Everybody loves a firefighter.

But do we give that same kind of admiration to a mom up on a stepladder, checking the batteries in the smoke detector to keep her family safe? Or the employee who faithfully does rounds in the morning, making sure that no emergency exit is blocked?


Zappos. Legendary for spending more than 8 hours on the phone with a customer, while other companies, by contrast, incentivize their employees to keep contact center calls short. But we forget that it’s the day in, day out bias in favor of caring, in favor of saying "yes," that actually makes a company like Zappos great.

Which isn’t to say you don’t need flair, public heroism, shtick (in the best sense of the word). Legendary stories are valuable in defining a company, for its customers and, especially, for its employees.

That 8+ hour call at Zappos: Like me, you may wonder what customer issue at a shoe store could possibly require 8 hours and 27 minutes straight (presumably with no pee break!) to resolve. Is the point of this story, as it makes its rounds at Zappos, that great customer service requires extreme bladder control and endless throat lozenges? Well, maybe. But I think it actually serves as a management tool to reinforce for everyone on staff that rushing a customer off the phone won’t be tolerated. The clerk at Nordstrom who refunded a customer’s money for tires that didn’t come from Nordstrom (because Nordstrom, of course, doesn’t sell tires): the story makes it immediately clear to a new Nordies employee that the answer to a customer concern is going to be "yes," period.

The stories that people tell at a company, and about a company, really do matter. Just don’t forget that the day in, day out heroism, on every customer call, every customer interaction, matter as well. And in this age of social media, every customer’s own story about their interactions with your company may matter the most in the end.

Article published with permission from our partners at SocialMediaToday.