What a Shoe Salesman (and a Cabinet Maker) Can Teach Us About Customer Service

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, wrote a terrific article in the August, 2010 Harvard Business Review.  He recognized that he and his company have one product: customer service.  They don’t make a widget, they just resell someone else’s widgets.  But his company goes the extra mile in everything they do in customer service and have set the standard.  They allow people to return shoes up to 365 days after receipt, they have no call trees, they truly believe that Customer Service is an extension of marketing and not a ‘cost they must pare’ to the Company.

At Mobile Aspects, since Day 1, we have had the same philosophy: Customer service is a differentiator and is 1.a in priority (right next to having an incredibly easy to use, reliable product).  But every member of our team, top to bottom is incredibly focused on customer service.  When you call our 800 number with a question, you dont get a call tree; you will reach one of our Client Service team in Pittsburgh.  These aren’t just call center people, but in fact, great people who have serviced and worked with the product in the field and continue to do so today.

Customer service is not just about taking a call and filing it.  It is about the relationship with the customer.   Our customers know most of our employees by name, know their cell phone numbers and know their home phone numbers (as Tony Hsieh says, ‘the telephone is one of the best branding devices.’).  They know us and our families and we know our customers by heart and their families.  I can’t tell you how many times customers call us just to talk.  We love to ‘just talk’!

Sometimes when you call, you will reach our CTO, our VP of Engineering, or many other people outside of core Customer Service.  Yours truly, and also the CFO and all management go out into into the field weekly and discuss and talk with customers to get their feedback.  No one, and I mean, NO ONE has a desk job at our company.  Truly at Mobile Aspects, we believe customer service is EVERYONE’s responsibility, and you see that from the incredible dedication of our people.  When an issue happens in the field, you will not see a team of people react faster and work harder to solve that customer’s problems.

It’s starts with the culture in the company set by our great employees.  But it also continues into our HR practices.  We look for only those people that have shown us strong evidence they will do whatever it takes for our customers, roll up their sleeves, and do anything we can to make them happy.  Everyone in our company knows how important a happy customer is.  We’re not perfect (we’re just human beings!), but we make up for any imperfections with passion.

Though we make a widget, we also understand every business is in the hospitality business.  It makes the customer feel comfortable about the company and the product.  Our customers know if they call us with an issue, we’ll jump to solve it.  And if we can’t solve it remotely, we’ll be in a car or on a plane the next day to solve it in person.  Customer service is not just for hotels, it’s also vital to the business of a Shoe Salesman and Cabinet Maker.