Surprise Your Customers

I have a subscription to National Geographic Adventure magazine, the photos in it kick ass and I also enjoy dreaming of running off to the bizzare destinations they write about. Anyway, about a month ago I came across a brightly colored full page add for a web site called Zappos. After visiting the site and looking around a little I determined that it was just another online shoe store and moved on.

Recently however, I have been on an exercise kick and decided to give running a try. When I was doing my weekly shopping this weekend I decided to look at new sneakers while I was out. I don’t enjoy shopping, almost as much as I don’t enjoy dealing with sales people… so I didn’t look very hard. When I got home I decided to do some research for sneakers online (or as I like to call it the “no salesperson zone”) and found myself at Zappos once again. On their site they talk about great customer service and how they have free shipping and a 365 day return policy, etc. With that in mind, I decided to try an experiment and buy a pair of shoes online using using their store.

I made the purchase earlier today (on a Sunday) and chose free shipping which meant it would arrive in 4 or 5 business days. Boy was I surprised when I checked my e-mail just now (on the same Sunday) and had received a message from Zappos telling me my order had been given a special priority status and the shipping had been upgraded at no cost to me so I will have my sneakers sooner than expected. Now I know this is probably something they do to all of their new customers to make a good first impression but still… how cool is that?

Whether you like it or not we currently live in the age of customer service. All the products and providers are starting to look more and more similar so the only place left to gain any ground at all is in customer service. Upgrading the shipping of my order didn’t cost Zappos much money at all but it certainly was a pleasant surprise to me. Whether the shoes fit or not isn’t Zappos’ problem; different brands fit differently, I could have selected the wrong size, etc. But, unless the shoes show up in shreds or I receive the wrong ones Zappos has certainly differentiated themselves from other online retailers I have done business with.

I think this is a great example of quality customer service. We are so used to getting treated like crap by companies when you call their support number or when you try to correct an error with something you purchased that when a company does something unexpected it’s a breath of fresh air. Not only will you likely shop with that company again but you will probably tell your friends about your experience which is great news for the retailer.

How can you surprise your customers? Take a look at your products or services this week and see how you can stand out from the pack and do something unexpected for your customers. Try some experiements of your own and let me know how you make out.