Tag Archives: zappos

Taking Better Care of Our Customers

8 May

Taking Better Care of Our Customers

Recently I’ve had some shopping experiences online that have left a bad taste in my mouth. I figured that I had stewed over them long enough and wanted to jot some thoughts down on the blog and get your take. First off, let me say that in my opinion the gold standard in online shopping, shipping and customer service is Zappos – hands down. No one else even comes close. And while I don’t hold other companies to quite that high of a standard, they have set the benchmark and I’ve come to expect something in the same ballpark.

Rock n’ Roll Woes

Recently I bought some merchandise from a musician’s online store. I’ve been a fan of this particular guitar player for a long time and wanted to order a couple of t-shirts and a hoodie. I placed my order on a Thursday morning and waited. By the following Tuesday I still hadn’t received any sort of confirmation or shipping notification so I emailed the web shop. The first thing I did was respond to their initial “payment received” email. That bounced. Hmmm, why did that happen? Oh yeah, I see it here – the address in the reply field of their confirmation email was “sales@example.com.” Ok, so they never changed the template – sloppy. Undeterred, I went to their site and found a different contact email. That also bounced back with a “mailbox full” message. Finally, I found a .me address and sent an email there hoping for a miracle. Nothing. After two days I emailed again telling them that if I didn’t receive some sort of response that I would file a dispute with PayPal. I heard back within 5 minutes and they said my order would be shipping that day and that I’d receive confirmation within the hour. But, another day went by with no email. After emailing them again with no response, I finally filed a dispute with PayPal to get my money back. However, 10 minutes after I opened that dispute I got an automated email telling me my order had shipped – this was now a full two weeks after the order was placed. I noticed the order was being shipped from Las Vegas via USPS Priority Mail. I live in Santa Barbara – less than 400 miles from Las Vegas – meaning the package should have been there in 2-3 days. Yet, 6 days later, I still didn’t have my order. Finally, PayPal stepped in and reached out to the seller. Miraculously, two days later I received my package. Interestingly, it’s post-marked only two days earlier meaning it left their facility 6 days after they said it did.

Did you follow all that?

Post Mortem

Obviously this was a colossal screw-up for this business. They did make a half-assed attempt after I’d received delivery to make sure I had, in their words, “received my order and make sure everything was taken care of,” but there was no apology for the delay, deception and aggravation that I had gone through as a customer. There was no special coupon or credit offered. Honestly, it felt like their main focus was to make sure I closed the dispute and they got to keep their money.

A week later I ordered a watch from an online retailer, and while I won’t bore you with the play-by-play of that transaction, let’s just say that the combined frustration of these two back-to-back experiences inspired me to write this post.

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Hard

If you’re selling products online you have to have a rigid set of standards for your entire sales process from order placement to customer delivery. That includes acknowledging a customer’s order, their payment and notification of shipment. If you want them to feel good about handing you their credit card information, you need to make sure to get the simple things right, and let them know you’re an organization that can be trusted. By not sending out even basic confirmations you can cause unnecessary panic and mistrust amongst your customers.

I understand that problems happen sometimes. There will occasionally be times when an item is out of stock, or shipping is delayed. Instead of staying silent, be upfront and accountable to your customer. A personalized email goes a long way to smooth over any initial frustration and most will find it refreshing that a business took the time to explain the issue.

When you make a mistake, offer compensation. Offer to upgrade shipping, or email them a coupon for 20% off their next order. Not only will you smooth over any ruffled feathers, but you’ll be building goodwill towards your brand for future purchases.

These all seem like no-brainers to me, but clearly that’s not the case with a lot of online businesses today. When people make a purchase from your website, many are first-time customers. If you want them to come back, it is paramount that you provide a stellar shopping experience by keeping them informed, acknowledging those rare mistakes and compensating them for any hassle.

Does This Resonate?

Do you run an online web store? What is your philosophy on customer service? How do you ensure that your customers receive a great experience? What hard lessons have you learned along the way?

As an online shopper what are your pet-peeves? What companies do you buy from that provide stellar online service?


17 Feb


Santa Barbara is a place filled with nooks, crannies and distinctive neighborhoods with their own feel and micro-culture. Weather you’re talking about Downtown, La Cumbre, Montecito or the West Side – they each have their own nuanced personalities. I would imagine it’s the same in your town as well. Within those neighborhoods, we have our favorite spots – whether they be a gem of a coffee shop, a great dry cleaner, or a dive bar with a special place in our heart. They’re what make our neighborhoods unique.

Maybe you frequent a certain deli because it’s close by or a grocery store because it’s convenient, but there has to be more to it, right? There has to be something that brings you back to that establishment. Maybe it’s an exceptional product, or great customer service. Maybe the owner makes you feel welcome when you walk in. Or, maybe it’s just a Mom & Pop shop does great things in your community.

I think this same concept of neighborhoods exists online.

Think about the places you visit online on a regular basis – that would be your virtual neighborhood. The various destinations you frequent make up the hot spots in that given neighborhood. What makes you go back to those places? What drives that loyalty?

Think about your online property as a storefront – maybe it’s a blog, or a news site or an online shoe store. What can you do to make people come back to your store in their neighborhood?


Above all, your product has to be top-notch. Whether you’re serving food, selling cars or peddling fashion content – your product has to speak for itself. Having a solid product doesn’t always guarantee success, but without it, you’re pretty much guaranteed to fail.


How comfortable is your “place?” People tend to go to neighborhood businesses that they feel comfortable in. That means a variety of things to different people. How easy is your site to navigate? Does it have a friendly tone? Is it easy to make a purchase? What about returns? We have enough hassles in our lives, make sure your establishment isn’t one of them. The more comfortable you make the experience for your customers, the more likely they are to return.


As consumers we want to feel like we’re being heard. Do you offer a way for customers to write reviews about your products? Do you respond to those reviews? As a blogger, do you encourage your community to leave comments and challenge your opinions? Do you show them respect when they do? Giving consumers a voice makes them feel like someone is paying attention to their needs. That breeds loyalty.


For many businesses, just following the points above would give any customer incentive to come to your neighborhood establishment. What else can you do to create loyalty? Let’s use Zappos as an example. They makes buying products online incredibly simple. Besides the fact that they offer free ground shipping and pre-paid returns on anything they sell, they also have a VIP program that gives customers free overnight shipping on anything in their store. Amazingly, this service is totally free. With those types of incentives, why would you shop anywhere else for shoes?


Humans are creatures of habit. We want a great product, but we also wants to be taken of. We want to feel valued and we want to go to a place where everybody knows our name…and they’re always glad we came. That’s why we frequent the same spots in our towns, in our neighborhoods. It’s why we tell our friends about them and why we do things like check-in and promote them on Foursquare. Make sure you’re treating your online presence like a neighborhood gem – your customers will reward you for it.