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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

On Encounter #2, Zappos Delivers. Early.

I wrote in a past post that my first Zappos service encounter, while good, didn’t exceed any sort of expectations I had going in. Having heard so much about their corporate culture and noting the cult-like service following they’ve developed, I engaged the initial experience with heightened expectations that would have been very difficult to surpass.

While they didn’t “wow” me, they did offer an experience that scored high on some service quality dimensions – a user-empathetic experience that was easy to interact with, name brands backed by good prices assuring the overall value, and most of all, reliably delivering on their promise.

It wasn’t enough to get me to sing their praises the way others do, but it was enough to turn me into a repeat customer and give them another chance to make me an outspoken advocate. Of course, the second service encounter began with expectations reduced at least a little by the first.

This time, they exceeded those expectations.

I made a fairly routine purchase, replacing the wallet I lost while on vacation a few weeks previous.

After receiving the usual order confirmation email, I quickly received another email from Zappos. Usually when this happens with an online retailer, someone is telling me that the item I ordered is out-of-stock and resetting expectations for when my purchase will arrive.

In this case, however, Zappos was informing me that the shipping on my product would be upgraded to expedited, free of charge.

I know that my service upgrade was an opportunistic move for them. It came at no additional charge (depending on fulfillment costs, potentially even a savings) to them. Still, the consideration that goes into evaluating the service promise and committing more than was asked is worth noting. It knowingly creates a potential dissatisfier if the commitment is unable to be kept, but also builds in the customer the sense that Zappos is empathetic to customer desires, responsive in finding and executing on opportunities to surpass their commitment and is confident in their reliability to perform.

For encounter #2, not only did Zappos retain a repeat customer, they also created someone willing to advocate their commitment to service.

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