This weekend I watched a piece on Zappos.com on CBS Sunday Morning. For anyone unfamiliar with Zappos and their young CEO Tony Hsieh, spend some time on Google. Hsieh is a popular keynote speak and his company has become well known for leading the pack in two key areas: customer service and employee engagement. As you’ll see when you watch the piece, the two are intrinsically entwined.

At Zappos.com, employees are empowered to provide exemplary customer service-no matter how long or what it takes. No customer should leave feeling let down by their experience with their customer service representative, ever, and thus, hopefully no customer will leave Zappos feeling let down if there was something that could have been done.

Employee engagement allows the customer loyalty team (Zappos’ term, not mine), and thus each individual employee, to feel empowered and like they matter. Their queue times are not measured. Customer service reps have been known to stay on the phone for an hour or more with customers. They can give things away like free shoes. They will look on competitors’ sites for the desired product if they don’t carry it. Employees are empowered. As I’ve discussed in other posts, employee engagement and empowerment drives productivity and loyalty far more (in most jobs) than financial rewards or punishments.

With 25% of companies polled investing heavily in customer service during this down economy, it is clear that one of the easiest things to do to stand out is to please your customers-at all costs. Surprise them. Call them. Build relationships with them. Tony Hsieh has a new book out, Delivering Happiness, which outlines many more of the companies customer service and employee engagement strategies.

Now imagine calling a customer loyalty team member and knowing, up front, that they will do whatever it takes, no matter how long it takes, to make YOU happy. Is this how you are doing business?

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by Steven Schlagel