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

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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22 Responses to “Good Customer Service Still The Best Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Strategy”

  1. Ayat says:

    companies very often forget the value of their customers when they become big and famous. That has always been a big turn off for me, and I’ve always prefered smaller companies that will take care of my needs. I’m definitely going to consider zappos for my shopping needs!

  2. I agree that customer service is not an expense but rather an investment. Unfortunately, a lot of companies don’t see it that way. What they don’t realize is that they are planting the seed for a bad reputation. Word-of-mouth should never be underestimated.

  3. Very strange – I just posted about this in my blog, then opened my reader, went to Get Elastic first and found this!

    Looks like this story is definitely going around! (Even further demonstrating the importance of great customer service!)

  4. [...] my daily dose of Countdown with Keith Olbermann and read the following from a new email entitled “Good Customer Service Still The Best Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Strategy”. Brought tears to my eyes, because so many companies still don’t understand how nor why being [...]

  5. Mhairi says:

    Sometimes we tend to get carried away with technology and forget basic principles. Great customer service and understanding of what customers really need is indeed vital to a company’s success. Perhaps its time for more companies to get back to basics.

  6. This customer service post still brings tears to my eyes. All too often we are so wound up with the technology, so we don’t address the many human issues in our daily lives and businesses. For many of us, our lives are our online businesses, which brings wonderful people into our lives.

    I only recently discovered your site. I heard the wonderful hour with Neil Patel, and am looking forward to your next event. It’s terrific you offer this over the phone, and then a text summary online (and I think you post the actual discussion?).

    Thanks a lot for the good work. I only wish I had time every day to catch up on your great info. I’m sure we all wish that! I have soooo much work to do. I struggled for years to figure out how to effectively share online so many photos and stories of my punk past and all the cool things with my pix. People keep writing, wondering wassup with my pix. Now I tell them to read my blog!

    I am so glad I discovered WordPress and sites like yours. So now it’s catch up time, which is delayed cos of little money coming in. So I appreciate all you do to help people like moi!

    Stay well!
    jenny ;-)

  7. @ Jenny,

    Thanks again Jenny, glad you enjoyed the Webinar too.


  8. [...] Marketing is a technique we all wish we can implement. Linda Bustos shares a great story of great customer service that resulted in a strong viral campaign. Have a great weekend! Tags:link building link love Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social [...]

  9. [...] want to include my personal shout-outs to for their incredible customer service, for fostering great community and for their impressive blog [...]

  10. [...] Example of the word-of-mouth effect that Zappos-type return shipping policies can [...]

  11. [...] Example of the word-of-mouth effect that Zappos-type return shipping policies can [...]

  12. [...] response can help exceed customer expectations, which in turn can boost customer satisfaction, increase positive word-of-mouth and help generate goodwill.     How does this goodwill benefit your company?  According to a [...]

  13. [...] on Twitter 10. CSRs have freedom to have person-to-person relationship. The famous example of Zaz Lamarr shares how a Zappos CSR sent flowers of sympathy on her own dime to a woman who lost her mom to [...]

  14. [...] Good Customer Service Still the Best Word-of-Mouth Strategy [...]

  15. What a heart warming story! I was just introduced to Zappos when I met one of their employees and gave him a copy of my book. Since then I’ve been enthralled by their culture and their service. The leaders at Zappos clearly understand that creating a great customer experience is about getting back to basics – simple human kindness. They also get that if you want your employees to treat your customers like stars, then you need to give your employees a little red-carpet treatment of their own. They spend a great deal of time and effort creating a culture that demonstrates to their team how they want their customers to be treated – and clearly, it works!

  16. @ Donna,

    Yes, and they offer employees $1000 to walk away after basic training – anyone who takes the offer is not the committed, passionate service representative they want on board.

  17. [...] I’d let you know about Louise.  Or, just to show that her experience wasn’t that random, this often-told story by Zaz Lamarr on her personal blog [...]

  18. [...] more reason to heart Zappos, unless you’re an electronics retailer. Zappos is entering the computer space. Zoom in on the [...]

  19. sagrario perez says:

    Anna, thanks for your help, you are the best customer services,and excelence parson.

    sagrario perez

  20. With the credit crunch looming in the background, good customer service will help increase customer retention and improve margins for companies


    Another example of excellent customer service by a Continental Airlines employee. Hope you’ll share my story with your readers as well.

  22. [...] One of the classic examples is Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer. They pride themselves on their customer service, and in fact, their motto is: Powered by Service. If you’re going to make a claim like that, you better be prepared to back it up, and from what I understand, they usually do. In the most famous example, they went above and beyond, and got a lot of great positive word of mouth in blogs and social media circles (which of course upped the ante for them even more!) You can read about it here. [...]

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