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Is Customer Service a Media Channel? Ask Zappos

Pete Blackshaw of AdAge speculates: Zappos is a game changer, and it found value — and ferocious word-of-mouth and brand advocacy — in a place most of us leave for dead and certainly don’t consider even close to being a media channel: customer service.

…Zappos on the other hand still feels like it is run by somebody who personally cares for its customers, a sort of mom-and-pop corner store that knows everybody on a first name basis.

Amazon has said it is purchasing Zappos for over $800,000,000. Why so high?

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Pete Blackshaw of AdAge speculates:

Zappos is a game changer, and it found value — and ferocious word-of-mouth and brand advocacy — in a place most of us leave for dead and certainly don’t consider even close to being a media channel: customer service. They took this “cost center” input and turned it into an unassailable asset, fortified by the founder-CEO’s sometimes “cult-like” (arguably irrational, by the typical marketing book) obsession with serving the consumer at all costs. It wasn’t flaky. He approached this with focus, discipline, real incentives and an obsession over a “different” set of numbers.

Zappos did this at a critical juncture for all of us. We know word-of-mouth matters. We suspect “advocacy” might be the metric that truly moves the needle. Even separate from the Amazon deal, Zappos probably did more to shape our collective mind-set around the importance of “paid” vs. “earned” media, and it titled us much toward the later.

[Click to continue reading Is Customer Service a Media Channel? Ask Zappos – Advertising Age – CMO Strategy]

At least for now, Zappos will still be an autonomous subsidiary, remain headquartered in Las Vegas, and maintain its same executive leadership.

I’ve been a long-time customer of both corporations for a long time, and if any of Zappos culture rubs off on Amazon, Amazon will be well served. Amazon is a fine company, but they are a faceless corporate behemoth, a Wal-Mart of the internet, selling a little bit of everything. Zappos on the other hand still feels like it is run by somebody who personally cares for its customers, a sort of mom-and-pop corner store that knows everybody on a first name basis. The kind of place that gives little Johnny candy when he goes by. Poor metaphor, bottom line, Zappos customer service is just spectacularly friendly in all interactions we have had with them.

Amazon, on the other hand, occasionally is bit Orwellian. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who upon hearing the news of the acquisition immediately twittered:so will Amazon steal into my house at night and reclaim shoes I’ve bought from Zappos.

I do hope Zappos maintains what it is that makes it Zappos.

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