Online discount retailer Zulily recently caught the Internet's attention thanks to a heart-felt Facebook post from a very happy customer.
"I sincerely hope this post goes viral, because I just hung up from one of the best customer service experiences of my life," Kelly Blue Kinkel wrote in a Facebook post showing her packages from Zulily. Blue Kinkel called Zulily's customer service line to return a winter coat still in its package for a refund. The rep assured Blue Kinkel he would process her return "immediately" and, instead of giving her information on how she could return the coat back to Zulily, told her to pay it forward by donating the coat to charity.
"I honestly thought he was kidding," Blue Kinkel wrote on Facebook. "It took me a moment to realize he was completely serious, and then came the tears. I just don't know other companies that do this, do you? I thought Zulily was pretty incredible before, but after today, I'm a customer for LIFE."
Blue Kinkel got her wish: The post has gone viral, making Zulily a trending topic on Facebook and online. As of publication, the Facebook post has had more than 128,000 likes, 53,000 shares and 400 comments, highlighting the potential of customer service to build an army of brand ambassadors.
Customer Service That Goes Above and Beyond
Other small-business owners have made great customer service policies a priority. Along with accepting returns "no questions asked" within 30 days, "we always let the customer keep the product in question," says Roberta Perry of ScrubzBody Natural Skin Care Products. "If we shipped the wrong item or size, we ship the correct one and let them keep what they got. We did it before we even had a true policy in place, and our customers really respond well to that. I think it builds trust [and] loyalty. It helps in the buying decision because it removes the fear of buying from the initial sale. More importantly, it builds goodwill between the customer and ourselves, which brings us repeat sales."
"Customer service has always been an absolute priority for me in the creation of my business, and it has become increasingly more challenging as the integration of social media and business continues on at a fantastic pace," says Candice Galek, CEO and founder of Bikini Luxe. "That being said, it has also created a fantastic avenue to be seen and rated by not only our customers but their friends as well."
Galek has implemented a number of customer service protocols to allow her customers to share what they think about her company. There's a custom review app that lets customers review products and customer service, as well as share their reviews with friends on social media. Internal customer service staff keeps detailed notes on customers and rates them as well to give a pretty unique customer service experience.
"We have a discretionary fund that allows the reps to give not only discounts to good customers but gift cards as well," Galek says. "We follow this up with handwritten notes and sometimes, for our very best customers, a present in the mail. This is generally a gift that they did not order but we know that they have been looking at or have previously added to their cart."
Will Customers Take Advantage?
But can't this type of reward system be abused? "We have had customers pull all sorts of trickery," Galek admits. "Everything from claiming their bikinis were defective to doing chargebacks and keeping the swimwear. And then threatening to leave bad reviews if we do not break our own policies."
To help combat bad customers, Galek uses the review system to weed them out. "We give our customers three chances," she explain. "If they are rude, try to take advantage of our return/exchange programs and try to pull scams, we cancel their order and immediately refund their money. Then, depending on the situation, we may put them on our blacklist so that they will no longer be able to purchase from us anymore. While this may seem extreme to not want someone's business, I truly believe it is better all around for our team to just cut off the negativity of people like this.
"We have found that not only is the staff happier," she continues, "but our customers are happier as well. The rating system that we use has been a fantastic way for us to reward our best customers and cut out the bad ones, leading to more productivity in terms of less returns, and higher sales from happy customers and their friends who they refer."
And happy customers can lead to the kind of moments that go viral—or at least get one more person into your store or on your website.
Read more articles about customer feedback.