Friday, May 8, 2009

Who Pays Our Salary ?

Have you tried asking any one employed or in business, who pays your salary ? Well, you are likely to get answers like - " my company, my boss, my accounts department, my finance goes on and on. But how many will realize that, it is the " Customer " who pays our Salary! Profits for Entrepreneurs, Salary for Employees, Wages for Workers... the basic survival of an organization itself is at the mercy of customers.

In a period were terminologies like Globalization, Open Economy, CRM etc. was alien to people, Mahathma Gandhi had the wisdom to say, " A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work, he is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider to our business, he is a part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so ".

Today, when our economy is going through turbulent times, I guess its time for us to go back to the basics. Go back to doing those things that gave us success in the start-up days of our business. Strive to build strong relationships with customers and make them buy our products and services. But sometimes, we tend to get carried away with technology and forget basic principles of customer service and understanding of what customers really need which is indeed vital to a company’s success.

You buy a product or service, in two days its faulty, you call the aggressive Sales guy who convinced you to buy it. He gives you a recorded message, " please call our customer care number xxxxx " ! He will not even take the pain to ask what the complaint is. Sounds familiar ? We can't blame them, they are programmed like that by the companies.

We fail to realize that, our employees can be our ambassadors or our assassins. They need to consistently display behavior that can satisfy customers and even exceed their expectations at all times. Everything that our people say and do has an effect on whether our company will be able compete and win during this tough economy. I know it is easy to talk about the importance of customer service and make employees accountable for that etc., but how do we practice it ?

Well, let me take you to the world of Zappos, the company which re-defined the word, customer service! Founded in 1999, is the biggest online Shoe store, with over $1 billion in sales. They have grown from zero to $1 billion in just 9.5 years! They have got over 7.5 million customers and interestingly, on any given day, 75% of sales come from repeat customers, and those repeat customers spend much more than the first time buyers! The majority of sales happens through word of mouth.

Zappos offers customers a huge selection- more than four million pairs of shoes (and other items such as handbags, apparel etc.). What makes them unique is, they offers free delivery and free returns and if you don't like the shoes, you box them up and send them back to Zappos for no charge. They promises free, four-day delivery. Sounds good ? But most of the time they deliver it next-day, a surprise that leaves a lasting impression on customers: "You said four days, but I got them the next morning !"

Zappos are experts in handling telephone service- a black hole and nightmare for most companies. Zappos smart and entertaining call-center employees are free to do whatever it takes to make you happy. They work with no scripts, no time limits on calls, no robotic behavior, and plenty of legendary stories about Zappos and its customers you can read on the net. Zappos goes out of their way to make it easy for customers to do business with them like 24/7 1-800 toll free number, 365- days return policy etc.

Hundreds of touching customer experience stories about Zappos are available on the net and the most popular of it is from a blogger, Ms.Zaz Lammar. She ordered 7 pairs of shoes from Zappos for her mother who was sick. Once the goods arrived, out of 7 only 2 pairs fit. The rest were waiting to be returned. But unfortunately her mom got hospitalized and she being away, the shoes were never sent back. There’s a time limit on the return of shoes which is 15 days. When you do a return to Zappos, they pay the shipping, but you have to get the shoes to Courier company by yourself.

Sadly, Ms.Zaz lost her mother and once she got back home, she got an e-mail from Zappos asking about the shoes, since they hadn't received them. She replied that her mom had died but will send the shoes as soon as she could. They e-mailed her back that they had arranged with UPS to pick up the shoes.

Here is what happened after that in her own words - " Yesterday, when I came home from town, a florist delivery man was just leaving. It was a beautiful arrangement in a basket with white lilies and roses and carnations. Big and lush and fragrant. I opened the card, and it was from Zappos. I burst into tears. I'm a sucker for kindness, and if that isn't one of the nicest things I've ever had happen to me, I don't know what is. So…IF YOU BUY SHOES ONLINE, GET THEM FROM ZAPPOS."

But here's what makes Zappos even more interesting. As we know, the toughest job is answering phones and talking to customers to solve their complaints. When Zappos hires new employees, it provides a four-week training period that immerses them in the company's strategy, culture, and obsession with customers. During this period, People get paid their full salary.

Once the training is over, Zappos do something unique which they call as "The Offer." The company, after taking the pain to recruit and train, says to its newest employees: "If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you've worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus." Zappos actually bribes its new employees to quit! Surprised? Well they have a reason. They believe, if you're willing to take the company up on "The Offer", you obviously don't have the sense of commitment they are looking for.

Zappos today employs more than 1500 people. They know how important it is for every employee to feel like they have a stake in the culture. As a result, they have defined a set of core values that act as a formalized definition of company culture. Their core values weren't formed by a few people from senior management that sat around in a room at a company off site. Instead, they invited every employee at Zappos to participate in the process, and here are the core values that help to keep them focused on the right things:

1) Deliver "WOW" Through Service
2) Embrace and Drive Change
3) Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4) Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5) Pursue Growth and Learning
6) Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7) Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8) Do More With Less
9) Be Passionate and Determined
10) Be Humble

Zappos is interested only in employing people who truly care about their customers. If you ask Tony Hsieh the Zappos CEO or any Zappos employee for that matter - to describe the company, they would tell you that, " Zappos is a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes "! At Zappos, Customer care is not a department but a culture!

The success story of Zappos clearly tells us that, creating a great customer experience is about getting back to basics - simple human kindness. It also tells us, if we want our employees to treat our customers like stars, then we need to give our employees a little red-carpet treatment of their own.

Its time for us to realize that,our business wouldn't exist without the customers, and all it takes to win them over is thoughtfulness. We need to get that through our head and if we can win them over, they will will be our best advocates. Like Ms.Zaz, they'll tell everyone about their good experience, and our business will grow.

I think, if ever there was a time to engage and reach out to our customers, it’s now. When we do that, it will come through loud and clear that we do care about them. When they are ready to order, it will be from our company and not from our competitors. And once they order, we get paid - Yes Customer pays our salary !

Ready to serve our Pay Master ? Then lets go Zappos way!



Anonymous said...

Hi Shamim,

This is one of the best article I have across on Customer Care. Nice work, keep writing.


Anonymous said...

Excellent one sir. Great to know about Zappos. Thanks.
Mala, Pune

Anonymous said...

Dear Shamim,

An article conveying excellent message to both employer and employees in as much as employers should give training to their employees on customer care as a passion in pursuing the best organisational culture.

Thank you

Anonymous said...

Dear Shamim Sir,

Thanks to you for sharing this wonderful story and LESSON. You are right, its time that we go the Zappos way.


Satish Philip
Center Manager - e2Mars

Anonymous said...

Very good article. Very simple yet innovative yet practical way of customer service.


A.P. said...

"who pays our salary" was a very interesting truth when i came across it some years back.
What Zappos have done has indeed created a culture of sorts which can only come from -commitment, love, compassion and truth - all coming from heart. and i always say-to look at CRM - first look within yourself.its not a job, its ownership.
Arun Pahwa- 98108 32522 trainer - Noida-India.

Suresh said...

Hi Shamim,
Excellent article on customer care

Anonymous said...

very informative and inspiring customer care story. Can I have your email Id. Rupa shanker, chennai.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shamim,

I would say a fantastic out of the box thinking.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shamim,

I would say a fantastic out of the box thinking.



Anonymous said...

This is great, some companies can surely emualte.


Anonymous said...


Thanks for your grand wisdom. Lot of people do not realize that customers pay their salary. It is really a piece of great research carried out by you. World must be grateful for your hard work. What an outstanding contribution!!!


Anonymous said...

It is an excellent piece. Kudos!

Thank u

ravichandran b

Anonymous said...

Good work Mr.Shamim,
We can not any more neglet even a single customer irrespective of there value,
Nice article

Aishwarya Enterprises

Anonymous said...

That was an excellent article shamim.. Really interesting.. Zappos was indeed a new info for me. Neatly presented as well..

Good job..


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Hi Shamim, wonderful article. You have done your job, now it is time for us to do ours.

Thank you very much for sharing !!


Mumbai, India

Anonymous said...

Dear Rtn.Shamim

I am a Rotarian since 1991 and through out my life in rotary, I have not come across any one who is ready to share the knowledge and wisdom like you. I have gone through each & every article of yours and I should congratulate you for the topics you have chosen and the style of presentation. I see the future of rotary is safe in leaders like you. I am sure, rotary will recognize your contribution and you are truly an inspiring rotarian. Send me your e-mail id and contact no to We would like invite you to visit our district (3070) and enlighten the clubs here on the topics of your interest.

With best wishes
Rtn.K.P Singh

Anonymous said...

hey Shammi..gr8 article on customer service..very new info abt Zappos.i guess they follow a simple but powerful rule i.e, to always give people more than what they expect to get.its high time tat companies giv customer service that is not just the best, but legendary.


Anonymous said...

Hello Shamim,
That was a great article to read. Great.....

anindita said...

its really a mind opener towards customers and their worth.thanks for providing a new insight into this area.keep writing .

best wishes

Anonymous said...

it was great talking to you shamim..the article is really informative and as I told you, we will take it up as a case study in our team. Thanks for your guidance and please do keep in touch. Nisha, chennai.

Anonymous said...

This is an inspiring article on customer care and a good advertisement for Zappos too lol....

unus said...

Dear Shamim,
This is a very nice & thought provoking article on customer care ...

The philosophy of customer care is truly explined in this article .
Expecting more article ...

Unus Molla ,CEO
International Management Centre,
47F/1, Central Road ,
Jadavpur University , Calcutta-700 032
mob: 09331013523

Sadashiv A Borgaonkar said...

Read the article, read the comments also. Everyone appreciates. I too appreciate. Very good work. Please keep writing.


Sadashiv Borgaonkar,
Sr Manager - Organization Development,
Synergy Management Advsiors P Ltd.,

Anonymous said...

Hi Shamim,

An excellent article ! Keep writing.

K.V. Paulson

Tariq Magsi said...

MashAllah fantastic job what ever u did,
i ever found such sort of article any where else,,,,,,,