If you are the CEO of a company should you make it easy for your
customers to reach you or should you make it as difficult as possible?
The answer…it depends.
If you and your company specialize in happy customers (like Zappos) then you have nothing to fear. If your company is part of the axis of misery
(banks, cell phone providers and airlines) then in order to get your
important CEO work done you have to make it as difficult as possible
for your customers to reach you (just try to find a way to reach Ralph
de la Vega, AT&T Wireless’ CEO).
So here’s my question…if you are having to avoid your customers…what does that say about your company?
Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos)
started following me on Twitter…just because I was a customer who had
blogged about the company. I gauranty you if I had a problem, not only
would he want to know about it, he’d get it fixed right away.
I have a problem with AT&T
(a company I would love to be able to rave about because of their relationship with Apple) and
its virtually impossible for me to find someone who cares let alone
someone with the authority to actually fix my problem.
Ralph de la Vega and the AT&T Wireless executives would do well to study Zappos Core Value #6: "Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication."
If you find yourself doing everything you can to build an impenetrable wall between you and your customers maybe you need to ask
yourself why…and if you’re the CEO maybe, just maybe you could do
something to change it.
P.S. If you’re trying to reach the folks who care at AT&T…skip customer service and go straight here:
The phone numbers for AT&T Wireless office of the president are:
Eastern States 877-707-6220
Western States 800-498-1912
4 thoughts on “Why We Love Zappos and Hate AT&T (or Tony Hsieh vs. Ralph de la Vega)”
Zappos CEO is approachable – that is where we start recommending the man, then the company…. Think Branson.
Since working for a man such as Tony, I have asked many of the people that I have had the displeasures of having to talk with, “Why they couldn’t become as dedicated to their customers, as Zappos is to theirs, or just why couldn’t I at least speak to someone that can speak my language a little more pronounced than someone that has had a quick English lesson on only how to say the things that they are taught to say. (and that is only if you can get through the 15 to 20 minutes of press this # and then that # and then this…..) Thank you, Tony, for giving me a place to work that I can say “We still believe we should do our best to make sure that our customers are treated with respect from their own countrymen”. Why can’t all these other companies follow suit and see that the money will pay off in the long run, in more than the greedy CEO’s lined pockets.
Maybe a CEO should be made accountable for the actions or inactions of his staff. Surely Zappos gets good press for it’s customer relations. But that is just one end of that animal. Truth be known customer relations is job. Written words designed to “dress” a company. Zappos does many of the same “Walmart-esk” type practices that are driving this country into oblivion. They push the Cheapest clearance products from a plethora sources. They ignore Trademarks in thier webads and siphon traffic from other sites using ghost websites and other less than professional means. I know up to this point you must think I am a stuffy old crank just ranting so here is an example. in March of 2009 Zappos ran paid ads on yahoo with the Keywords “Rainbow Sandals”. This action drove traffic away from rainbowsandals.com and forced Rainbow sandals to have to pay for advertsing on yahoo and register a complaint at yahoo. Zappos does not even sell Rainbow Sandals. Zappos did this to undercut a well established company that is very big in the surf community, just to drive traffic. I wonder if thier CEO approved that. You can still see them doing the same thing at Google. Just put the search terms “Rainbow Sandals” in a google search and you will see a paid advertisement from Zappos. Google does not screen keywords so Rainbow will have little recourse. But at least the CEO of Zappos will tell Rainbow to pound sand with a smile on his face and use proper engrish. Let Zappos be judged in the public court of popular opinion and have to let some of those happy employees go and see how friendly they are about thier CEO then.
Guilt, in a manner of speaking.
AT&T knows their customer relations are poor and that their service doesn’t providing any extra “value” above what their competitors provide. So they approach every interaction with the customer defensively. They have nothing to gain, (you’ll still be locked into their contract tomorrow) and only everything to lose (you could break your contract and quit!)
Zappos (and Apple) on the other hand, don’t have anything to be ashamed of, because they know (not just feel, they KNOW) that they’re providing something unique and far above every expectation in their respective market. Furthermore, they want your repeat business.
Now here’s where it get’s tricky to follow: Wireless providers and airline’s don’t necessarily view the customer as having a choice in the matter. Through convoluted special agreemnets, deals, contracts, weird schedules, limited route availability they /strategically/ position themselves as being the ONLY game in town in whatever market they happen to be in. I.e., if you want to fly from Dallas to Dulles you have to take United. Oh, sure… there’s the “illusion” of alternatives, but who is honestly going to fly on NorthWest and pay either 5 times the United faire, -or- fly Delta, pay the same, but route through Atlanta adding 4 hours to your trip first? Those are my free-market choices? It’s a shell game! It’s a card-trick played between three different shills to make you *think* you’re getting a square deal. If you want an iPhone you’re stuck with AT&T, If you want the latest Android you have to go with Verizon. If you want unlimited everything for $59.00 you go to Sprint. If you want overseas operability you need T-Mobile.
Now I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and I don’t honestly believe the wireless carriers and airlines have colluded (lets face it, they utterly lack that level of coordination) but they’ve each settled into a sort of unique niche that attracts a certain customer base; and they do everything they can to “lock-in” that base.
Every once in a while, an Amazon, Apple, Virgin, SouthWest, Starbucks, or Zappos comes along and stands the status-quo on it’s head and the major players scramble to imitate the success; drive the upstarts out of business, and then return to business as usual.
But then, I’m a cynic.