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Nov 20 2013

Five Lessons Product Developers Can Learn From Zappos


Imagine if users raved about your app. If they just couldn’t wait to come back and use it again.

To me, that’s how it feels to be a Zappos customer. The company continues to wow me.

And I know I’m not the only one.

Founder Tony Hsieh says the key to that success is the company’s religious devotion to customer service, and nearly all of us who’ve done business with Zappos would probably agree.

But it’s not just devotion itself; it’s the strategic execution of that devotion that makes almost every single customer experience an overwhelmingly positive one and drives customers to return over and over again.

As product developers, we all want our apps to be as irresistible as Zappos’. For users to keep coming back, and continue to engage deeply with our products.

There are many parallels between incredible customer service and incredible product experience, and we can all learn a few lessons from Zappos’ masterful approach.

Lesson One: Surprise and Delight Your Users

Zappos has a habit of surprising customers by upgrading their orders to free overnight shipping. What surprises can you add to your app that will go above and beyond your users’ expectations? Sure, you could give away free upgrades or gifts, but surprise and delight can be as simple as a funny error message Tip: Search kualo.co.uk/404.

Lesson Two: Be Consistent Across Every Channel

Whether you get in touch with Zappos via phone, email, live chat, or social media, you’ll get the same great service. Customers know to expect that, and they don’t hesitate to reach out. You can create the same seamless consistency through responsive design of your app. Why bother delivering a great UX on the web if your mobile users are going to be disappointed? The barrier to entry for responsive design is not high, and there’s simply no excuse for cross-channel inconsistency.

Lesson Three: Track The Right Metrics

Zappos has only one time-related success metric for its call center employees: every call should be answered within 20 seconds. Beyond that, employees are never evaluated on the duration of a call, but rather by customer satisfaction. Similarly in the app world, time-on-site is rarely a meaningful metric unless you’re selling ads. Instead, track whether you’re actually solving your users’ problems. This is much more effectively done with action-based metrics than temporal ones.

Lesson Four: Create A Personalized Experience

When you speak to a Zappos customer support agent, you feel as though you’re speaking to a friend. It’s personal, as though Zappos built the call center just for you. Customers are trained to expect this, and it’s part of the reason why they’re more than happy to call. You can do the same in your app by ensuring that each user gets a personalized experience. Make the UI dynamic based on their past behavior. Or for a simpler hack, simply try using their name. Make your app feel like it’s theirs.

Lesson Five: Put Your Users First

Zappos doesn’t consider itself a clothing company, but a service company that happens to sell clothing, shoes, and more. Your company doesn’t build an app. Your company solves a problem for your users. If you love solving problems for your users more than you love your company, you’ll change the way you think about your business and be empowered to grow by creating more value for your customers, rather than by getting more value out of your customers.

My challenge to you: by tomorrow (that’s how long it would take to get a pair of shoes from Zappos if you ordered them right now), think about how you can apply just one of these lessons to your app.

And then, deliver.

— Nick (@kishfy)

Nick Kishfy