Zappos: delivering WOW in the mobile era

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When Zappos went mobile, they faced the challenge of bringing its “WOW philosophy” to the mobile environment. From the start, Zappos has been differentiated by a unique approach to customer success. This approach has made Zappos a massive success story, with a base of loyal (and vocal) customers. Here are some of the challenges Zappos faced when launching apps (now for the iPhone, iPad and Tablet) and how they were overcome.

To start with, Zappos mobile customers had pretty different needs (from Zappos.com customers). A lot of problems were technical, the users’ context was different (home vs. office vs. on the go), and customers expressed happiness/dissatisfaction everywhere they could. To adapt, Zappos did 3 main things:

1. Focused on quickly replicating technical problems that arose
2. Trained a dedicated team, called the MobSki group to adapt to the changing mobile environment
3. Proactively engaged customers on all channels

Quickly replicating problems
The majority of queries received by the MobSki team are technical – related to app specific, OS specific or device specific issues such as crashes or bugs. This has impacted Zappos’ best practice for how to support the mobile apps, and how to surface issues to the development team.

Email:

Email

Email Best Practices:
By including the hardware, OS and app version, the Zappos team is able to more easily replicate customer problems. The team keeps on hand a variety of iPhones, iPads, and Android phones and tablets in varying form factors and varying OS versions. These are used to quickly replicate problems before deciding what comes next.
Zappos followed the same approach across the other channels (voice, chat, twitter, appstore reviews), with good results.

The Mobski Team
The MobSki (short for Mobile Skills) team is a group dedicated to servicing the mobile and tablet apps. The team has 3 main roles:

* Liaison: between engineering, customers and the larger support group
* Debugging Support: a technical go-between, interpreting crash data for developers
* QA: facilitating product processes such as bug tracking

“Mobski also provides valuable customer feedback about existing and future features. We love to hear customer feedback about our apps and have added many features based on customer suggestions.”
– Vincent Calderaro, Mobile Development Team Lead

Going Above and Beyond
The Zappos mobile team also were generous enough to share some stories of how they go above and beyond to WOW customers. One story:
During the 2012 Holiday season, Vince (product manager on the mobile team), shared a couple dozen $25 Zappos gift cards with the MobSki team. The team then gave these out to engaged Zappos customer via Twitter. Customers interacting with the app and tweeting about a product would unexpectedly find themselves on the receiving end of a gift card:

Zappos Social Media ExampleZappos Social Media Example

(Twitter handles blurred out to protect users’ privacy)
These interactions were tweeted (and retweeted) by grateful Zappos customers, sometimes to thousands of followers, who were becoming brand ambassadors for the app. In the words of Jim, Mobski Team Lead:

“Getting the word out about our app was definitely worth whatever amount of money we spent on the gift cards”
– Jim Green, MobSki team lead

The development team also makes sure to have fun and craft a unique, personable experience for users. From Vince:

“We use cats on the iOS platform so when you add something to your favorites or cart, a cat flys down from the top of the screen to the shopping cart. There are some other easter egg features hidden throughout the app as well. ”

Future releases (starting in the next few weeks) will include the largest Android release (including a redesign and new features) to date, as well as custom theming options for the iOS apps built around cats and dogs.

Actionable Items & Best Practices
Making your support team a little bit technical will save developer time:
* Train your support/community team to read crash reports/logs.

Automate context – you’ll more easily replicate problems:
* Embed relevant technical information (about the App version/OS/Device) into user communications.

Meet your users where they are
* If your customers are there, you should be too.

Use social media creatively
* This should be self explanatory 🙂

– –
This excerpt comes from a case study done with Jim and Sean on the Zappos mobile support team. You can read the full case study here. Our thanks to the Customer Loyalty team, the folks from Zappos Insights, and to the rest of the Zappos folks without whom this would not have been possible.

Disclosure: Zappos uses Live Chat in the mobile apps, but isn’t a customer of Hipmob 🙁 We produced this to share some of Zappos lessons learned and best practices with our audience and the mobile community at large. The author is CEO of Hipmob, a technology company that provides live chat, and other tools that help retailers communicate with and support mobile customers.

Ayo Omojola
Ayo Omojola is founder and CEO of Hipmob (www.hipmob.com). Hipmob is a YC backed company that brings the best sales, customer service, helpdesk and live chat tools for businesses going mobile. Check us out at www.hipmob.com

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