A Tale of Two Corporate Cultures

I followed two separate links on Twitter in the past week and found two radically different stories about customer service and corporate culture.

The first story tells of a young woman who has been working with the One Home Many Hopes charity supporting orphaned girls in Kenya. As she was preparing to go to Kenya to deliver clothes for the girls, she realized she’d be radically exceeding the baggage limits for the flight. Considering the purpose of her trip, she called the airline and asked if they could waive the excess baggage fees.

“Absolutely not,” was the answer she received. Not even to help clothe orphans in Kenya?

There’s a policy and no way around it. Her attempt to question the policy was met with, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” Apparently not.

In the other story a woman called Zappos to order shoes for a friend’s daughter. While stressing how important it was for them to arrive on time (before Christmas) Loren, the customer service representative, asked if everything was okay. She explained that her friend’s house had just burned down. (Take a look at the video – it’s pretty dramatic. And remember this is just days before Christmas.) Loren immediately offered to upgrade the package to overnight shipping and the woman was grateful. Imagine her surprise when she received a call from her friend saying that two boxes had arrived from Zappos – the shoes plus another box from the customer service department with clothes, presents and a gift certificate from Zappos.

The customer was so touched by this act of kindness that she created a video to thank the company, generating incredible word-of-mouth and additional goodwill. How great is that? Zappos didn’t have to produce anything saying how great their customer service is – their customers do it for them.

What’s even better to me is finding out that Loren didn’t need to get ten levels of approval or write a memo. The culture at Zappos is built around that kind of service and reacting as people to a situation rather than sticking to a script.

If you hire the right people and trust their judgment, you should be able to do the same. What kind of environment do you foster? And how do you think that makes your customers feel?

What amazing / horrible customer service have you experienced?

Lisa Crotty

Marketing Manager

Lisa is a Senior Optimization Specialist at Innate – her friends even teased that she A/B tested her name change. Lisa studied Philosophy of Science & Technology at Virginia Tech and is always asking why.

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