Sounding Human: The Difference Between Good And Bad Customer Service

from the is-it-really-that-hard? dept

I'm writing up the beginning of this post while on an airplane, flying from New York to San Francisco. By the time you've read it, I'll have added some stuff to it after I landed. The issue is one of customer service and sounding human. Late last week, I saw this amusing online customer service chat transcript between a Zappos customer service representative and a guy who wanted to see if their customer service really was as good as advertised. Zappos is famous for its hiring and training practices (including paying people to quit after a month). With the customer service team, there are no scripts and reps aren't measured on how many calls they get through like many other customer service centers, but on how well they help customers. That is really evident in the transcript. Here's an excerpt, though you should read the whole thing:
You are now chatting with Jonathan
Jonathan: Hello Timmy. How can I help you?
Timmy: do you know how wide the G-Shock Atomic Solar - AWG101 SKU #7403774 is?
Timmy: i mean, how big a wrist it would fit?
Timmy: Timmy has a big fat wrist
Timmy: Timmy need watch grande
Jonathan: I'll see what I can find out for Timmy.
Timmy: awesome. and can we please continue to talk about Timmy in the 3rd person? Timmy likes to boost Timmy's ego by talking about Timmy that way
Jonathan: Jonathan would be happy to neglect the use of pronouns for the duration of this conversation.
Timmy: Jonathan and Timmy shall get along just fine
Jonathan: Will Timmy be able to measure Timmy's wrist?
Timmy: Timmy's wrist is big, but not Biggie-Smalls big. Timmy doesn't have the required measurement instruments.
Timmy: Timmy is 6'4" 220lbs if that helps Jonathan
Jonathan: Luckily, that is roughly the size of Jonathan's brother, so that does help.
Now, as I mentioned, I'm writing this from an airplane, where I had hoped to have in-flight internet access. I had it last week on the flight from San Francisco to NY and it was fabulous. And, yes, I've seen the wonderful and enlightening Louis CK bit where he talks about how ridiculous it is that anyone would complain that in-flight WiFi broke, because just think of how amazing it is (by the way, in later interviews, Louis admitted that it wasn't the guy sitting next to him who complained -- but he was really discussing his own reaction to the WiFi breaking). I'm not at all upset that the WiFi broke. It would have been cool (and useful in terms of productivity), but I am amazed that it could work at all, and I know it's new so bound to have some hiccups. That's fine. This post isn't about the fact that the WiFi broke. It's about the way Aircell/GoGo handled it.

It's not at all clear what the problem was exactly. When I first opened up the browser, the proxy server page wouldn't load at all. After a few minutes it did load, and at the top it said: "click buy to get started." Only problem? There was no "buy" to click. Just a big empty white box. However, there was a link to sign in if you already had an account -- which, thanks to my flight last week, I did. So I clicked that, and put in my username/password, and was told that it couldn't authenticate it. I checked my email to confirm the username, and even though I'm sure of the password, tried to go to "recover forgotten password" just in case... and was told it didn't recognize my username or the email address. Fine. It seemed pretty clear that their authentication system had broken down, too. I tried to go back to the main page, but it told me I couldn't until I had purchased my account...

However, I did notice a link to "contact customer service" and discovered that even though I couldn't connect to the full internet, I could have a "live chat" with a customer service rep on the ground named "Georgia." I'm asked my name, and I give it (even though it should have been obvious from the email address I had to give to login to the chat). After Georgia asked for my name and I gave it, it took about 2 minutes for a reply. No problem... I'm sure Georgia is dealing with others as well. But I'm not even sure if she's still there. Then I'm asked the problem, which I describe and am told:

"I apologize for the inconvenience and I'll be glad to help you with that."

Sounds great. So I wait. And wait. And wait. And then start wondering... am I supposed to do anything? I assume it's being looked into, but it's not at all clear. I wasn't told to wait. I was just told that she can help. But is she? So after about 5 minutes of nothing, I say "Hello?" and get a quick apology followed by a statement that they are aware of a problem on my flight and will be monitoring it, and if I'm unable to connect, they'll send me a gift code for future flights. Ok. That's fine again... but what does that mean directly for me. I ask "so should I just try again later?" and am told "I would suggest you reboot and try again."

Wait... what? I was just told the problem was with GoGo's system, so why would it make sense to tell me to reboot? I point this out in a polite manner, and am told: "It may help, yet it may not be resolved until after your flight is over." Beyond the odd use of pronouns (first "it" refers to rebooting, second "it" refers to the problem with their system), this again sounds like someone with a script, rather than anyone trying to sound human or recognize how silly it is for me to reboot after she's already admitted the problem is on her end.

Given that I was clearly communicating with someone on the ground, I figured it was worth asking if there was some way around the authentication issue, since clearly I could connect to a very limited subset of the internet on the ground. I'm then told "all ways to sign in and sign up are not properly working." Aha, so it really is a problem with their system, and not my own, but why couldn't they have just explained that problem initially so that I understood? I tell her that I'll just try to sign on later, and am asked "Is there anything else I can help you with?" Now, I understand this is rather standard closing question... but it seems rather silly in this context. Considering there's no connectivity and that's the only thing this company provides, I'm not sure what else I could possibly be helped with.

Now, this wasn't a bad customer service experience (even if it didn't resolve the problem, though that wasn't "Georgia's fault"). But it was striking to me the contrast between what I had just read with the Zappos transcript and this one. Is it really that difficult for customer service reps to sound human?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    CopyJosh (profile), Jun 10th, 2009 @ 1:06pm

    International Reps

    Please, you're lucky she spoke English.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Jun 10th, 2009 @ 2:04pm

      Re: International Reps

      You mean "typed English."

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      stat_insig (profile), Jun 10th, 2009 @ 2:16pm

      Re: International Reps

      You get what you deserve (which roughly depends on how much did you pay for the product). Speaking English! Start producing something so that you can pay your own people to talk to you nicely. Until then you will have to depend on foreigners like me who actually produce somthing and provide you with cheaply priced services.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        hegemon13, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 2:28pm

        Re: Re: International Reps

        "Speaking English! Start producing something so that you can pay your own people to talk to you nicely."

        No matter where you live, it is not an unreasonable expectation that English-language support be, well, English-language.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 2:35pm

        Re: Re: International Reps

        Yes. Thank you SO much for taking my job. It isn't about production, it's about companies wanting to cut corners. I /don't/ talk to you, because you aren't in my country. Why should I deal with someone in India (or wherever else) when I'm trying to deal with an American company?

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 4:35pm

          Re: Re: Re: International Reps

          You mentioned American companies. I have to say I'm quite happy with the service I've received from my MacBook Pro.

          I call one number and they ultimately send me to an Apple Store (which usually ends up in me meeting up with "The Genius" or (sadly) they diagnose the problem and overnight me new equipment.

          I actually look forward to meeting with the Genius, because I end up splitting the bar tab afterwards.

          Seriously, Steve Jobs is really on to something here. Why is it so hard for everyone else? I don't mind picking up a bar tab, but when HP wants a $70 fee from the specialist whose thick voice, spiced with curry, came thru the phone... Well, that was it.

          Wasn't Christopher Columbus looking for India when he found America?

          What an interesting series of events transpired afterwards, no?

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            BobinBaltimore (profile), Jun 10th, 2009 @ 5:52pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: International Reps

            I love Apple, too, but... If all companies charged the premium they do to become a "member" of the Apple community through the honor of paying a great deal to buy even the simplest of products, every company COULD provide their level of service. Many wouldn't, of course, and would just pocket the extra margin. Apple does get it right in customer service most of the time, but buyers of Apple products very much pay up-front for it. The constant desire by global consumer masses for less and less expensive product makes the CS part of the equation dicey in terms of being fiscally sustainable. But too many companies ignore the brand value of good CS. It doesn't even necessarily have to be GREAT CS, as many of us are impressed when it's just good.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Christopher Smith, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 1:06pm

    The transcript

    Can we get a link to the entire transcript?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Keven Sutton, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 1:18pm

    automated response

    Are you sure you weren't just talking to an automated response program? Odd use of pronouns is what kicked that one off for me. A well built one makes random mistakes like leaving a person for a while to seem more real.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Jason, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 3:37pm

      Re: automated response

      Are you sure it was Mike who was talking to them. Oh no wait, it was a guy named Todd pretending to be a guy named Timmy. Maybe if you followed the link or even read the article completely you would clue in.

      Jonathan even posted some comments on Todd's blog.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 1:21pm

    Almost sounds like you were talking to a bot.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Dez (profile), Jun 10th, 2009 @ 1:23pm

    Sounding Human

    It's probably more of an issue for the management of the customer service department (or outsourced company) to let their agents sound human. Scripts are golden in most CS landscapes, and deviation can lead to a demotion or missing out on a pay raise later because of bad reviews.

    From what I've experienced, scripts are golden. They are designed to keep the conversation short. But waiting for 2-5 minutes doesn't make sense for that determination. Maybe you should reboot ;-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 1:23pm

    Your point? The first project Scott killed when he became CEO was Connexion. Which was odd, because it seems his role in that project elevated him to CEO level.

    But perhaps his work will come back agan, maybe in another form...?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    rjk, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 1:27pm

    Zappos transcript

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 1:28pm

    does mike talk about mike in the third person to boost his ego too?

    If the wi-fi don't work, it don't work - Not like there is anyone on the flight crew to run a network diagnostic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 4:00pm

      Re:

      Huh?

      Can you be more of an ass? Can I institute a new rule? You must have at least 9 inches to your name or have $3M in the bank to post as Coward. 401(k)s, stocks, and illiquid assets don't count.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 1:29pm

    does mike talk about mike in the third person to boost his ego too?

    If the wi-fi don't work, it don't work - Not like there is anyone on the flight crew to run a network diagnostic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 1:33pm

    Some companies don't realize this however... I know where I work currently they are pushing people away from being human, The Jonathan from the orginal example would have gotten remarks about being unprofessional.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Overcast (profile), Jun 10th, 2009 @ 1:49pm

    Yes, some company's customer service sucks SO BAD I won't buy their products. It's not a matter of a bad product, but bad support.

    Some, unfortunately - like my power company - I'm stuck with.

    But others are so top notch; I'd almost buy their product even if I didn't need it, lol - almost..

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    interval, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 1:53pm

    > "The Jonathan from the original example would have gotten
    > remarks about being unprofessional."

    He might have, depends on the company. But as a consumer, and one with a rather twisted sense of humor myself, I applaud the tech and would look dis-favorably on the reprimanding company. Customer service in the US in my experience is very bad. I spend a lot of time in Asia and I can assure you we would do well to emulate the service of typical Asian companies. Even when US companies try their best to make it professional they can really screw it up.

    One experience I can relate along these lines is one I have of my cell phone carrier. In their rush to save a buck but still provide quality service this carrier has elected to farm their work to India but train their employees to speak perfect English. But in their training they neglected to give them any background knowledge of the continental US. So I figured out the situation as soon as the customer service rep had never heard of Brooklyn and wasn't quite sure that Chicago was in Illinois, or was it Wyoming?

    Bad service? Via lack of rather common knowledge required to be of service in the phone industry? Yes. They saved a few bucks an hour only to annoy one of their customers to a big extent.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      WisconsinGod, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 2:26pm

      Re: Common Knowledge

      This issue of common knowledge is not isolated to support in foreign countries, it exists right here in the good old U.S. of A., more specifically, Southern California.

      Here is the story of My sister, and it is 100% real.

      My Brother in Law went to a Jewler in his hometown of L.A. and had a custom ring designed for my sister. They Got married, and settled in Minneapolis, MN. Not too long after getting married, the stone to my sister's ring fell out, so she called the Jewler in L.A. to explain the situation. The lady at the other end of the phone politely stated that if she would just bring the ring into the store they would take care of it. My sister informed the rep that she lived in Minneapolis, MN, and asked if they had any locations near there she could go to? The Rep replied "We just opened up a new store in Dallas. Would that Work?"

      Now anyone not from southern california, Please raise your hand if you think Dallas is near Minneapolis?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Jason, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 3:41pm

        Re: Re: Common Knowledge

        So she wasn't as funny as Jonathan, she tried!

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 3:53pm

        Re: Re: Common Knowledge

        I've only heard of one company that would do anything remotely like this.

        Perhaps you should write a letter to Tom (He looks like Bruce Springsteen) for his incredible business practices. I imagine he would thoroughly enjoy the value his business practices provided to not only your family, but your candid willingness to share and recommend, based on the simple fact that he's doing the right thing. A golden nugget like that, well... Wouldn't just lift his day, but his next few years.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Tom Black, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 1:58pm

    The suits in charge...

    ...are terrified that one of the peons they hired might be able to actually have an original thought and communicate it to their customers. As far as I'm concerned (after recently going through the whole change of address torture with quite a few businesses this week) they may as well go to the whole voicemail bot system if they aren't going to use their employees for the one thing they do better than most bots - hear.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Space Pirate, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 2:23pm

    I suspect...

    That many CS Reps are given scripts and actually punished if the deviate. Many company's are probably (rightly) concerned that if they let their low wage staff venture out on their own it will cause more problems than sounding human would solve.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      hegemon13, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 2:31pm

      Re: I suspect...

      You would be right. However, it sounds like Zappos' support associates are not low-wage. It also sounds like they are tightly monitored and evaluated, but based on a different scale that ensures they serve customers well. Basically, they have support staff who actually care instead of people who make a small hourly wage to read a script. As a result, Zappos can successfully sell shoes for $80.00 that I can buy at Kohl's for $45.00.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 11th, 2009 @ 6:42pm

        Re: Re: I suspect...

        "tightly monitored and evaluated"

        - actually less so than most call centers, which monitor fixed metrics, most often 'duration of call'. But since you can't measure satisfaction as easily, Zappos worries less about measuring their reps as other call centers.

        Instead, they focus on hiring, training, and culture. Heard the CEO explaining it a few weeks ago in San Jose. Hiring is take extremely seriously at Zappos. They're looking for a specific kind of person.

        Then training, which takes a month. All execs also go through the call center training, and are required to do a tour at the call center at set intervals.

        Also, as Mike's story noted, they pay people to quit after the month of training. They figure that by offering $2k to quit, people just in it for a job or money will quit, and people who love the culture will stay.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Designerfx (profile), Jun 10th, 2009 @ 2:32pm

    customer service people are typically incompetent

    Many customer service people go to a few common levels of customer-service-ness. One: the fanatic who fights for the customer even if the request might be well beyond unreasonable. Two: the one who argues with the customer. Three: the one that doesn't even listen. Four: the one who is grossly incompetent, or new, or generally is not cognizant of anything. Five: the one that goes over the top where appropriate.

    This encompasses a majority of customer service people, easily. So to find most stupid ones.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    JAy., Jun 10th, 2009 @ 2:47pm

    International Support

    My mom worked in the customer service field until her office was shut down in favor of an international service center. While she was monitoring calls one day during the transition overseas, she heard the following:

    Customer: "I am sorry, but your English is not very good and I am having a hard time understanding you."
    CS Agent: "I am sorry. Perhaps you should hang up and call back. Eventually you should get someone in the US."

    That is an agent that cares!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    PRMan, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 2:49pm

    Mike, you were talking to a bot

    I used to work at a company that installed LivePerson or some program named similarly to that.

    One of the "features" of LivePerson is that it could answer some number of problems all by itself with NO user interaction whatsoever. Then, the company would set thresholds to determine how many "poor quality" responses were necessary before having the program hand off support to a "supervisor", which was actually a "live person".

    Since then, every time I have tried a chat I have attempted to give it a Turing Test to see if it is actually a person or a bot.

    In every case, it's been a bot.

    The reason "Timmy" insists on being called "Timmy" in the third person throughout the conversation is that it immediately tells Timmy whether it is a live person helping him, because no bot scripting program would understand that.

    I usually used something like, "Where are you located?" "What's the weather like there?" Amazingly some bots would lie and list an actual location. But they never got the weather one right (a couple responded, but a quick weather search online proved them to be lying bots).

    The other trick is to get them into an endless loop where they keep giving you the same response over and over. A real person would not type the same thing 7 or more times in a row no matter how many times you asked or what the script looked like, but bots will continue to happily answer the same thing 50 times or more, infinite really.

    Think about it. YOU HAD NO CONNECTIVITY TO THE GROUND. Not no connectivity to the ground except our chat program, which works just fine, too bad we didn't use that technology for the rest of the traffic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 11th, 2009 @ 7:28am

      Re: Mike, you were talking to a bot

      Have you ever tried the test on yourself, Mr. Deckard?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 11th, 2009 @ 6:50pm

      Re: Mike, you were talking to a bot

      "Think about it. YOU HAD NO CONNECTIVITY TO THE GROUND"

      Think about it. You don't know that. Have you ever logged into a wifi hotspot, and been able to access the captive portal, but not the Internet? In that case, you can access lots of content or services from the hotspot operator, but need authentication (of payment or membership) to get to the Internet.

      And Mike said the element that wasn't working was the authentication system. So he could very well have accessed a support chat on the ground as part of a captive portal.

      We don't know whether he was chatting with a bot or a person, and if a bot, whether it was in the plane or the ground. Would have been fun for him to Turing the chat. My guess is human with a bad set of scripts.

      Reboot! Ha! Mike, you're lucky she didn't advise you to do the all-healing default customer support advice: "You will need to re-install Windows, then it should work."

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    PRMan, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 2:51pm

    Mike, you were talking to a bot

    I used to work at a company that installed LivePerson or some program named similarly to that.

    One of the "features" of LivePerson is that it could answer some number of problems all by itself with NO user interaction whatsoever. Then, the company would set thresholds to determine how many "poor quality" responses were necessary before having the program hand off support to a "supervisor", which was actually a "live person".

    Since then, every time I have tried a chat I have attempted to give it a Turing Test to see if it is actually a person or a bot.

    In every case, it's been a bot.

    The reason "Timmy" insists on being called "Timmy" in the third person throughout the conversation is that it immediately tells Timmy whether it is a live person helping him, because no bot scripting program would understand that.

    I usually used something like, "Where are you located?" "What's the weather like there?" Amazingly some bots would lie and list an actual location. But they never got the weather one right (a couple responded, but a quick weather search online proved them to be lying bots).

    The other trick is to get them into an endless loop where they keep giving you the same response over and over. A real person would not type the same thing 7 or more times in a row no matter how many times you asked or what the script looked like, but bots will continue to happily answer the same thing 50 times or more, infinite really.

    Think about it. YOU HAD NO CONNECTIVITY TO THE GROUND. Not no connectivity to the ground except our chat program, which works just fine, too bad we didn't use that technology for the rest of the traffic.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    RD, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 3:04pm

    Why?? Silly human....

    "Aha, so it really is a problem with their system, and not my own, but why couldn't they have just explained that problem initially so that I understood?"

    Why? You should already know why.

    It is NEVER EVER the fault of the ISP....its always YOUR fault, a problem somewhere else, a problem with the area, etc.

    The mantra for big business these days, particularly customer or technical support, is to never, under any circumstances, admit fault, error, or ESPECIALLY accept any responsibility for anything. Ever.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jun 10th, 2009 @ 3:37pm

    Church Likes Jonathan

    Jonathan should get a raise.

    Seriously, this is the kind of thing that will get Church to check out Zappos.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 11th, 2009 @ 6:54pm

      Re: Church Likes Jonathan

      Jonathan is standard for Zappos. Been a customer for years. Awesome service, awesome return policy.

      Test them out. If you're thinking about buying shoes, call up zappos, and just ask them a random question, like "Why should I buy shoes from you?" Follow it up with something really random, like "Can't I just get hand-me-down shoes from my brother, or win them in a bumfight?"

      See how they handle that. Seriously, don't even buy anything, just test them out.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 3:42pm

    you were talking to a bot.


    I went through it with T-mobile customer service, and while I was very tempted to see how sound the system is and abuse it, I had already been trying to get my solution solved for an hour and was in no mood at 2am to exacerbate the program to take any longer.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    CrushU, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 3:58pm

    Hm..

    I work tech support right now (yes yes, pity me... Actually it's not that bad a gig) and I am given no script beyond a standard greeting and the infamous 'Anything else?' at the end.

    Because of this we have a good bit of liberty in how we solve problems... Paid decently, but you have to be able to think quickly to do well.

    We are also graded based on how many people had to call in again with the same problem, with how many calls taken being listed alot lower on the priority.

    All in all, if I had to call in to where I work for support, I know I'd get good service.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    jd, Jun 10th, 2009 @ 6:51pm

    The WiFi customer service was not very good. But is the Zappos customer service viable long term? It's already quite clear that Zappos' cost structure doesn't lend itself to profits.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 11th, 2009 @ 9:48am

      Re:

      The WiFi customer service was not very good. But is the Zappos customer service viable long term? It's already quite clear that Zappos' cost structure doesn't lend itself to profits.

      Have you seen how well the company is doing?

      I'd argue that Zappos cost structure does lend itself quite well to profits by making its customers happy so they are willing to spend more with Zappos.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), Jun 11th, 2009 @ 6:58pm

      Re:

      What? Zappos is doing very well, and is now expanding into other lines of clothes. Hoping to take the "Excellent customer service" model and apply it across more sectors.

      For Zappos, it's not about shaving 3 minutes of each call, and thus 13% cost savings. It's about building a long-term relationship with customers. Is that sustainable? Hell, yes. It's all about sustainability.

      What we should be asking is: is it sustainable to treat your customers terribly on the phones, failing to provide solutions, and seeming like a bot, whether you are one or not.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Mr RC (profile), Jun 11th, 2009 @ 1:16am

    Customer Service

    I worked in Customer Service for a mobile phone company in the UK, it was awful! I really felt bad for a lot of our callers, we had set scripts and time limits, regardless of the problem.

    Not only did we have to keep track of our times, to qualify for a bonus, you also had to pass 'Quality' with a 90% or better..

    Needless to say, very few people got their bonus, and rarely for consecutive months. How can you be expected to be upbeat and friendly, when you were expected to have an average monthly call time of less than 2 minutes, with 90% quality, considering you were penalized for 'rushing' ... penalized if you deviated from the script by even one word ... penalized because the customer ended the call unsatisfied (mind you, if they were looking for tech support and called billing, you were still penalized for an unsatisfied customer).. penalized because you asked a customer to step out of the nightclub or into the bathroom so you can actually hear what they are screaming at you after 5 minutes of "I'm sorry, could you repeat that? I couldn't hear you.. " (remember the 2 minute average call time)
    I wish I had worked for that company Zappos.. I didn't mind talking to people... including the incredibly stupid (and boy did I come across a LOT of those) .. but you do need to have the time... and the script really doesn't cover every situation...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Grae (profile), Jun 11th, 2009 @ 10:52am

    This reminds me of the Gangsta GM in World of Warcraft.

    (an actual support ticket submitted)
    Customer Support | Your Current Question:
    yo yo brother wat it do wat it do. im here to rat on Sevilysia this foo be harrasing the great {Gladiator Frostio} Sevilysia be saying that Frostio be making a Premade Alterac Valley which aint true dog and hella heads be messaging frostio for an invite. That aint right ya heard? That be harassment.
    (the conversation between the player and GM)
    Glycen: Yo, yo, this be Game Master Glycen. So I read this phat ticket about some foo named Sevilysia, you got some time to rap about this?
    Frostio: fo sho play fo sho
    Glycen: Word, how you been playa?
    Frostio: chillin gotta get the honor playa nah mean?
    Glycen: Oh I hear ya!
    Glycen: So tell me about this playa Sevilysia.
    Frostio: this playa be posting in trade channel that frostio be making a premade
    Frostio: advertising that he be 26-0
    Frostio: and he be needing more heads for av
    Glycen: That ain't right yo.
    Fostio: but that aint even true playa he just be jealous because he aint gladiator
    Glycen: I hear ya, I tell ya what I do. I'll make it do what it do and look into this playa. That just ain't right ya know?
    Frostio: i feel ya bro we gots to get rid of this cat ruining our street cred u feel me?
    Glycen: Word brotha.
    Glycen: So you want something or can I be getting myself out of this joint?
    Frostio: good looking out dawg. well daym playa if you can make it out here and strike a pose with me that would be sick but I know you gots other cats you gotta bust a cap on.
    Glycen: Nah bro if I could show ya I would hit ya up but there are other playas out there. I gotta help my peeps ya feel?
    Frostio: right on playa ill let you hit up some other foos with their 99 problems u feel me?
    Glycen: Word up. Peace out yo.
    Frostio: aight playa im out 2 gotta bust a cap on Drek'Thar
    Glycen: Cap that Drek'Thar! But yo if you think I did a good job slap an email and my higher brother about it. Shoot this foo an e-mail to: [wowgmfeedback-us@blizzard.com]. I'm out.
    For anyone unfamiliar with World of Warcraft, the gist of it is that one player(Sevilysia) is advertising that another player(Frostio) is looking for more people for a huge player vs player battle, when he's not. Effectively tricking others into spamming Frostio in game.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    ShelleyDelayne, Jun 12th, 2009 @ 9:18am

    Customer Service Fail.

    Zappos is completely awesome. I have bought many shooz from them, partly because they are always HUMAN to deal with.

    Can we get them to teach Costco a lesson?
    A tragi-comic descent into customer service hell:
    http://timastor.blogspot.com/2009/06/costco-story.html

    (And I, and some friends are trying to spread this story around enough to get Tim an apology. Any assistance in that endeavor appreciated. He is a nice guy and a d*mn funny writer, and no company should ever accuse a customer of being a terrorist for trying to return a defective product! Seriously.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Live chat support, Oct 30th, 2010 @ 10:16pm

    Need complete transcript

    Hello,

    I read this transcript about an year ago, and at that time I was working in an outsourcing agency who provide customer service solutions so I distributed it to everyone to read and everyone was impressed.

    now I own my own company and I need the full transcript again.
    The original link for the Sitelead forum whhich had this link takes me to some sporting goods site, its not taking me to the original transcript page.

    Please provide me with the link for the original post, in which teh author had posted complete conversion.


    Regards
    Manohar

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Jonathan, Nov 6th, 2010 @ 7:11pm

    Randomly checking in ;-)

    Aw, Todd's blog is gone. I'd say I owe the man a drink. :-/
    I dug up the transcript for those who are interested. Enjoy! Also, it's in Tony Hsieh's book, Delivering Happiness. http://deliveringhappinessbook.com


    Jonathan: Hello Timmy. How can I help you?

    Timmy: do you know how wide the G-Shock Atomic Solar AWG101 SKU #7403774 is?

    Timmy: i mean, how big a wrist it would fit?

    Timmy: Timmy has a big fat wrist

    Timmy: Timmy need watch grande

    Jonathan: I ll see what I can find out for Timmy.

    Timmy: awesome. and can we please continue to talk about Timmy in the 3rd person? Timmy likes to boost Timmy s ego by talking about Timmy that way

    Jonathan: Jonathan would be happy to neglect the use of pronouns for the duration of this conversation.

    Timmy: Jonathan and Timmy shall get along just fine

    Jonathan: Will Timmy be able to measure Timmy s wrist?

    Timmy: Timmy s wrist is big, but not Biggie-Smalls big. Timmy doesn’t have the required measurement instruments.

    Timmy: Timmy is 6’ 4’ 220lbs if that helps Jonathan

    Jonathan: Luckily, that is roughly the size of Jonathan’s brother, so that does help.

    Jonathan: Jonathan thinks that this watch will work out well for Timmy. The watch’s circumference is 9 inches, so it will probably fit around Timmy s wrist.

    Timmy: Ok cool

    Timmy: Do your watches and stuff have free return shipping like your Zapatos?

    Timmy: in case Timmy wants another one or something

    Jonathan: And if it does’ t work out, as long as the watch is in its original condition and in the original packaging, Timmy has 365 days to return Timmy’s order. We will even pay for the return shipping! As always, our shipping to Timmy will be free.

    Timmy: Timmy thanks Jonathan for good help

    Jonathan: Jonathan welcomes Timmy.

    Jonathan: It’s Jonathan s pleasure!

    Jonathan: Can Jonathan do anything more for Timmy?

    Timmy: no that is all timmy needs

    Timmy: timmy happy

    Jonathan: Good. Does Timmy have an account set up with Zappos yet?

    Jonathan: Jonathan will upgrade Timmy’s account.

    Timmy: yes timmy is repeat shopper

    Timmy: but Timmy is my alter ego and not my actual name

    Jonathan: Well, what is Timmy’s email address? I’ll hook you up.

    Timmy: Timmy has placed orders using txxxxxx@gmail.com in the past

    Jonathan: Alright TODD!

    Jonathan: :)

    Jonathan: I m going to upgrade your account to VIP status! This will ensure that all future orders go out with 1-business day shipping free of charge!

    Just place your future orders at http://vip.zappos.com.

    Timmy: Timmy Likey!

    Jonathan: Good. Good…

    Jonathan: Let Jonathan know if there is anything else that Jonathan can do for Timmy.

    Timmy: Ok, Timmy ok now. Timmy time to go shopping!

    Jonathan: Have fun!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This