of course. But you know, you reengage them and find a way to motivate them and keep them inspired. And I think a lot of what helps us is just we’ve got this great culture and environment that it really makes the job of helping lead a little bit easier because there’s just I don’t know. It’s hard to describe some of it but part of that magic that I guess I feel like we have here at times is what keeps people engaged you know.

Service Untitled: What are some of the ways that you recognize good service? What are some of those formal and informal programs where you recognize good work?
Rob: I mean it could be as simple as I overhear somebody do something awesome and I make sure I make a point of going over there and thanking and telling them specifically why I thought they did a great job you know. I thought you did a great job connecting with the customer because you talk to them about that wedding or that trip or whatever it may be the case. You know people are very creative that. And you can reward people just that way and recognize that way but we also have the Zollars which is like our – it’s not real currency but it’s Zappos currency where you can use that to buy stuff in a Zollar gift store. And then there’s specific efficiency metrics that we have that are more just people using their time wisely, attendance, performance on the phone with their quality when they’re new. In the incubation, there’s call reviews that they go through. The team leads do a great job of making sure they’re very in–tune and constantly coaching to the goals that they set with their team members. The formal programs are related to the key metrics that we measure so you know, quality of service with our customers, which we get feedback directly from customers on. And the efficiency metrics that we measure in attendance which is an important metric for call centers. So we have formal programs for those and then we try to keep as much free space for people to do stuff in an informal way and encourage that and help our leadership team understand how to do a good job with that because a lot of times, I think it has more value. If you tell somebody, “If you do this, you’ll get this recognition,” sometimes that doesn’t have as much meaning as somebody doing something because it’s what they want to do and somebody notices that they’ve done it.

Service Untitled: So you mentioned that there’s a metric that you track – holistic performance like attendance and things. Can you talk about what that entails? I ask because I know that doesn’t track call time so what are some of the things that you do track to kind of determine agent quality and performance on a large scale?
Rob: Well we measure with surveys. We get quality of service feedback directly from our customers. Attendance is a very specific metric that we measure and it measures punctuality and attendance. We don’t measure call time but we have a metric called Personal Service Level which is a measurement of how you use your time. The best way to describe it is you have ten hours and you’re at work and the only thing you’re supposed to be doing is taking calls for that ten hour day. Our goal is that 80% of that time is actually spent on the phone talking to the customer. The other 20% falls in the category of your after–call work so writing notes, making sure you do all those backend system work, follow–up to make sure everything is properly taken care of. You could take an extra break if you wanted to for a few minutes. You go down and get a snack, walk around, have a quick conversation with a friend. It could be whatever. It really doesn’t matter. We just ask that 80% of that time is customer–facing. We don’t measure the call time and in fact, actually we measured it as PSL number or we managed to it but the longer your calls are, the easier it would be to hit the expectation so it actually encourages longer call time by the nature of the way it works.

But call times don’t trend very high. I mean I think that you know… It’s not long. There are appropriate amounts of time to be staying with customers so I don’t know why we would ever consider doing that necessarily but those are the three areas that we have like the most specific metrics. We used to have a quality assurance program where we would listen to phone calls and fill out a form and evaluate the call and give a score. But it did not work for our culture and who we are. Actually it was not, it didn’t end up being a very positive thing for our employees or anyone really. And ultimately, if it’s not positive for them, it’s not going to be positive for our customers. So that’s a pretty traditional call center kind of thing that we don’t do.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Douglas Hanna
Douglas Hanna is the CEO of A Small Orange, a high-end web hosting company that prides itself on quality customer service. In addition to his role at A Small Orange, Douglas founded and writes for Service Untitled, a popular blog on customer service and the customer service experience.


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