business news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times this morning writes about how "customer service representatives, even on the best of days, typically field a lot of complaints - missing deliveries, unsatisfied customers and other gripes. But these days, with people grappling with financial insecurity, separation from their friends and family, and uncertainty, the tone has changed. Rather than viewing calls as a form of drudgery, some people seem to relish having a person on the other end of the line to talk with.

"Sensing the shifting need, and wanting to make use of customer service representatives whose call volume was down, Zappos, the online merchant best known for its shoes, in April revamped its customer service line: People could call just to chat — about their future travel plans, Netflix shows or anything on their minds.

"'Sure, we take orders and process returns, but we’re also great listeners,' Zappos said in a statement on its website.  'Searching for flour to try that homemade bread recipe? We’re happy to call around and find grocery stores stocked with what you need.'

"Brian Kalma, one of the Zappos employees who came up with the idea for the revamped customer service line, said the company’s use of Holacracy, a self-management system in which there are no managers and employees define their own jobs, had helped to create an environment where the idea could come to life."

The Times notes that Zappos even is considering adding to its customer service staff and extending the new service even as the nation's businesses reopen.

KC's View:

What a great concept - going above and beyond just selling stuff, and becoming a real and very human resource for customers.

It is, I think, the kind of things that can be transformational for a company - even one as accomplished and respected as Amazon-owned Zappos is.