A Six-Hour Love Connection

What can an Internet company teach us about old-fashioned call center support? A lot.


One of the most written about Internet companies these days is Zappos. But most of the coverage has little to do with its amazing technology, which allows customers like me to find a pair of size 9.5 M Lucchese cowboy boots in 30 different colors.

The buzz is about its call center, you know, the function so many dotcoms outsourced to cheaper overseas markets?

The July/August issue of the Harvard Business Review contains a first-person reflection by CEO Tony Hsieh about the evolution of Zappos’ call center strategy. According to Hsieh, “Looking at every one of our interactions through a branding lens instead of an expense-minimizing lens means that we run our call center very differently from others.”

How differently? Consider this: Its longest call on record lasted more than six hours! The shoe and accessories company doesn’t hold call reps responsible for call times. Rather, the company says, “If we handle the call well, we have an opportunity to create an emotional impact and a lasting memory.”

Why create an emotional connection with customers, or in your case, members? Zappos believes the lifetime value of a customer isn’t a fixed number; it is “something that can grow if we create positive emotional associations with our brand. To that end, most of our efforts at customer service actually happen after we’ve already made a sale.” For credit unions expanding their wallet share of existing members, this could be a lesson.

Although a six-hour support call might not be feasible for many credit unions, they must still recognize that call centers are the "heart of the organization." You can find several articles about call center strategies on CreditUnions.com, and we're pleased to host call center expert Kathleen Peterson from PowerHouse Consulting on a Callahan webinar, How to Build a Professional Contact Center. Check it out next Thursday, February 24.


Feb. 17, 2011



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