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One of the coolest companies I’ve come across during my young career is Zappos (Zappos.com). As most of you know, Zappos sells great products and has a very user-friendly website,  but what sets Zappos apart is their amazing customer service.

Zappos ships items out the same day you place an order, which means you get your stuff the next day. If you ever  need to call Zappos the first thing you’ll notice is that somebody actually answers the phone, they’re friendly, and they speak fluent english! After you receive your order, if you don’t like the item for any reason you can send it back at no charge using the pre-paid postage provided in the box.

Simply put, Zappos has put the “customer service” back into customer service. I was so impressed with my Zappos experience that I wanted to learn more about the company. I wanted to find out how they’re able provide such amazing customer service when it seems like most online retailers have completely abandoned the concept (If you’ve ever tried to call eBay you know what I’m talking about!)

At first glance, Zappos is simply an online shoe retailer, but when you peel back the onion you realize they are much more than that. If you go to the company’s About Us page you can see what I mean.

“At Zappos.Com, Customer Service Is Everything. In Fact, It’s The Entire Company.”

Zappos just happens to sell shoes online, but their company is “powered” by customer service. The company’s CEO, Tony Hsieh, is obsessed with customer service and company culture. As a matter of fact, Hsieh decided to get involved with Zappos because he wanted to implement his philosophy that customer service and company culture are more important than anything else. As a successful, serial-entrepreneur, Tony realized early on that listening to customers and delivering what they want is critical. It seems simple, but its hard to implement and you have to stick to your guns because it’s time-consuming and expensive.

Hsieh refused to sacrifice long-term customer service for short-term gains in cost savings and growth. Instead of spending money on sales and marketing, Hsieh invested money in customer service and relied solely on word of mouth and viral marketing. How did that pay off? Well, since taking over as CEO, Hsieh grew merchandise sales from $1.6M in 2000 to over $1 billion in 2008 by focusing relentlessly on customer service. Then, last November, Amazon acquired Zappos for $1.2 billion. Tony personally made over $300 million from the transaction.

Next time you think about skimping on customer service and company culture, think about how you would spend $300 million.

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