Usually, when a prominent company has been in the news as often as Zappos seems to have been the past few years, it’s not for a notably great reason. Recently, the online shoe retailer has once again made headlines for changing up the entire structure of their company, doing away with all managerial titles and giving every employee equal status within the company. It’s a revolutionary business design to be sure, but even before taking this enormous leap into rarely charted territories, Zappos had already been experimenting with newfangled ways of handling an otherwise rather static department of business: customer service.

Customer Loyalty…priceless

Zappos’ customer relations department is known for going to great lengths to exceed consumer expectations, no matter the cost to the company. There are cases of representatives physically going into rival shoe stores to retrieve a specific pair of shoes for a customer after their own company had run out of stock. In one rather endearing story, the company overnighted a new pair of shoes for free to a best-man when it looked like his original order wouldn’t arrive in time for a wedding. Despite the fact that it was actually the delivery company’s mix up that had caused the delay, Zappos decided to take it upon themselves to help the man out, much to the wedding party’s surprise and delight. Back in 2011, the online retailer even paid all the tolls on the Massachusetts Turnpike for Thanksgiving, merely in the name of spreading holiday cheer (and goodwill toward their brand, of course).

When it comes to customer service super stars, Zappos is clearly a reigning champion. But what’s their secret? How is it possible for an online shoe retailer to find a way to bring so much joy to their customers (and, apparently, turnpike users in Northeastern states)?

All in the Family

Well, to start things off, the business sends every one of its new hires through four weeks of training to ensure they are fully immersed in the Zappos lifestyle. The brand is more than a company; it’s a family. And because over-the-top customer service is a key component of the brand, each member of their 500-strong customer service team receives an additional three weeks of instruction, ensuring they are properly prepared to take on the task of keeping their customers satisfied. Unlike a lot of companies, which hold their employees to strict rules regarding what they can and cannot do to help a customer (and often make them go through numerous channels of approval to even simply correct an order), Zappos gives their representatives broad leeway to choose the best way to aid customers at their own discretion. And that results in some pretty amazing stories of gratitude.

Empowered Employees…No, Really! 

As an example, here are two more particularly endearing accounts from customers who are certain to be fans for life:

In one heart-wrenching tale, a woman by the name of Zaz had been planning to return a pair of shoes, but her mother passed away before she had the chance and naturally, she became quite busy. One week, she received an email from the company asking about the return, as they had been expecting its arrival. Unwilling to deal with trite matters at this moment, she replied briefly that she had just lost her mother and would get the shoes back to them as soon as she could. But after hearing the news, one representative took it upon themselves to arrange for the shoe pick-up, so Zaz wouldn’t have to do it herself. Zaz was incredibly touched by this gesture, so imagine her surprise the next day when (in her own words), “I came home from town, [and] 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.”

In a similarly sweet gesture, Zappos also sent a huge bouquet of flowers to a customer after learning she had been through a particularly rough foot surgery and was having a hard time finding shoes that would accommodate the operation. They also upgraded her to VIP membership, so she would no longer have to pay shipping fees, and could try out as many pairs as her fragile feet might need.

The Customer Service Revolution

How’s that for customer service! It is clear that Zappos consistently goes above and beyond to treat their customers to personalized, friendly, and outstanding service. The crewmembers have truly taken to heart the idea of treating customers the way they themselves would like to be treated. Who knew a simple shoe company would be capable of bringing so much joy and comfort to their customer’s lives? So, next time you’re struggling to figure out who to turn to your time of need, remember: you can surely count on at least one friendly online shoe retailer to have your back.