Michiel Gaasterland
Michiel Gaasterland
Chief Brand Officer
Jan 28, 2015

Should your E-Commerce store offer a WOW service experience to grow like Zappos?


At ROBIN we are 100% dedicated to offer our customers amazing support. It’s what we live for. It’s our vision, passion and strategy all rolled up in one. But hey, we’re a customer service software company. Our customers would expect nothing less than amazing support.

The shining customer service example in E-Commerce is Zappos. Their #1 core value is to deliver ‘WOW’ through service and they have build a multi-million dollar business out of it. It’s often advocated on marketing blogs that your E-Commerce store should also aspire to deliver ‘WOW’ through service to attain customer service nirvana - like Zappos did.

But is that the right advice? Should that be your customer service goal? Let’s take a closer look at 'customer delight’ and ask: is it marketing spin or a valid growth strategy?

In the beginning there was Zappos

Well, actually in the beginning there where shoes. Zappos started out in 1999 as an online shoe store with the aspiration to offer the best selection in brands, styles, colors and sizes. But - according to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh - they decided a long time ago that they didn’t want to be just about shoes. Instead their goal was to position the company as an online service leader.


At Zappos, we decided a long time ago that we didn't want our brand to be just about shoes, or clothing, or even online retailing. We decided that we wanted to build our brand to be about the very best customer service and the very best customer experience." - Tony Hsieh



Clearly, delivering WOW through service has worked for Zappos. They were sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion, they are regarded as the undisputed online service leader, and they have been able to expand into different product categories such as clothing, accessories, jewellery and more. Their strategy has worked!

But why has it worked?

It has worked for them because it was their strategic intent. Above all else, their goal was to become a customer service company. Not just an E-Commerce store. And they put their money where their mouth is. They engineered the right processes, deployed the right systems, trained and hired the right people ... all towards that one goal: to become an online service leader.

So is delivering WOW through service also a good growth strategy for mere mortal E-Commerce stores like yours?

Why are customers buying from your store?

Before we answer that question, let’s take a look at the nature of an E-Commerce business and the nature of customer service.

Here at ROBIN, we see E-Commerce stores coming in every day from different countries and different industries. That’s because we are fully focused on E-Commerce and our app is available in the app stores of e.g. Shopify, Bigcommerce, and Magento. Most of our customers work in customer service teams of between 3 and 20 people. Some of them even do it alone.

In our experience, what all these stores have in common is their passion for their product. Many of them sell unique products and want to build a sustainable brand based on that awesome product. Their products and brand are the reason people buy from them — not their exceptional customer service!

And that’s not just me saying that. Take a look at the pie chart below. The data comes from an ongoing Customer Contact Council study of more than 75.000 global customer service interactions. The research shows that customers buy from you because of your product or brand. They leave because of poor customer service.

People Loyalty

Customer delight: does it hurt?

Sending flowers, handwritten thank you cards cards, complimentary upgrades, unsolicited refunds, you name it. Zappos did it all. And look where it’s got them. The benefits are amazing: great positioning, free publicity, loyal customers, high retention, lots of positive word of mouth and they are having great fun while at it. What’s not to like?

The problem with it is that all these stunts are aimed at exceeding customer expectations. Zappos has made that work for themselves because that is their sole purpose in life.

However, for most other companies the biggest challenge is simply in meeting customer expectations! Check out the stat below: 80% of companies believe they deliver “superior” service, but only 8% of their customers agree! That is a massive gap!

Mind the Gap

Focus where you can win!

Unless you are a customer service expert and the goal for your online store is to become recognized by customers as THE ‘great customer service’ company in your niche, the most cost-effective use of your customer service is to actually prevent people from jumping ship. When a customer contacts you, they just want their problem solved as quickly as possible, that’s all. If you can do that, and stop them leaving, you are already winning.

Sure, any extras are nice to have for a customer, but the Customer Contact Council study shows that it won’t make people buy from you and it gets you exactly the same loyalty benefits if you just focus only on meeting their expectations.

To put it even stronger, the researchers found that telling customer service agents to focus on exceeding customer expectations is ‘apt to yield confusion, wasted time and effort, and costly giveaways’.


So what do customers expect from your customer service team?

What customers want can be summed up in two words: fast & easy. Check these two stats, both from the Customer Contact Council research:

  • Of customers who reported low effort, 94% expressed an intention to repurchase, and 88% said they would increase their spending. Only 1% said they would speak negatively about the company. Conversely, 81% of the customers who had a hard time solving their problems reported an intention to spread negative word of mouth.
  • 88% of all customers want their problem solved in one single interaction.

Based on these insights — and others — we defined the Three Principles of Great Customer Service. They set a clear ambition for your team, focus your own efforts in strategy and get you most bang for your buck! Here they are:

The Three Principles

How to grow your business through customer service

Customer service is a complex beast. It touches on many different aspects of your business; your people, your processes, tools, channels, the user experience of your website, and more.

So, especially for ambitious store owners who want to take their customer service to the next level and beat the competition, we wrote ‘The Definitive Guide to Customer Service for Online Stores’. The ROBIN guide helps you develop a manifesto, strategy and a customer service model to take care of the basics first.

One of the things the guide zooms in on is the use of live chat as a customer service channel. It offers you a roadmap that takes you from ‘I am getting flooded with support emails’ to ‘I am consistently having great conversations with my customers via live chat’.

For a brand like yours, having these fast, personal, real-time service interactions with your customers — via live chat — is the way to beat the competition, because:

  • Your competitors are looking the other way.
  • Customers are demanding it and are loving it.
  • It contributes to a more profitable E-Commerce store.

Check this post for facts and figures.


So is ‘customer delight’ just marketing spin or a valid growth strategy?

Well, for Zappos it clearly wasn’t marketing spin. But imho, in many other cases; it is. Exceeding customer expectations is not a great growth strategy. It doesn’t get you more sales, it doesn’t buy you loyalty, it’s not the best use of your time and you are not really helping your customers either.

You want to take charge of your customer service? Embrace live chat, work effectively and stick to the Three Principles of Great Customer Service. You just might ‘WOW’ customers in the process… as well as your finance manager and shareholders.

Bigcommerce, Business, Customer service, eCommerce, Live chat, Magento, Shopify, Delight, Loyalty, Zappos, Customer happiness


Recent posts