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What the 10 Hour Zappos Call Teaches Us About Contact Center Metrics

Have you ever stayed on the phone with a customer for ten hours? Steven Weinstein of Zappos did.

By now, you’ve probably heard the story. Steven’s lengthy call is so compelling because it’s starkly opposite to the efficient approach a majority of contact center managers advocate. In a time when organizational executives expect the contact center to answer countless customer calls as quickly possible, and with as few resources as possible, it’s impressive to witness such boldness.  

What motivated Steven to devote so much time to one customer, and how does his customer service philosophy impact Zappos customers?  We had the chance to chat with Steven, and you’ll find his answers below!

If you’re interested in hearing the customer service success secrets of other leading brands like OpenTable and Wells Fargo, join us at Contact Center Demo and Conference. You can download the full program for all the details.  

Steven Weinstein, Zappos customer service

Q:  What does customer satisfaction mean to you?

Steven: By the time the call ends, the customer should be perfectly satisfied. I should have done something they weren’t expecting - It's that WOW factor Zappos looks for. Also, making sure that I listen to exactly what the customer is calling for and proactively provide solutions. Customer satisfaction means that when the customer hangs up the phone they can't believe what Zappos has done for them and they are beyond satisfied. When this happens, I’m subtly inviting customers to come back again and again.

Q: What motivated you to stay on the line with a customer for more than 10 hours?

Steven: The customer and I had an amazing connection and the call flow was seemingly effortless. At one point, I looked at the time and it felt like we had only been on the phone for 2-3 hours even though it had been much, much longer! Also, the customer and I were having fun. We were having such a great time that I couldn’t think of any reason to end the call. Furthermore, I had never spoken to this customer before and I felt like we knew each other forever!

Q: In your opinion, what’s the best way to interpret and use customer feedback to improve the customer experience?

Steven: The best way is to listen to the customer and then implement what they are saying. I immediately put myself in the customers’ shoes and quickly come up with a solution to turn the experience around and ensure the customer is pleased. My best advice? Always listen to the customer and never argue.

Q: Average handle/contact time is a commonly tracked contact center metric. How do you think this impacts the customer experience? Which metric or metrics do you think are important?

Steven: Focusing on handle time impacts the customer in an extremely negative way and it tells them they are just a number, not a person. In fact, one call center offered me a job years ago - and they told me their policy is to wrap up all calls in 4-6 minutes. I said OK, but what if the customer is still talking - do you just hang up on the customer? Even worse, what if you haven’t provided a solution for the problem that the customer originally called in for? Then the customer will become angry and increasingly dissatisfied, and they’ll probably tell their friends about how terrible the experience was – it’s a whole chain reaction. In my opinion, the metric that actually matters is the percentage of WOWs.  The number of customers who can't wait to place another order with Zappos.

Q:  What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to a new call center agent?

Steven: Actively listen, listen, listen to the customer and then pause, think fast, and deliver a solution that will WOW the customer. Guarantee that they are delighted. There’s always a way to go above and beyond. (Did I mention how important it is to listen?)

How does your organization wow customers? What advice would you offer a new contact center agent? Tell us in the comments below!