October 16th, 2007 | 3 MIN READ

Good Customer Service Still The Best Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Strategy

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

Zaz Lamarr hearts Zappos. She really does.

On her personal blog Writing, Cooking, Life, Zaz gives testimony of exceptional service from an online retailer back in July:

"One bright, extraordinary note in all of the sad stuff of the last few weeks - in May we had ordered several pairs of shoes from Zappos for my mom. She’d lost a lot of weight, and her old shoes were all too big. She had a whole new wardrobe of clothes in pretty colors, that fit, so I wanted her to have some pretty shoes that fit, too, when I took her up to Oregon to stay where her sister is. Out of seven pairs, only two fit. Not bad considering she’d never been this thin, so I was winging it, and the return shipping is free.

The rest were here waiting to be returned. Because of various circumstances - lost label, my mom being hospitalized and me being away, the shoes were never sent back. There’s a time limit on the return of 15 days. Remember this. When you do a return to them, they pay the shipping, but you have to get the shoes to UPS yourself. Remember this, also.

When I came home this last time, I had an email from Zappos asking about the shoes, since they hadn’t received them. I was just back and not ready to deal with that, so I replied that my mom had died but that I’d send the shoes as soon as I could. They emailed back that they had arranged with UPS to pick up the shoes, so I wouldn’t have to take the time to do it myself. I was so touched. That’s going against corporate policy.

Yesterday, when I came home from town, a florist delivery man was just leaving. It was a beautiful arrangement in a basket with white lilies and roses and carnations. Big and lush and fragrant. I opened the card, and it was from Zappos. I burst into tears. I’m a sucker for kindness, and if that isn’t one of the nicest things I’ve ever had happen to me, I don’t know what is. So…


With hearts like theirs, you know they’re good to do business with."

The post had inspired other bloggers to link back to her post including some high profile blogs like the Consumerist, so not only did her post reach her personal sphere of influence, but went far beyond.

This summer, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh shared his top 10 e-commerce lessons in his session at the eTail Conference in Washington, D.C. What Zaz experienced was a practical example of Hsieh's lessons #6 and #9:

"Customer service is an investment, not an expense. The goal is to create lifelong relationships with customers, Hsieh said. That’s why Zappos doesn’t measure call times; it’s also why the merchant will even refer customers to a competitor when it’s out of an item. Sounds risky, “but when they need another pair of shoes, they’ll go to Zappos,” he said."

"You need to actively manage your company culture. Hire people based on how they will fit into the culture, Hsieh said. Zappos is all about customer service, so employees need to understand that and be willing to do what it takes to provide excellent service. “If you get the culture right, a lot of the other stuff will take care of itself,” he said."

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