In the Shoes of the Zappos Call Center

Maura Sullivan and Rob Siefker
Posted: 11/10/2009

Zappos call center managers Maura Sullivan and Rob Siefker of Zappos carry a smile in their voice when they talk about the Zappos call center, but you can’t blame them. It’s good to be Zappos in 2009. It’s been a wild year for the company recently bought by Amazon for $880 million. And it sounds like the customer-centric parade throwing customer service company that happens to sell shoes (and now clothes, hair straighteners and more) will pretty much remain intact.

In this interview Sullivan and Siefker provide a glance into modern life at the Zappos call center. For all of you who are name dropping Zappos when talking about call center performance management and call center performance measurement in the call center you haven’t heard everything. From the company that sees the phone as the ultimate branding opportunity, hear from the horses mouth about Zappos call center growth, scalability and the other curiosities you wanted to know but were always afraid to ask.



How is the Amazon’s acquisition of Zappos going to affect the customer service culture?

Both Amazon and Zappos are very customer centric companies. Zappos is keeping its core values and culture as its own. Customer service is still going to be at the center of all that we do. Amazon is in full support of wanting us to do just that.

Is the Zappos call center going to be taking any of the Amazon.com customer service customer queries?

No

When the customer service thought leader community is making the argument against Average Handle Time as a metric they often reference Zappos, what is the number one question you are asked regarding the KPIs of your call center?

We are asked a lot about what we do measure. And it’s not that we don’t measure AHT–we do. But we’re looking at the wrap-up time that is factored into it. We don’t care how long our representatives take in speaking with a customer, but we do like to see if we can gain efficiencies on the back end. It’s the customer facing time that is the most important, and we don’t want to sacrifice quality or the experience in hurrying a customer off the phone. The phone is the best branding device and we want to talk to our customers. We speak to so few of our customers that when we do we want them to have our undivided attention and we want to give them the best experience ever–even if that means talking to them about their dogs for 10 minutes and building a relationship/connection with them.

How does Zappos manage customer complaints and unstructured data coming into your contact center?

We don’t have a lot of technology in the call center so most data coming in is unstructured and most everything at Zappos is unstructured. We empower and train all of our employees to help any customer questions/complaints that come in. More than anything we want to make sure we’re taking care of the customer first and foremost. We also have a Resource Desk that can help with anything that might be a bit more time intensive. If reps receive some great customer feedback on how we can improve the site or processes then we have e-mail distribution lists that can get that information to the correct people to make the changes necessary.

Does Zappos have a plan to manage social media within the contact center?

We see social media as just another way to connect and interact with our customers. Twitter was something that was more internally used at Zappos to connect with coworkers, so it was just a natural thing to have it available to our customers. Right now we use Twitter in the call center to assist with anything we can while also sharing the Zappos brand with our customers. We are in no way running reports on our Twitter usage or conversions gained through Tweeting.

Talk about Zappos growth potential and goals.

We’re very excited about the future and joining with Amazon. We’re looking forward to getting our name out there more in categories other than shoes. This year we had a huge push for clothing and handbags and now we have housewares, makeup, skin care–the sky's the limit!

Do you think that scalability will become an issue?

We’ve grown a huge amount in the last five years and will probably do the same in the next five. We believe that if we keep our core values close and continue to work hard and be passionate we will achieve whatever we want. I think keeping our expectations high on who we hire will be a key to our success. People are what make Zappos so great.

First published on Call Center IQ.

Maura Sullivan and Rob Siefker
Posted: 11/10/2009

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