What Is Great Customer Service? The 2 Key Elements

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Delivering Happiness" by Tony Hsieh. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is great customer service? What should you do to encourage effective customer service in your business?

A customer’s emotional experience can determine whether or not they will return to your business. In Delivering Happiness, Zappos’s former CEO Tony Hsieh describes the importance of great customer service and how his employees achieved it.

Learn more about what great customer service is and the steps you can take to ensure your customer will have a positive experience.

What Is Great Customer Service?

According to Hsieh, great customer service is being so supportive and adaptable in every customer interaction that you have a positive emotional impact on the customer. This positive emotional impact is the first step toward forming a healthy and profitable long-term relationship with that customer.

Why Is It Important?

Hsieh says providing good customer service is important because it increases the “lifetime value” of customers. This is the total revenue that a customer brings to the company throughout their life. If a customer only uses your service once, then their lifetime value is low. However, if you create an emotional connection through your customer service, your customers are more likely to return to your business and increase their lifetime value.

Moreover, encouraging a customer to return through great service can also improve another customer’s lifetime value, Hsieh adds. People who experience great service talk about their experience with others, generating word-of-mouth interest in your company. This interest channels more customers to your company, each of whom has their own lifetime value that you can increase.

How to Encourage Great Customer Service

If great customer service is so important to increasing the lifetime value of customers, how can you encourage it in your company? There are two main paths to great customer service that Hsieh discusses: making it a company-wide initiative and maintaining communication with customers.

1. Make It a Company-Wide Initiative

Hsieh believes that an important step in knowing what great customer service is and encouraging it is making it a company-wide initiative: in other words, making sure that every department knows that offering great customer service is part of your company’s brand. Let’s explore in detail how Hsieh implemented this principle at Zappos and why he believes it’s so important. 

Zappos makes customer service a company-wide initiative in two ways. First, every Zappos employee goes through four weeks of customer service training and two weeks working in its customer service call center, Hsieh explains. This includes everyone from lawyers to software developers. Most companies would view this as a waste of time and resources—why spend six weeks training and paying employees for a job they’re not being hired for?—but Zappos sees it as essential to the company’s success. If all employees are trained in customer service, they can all embody the principles of good customer service—such as attentiveness and politeness—in their interactions with customers, business partners, and the press.

Second, Zappos accepts extra costs across all departments to make its customers happier, Hsieh says. For example, Zappos surprises many of its customers by upgrading them to free 1-day shipping. This, combined with its 24-hour warehouse that ships any time of night, means that customers receive their packages as soon as possible. Even though paying for faster shipping and maintaining a warehouse 24/7 is expensive for the company, it considers its customers’ happiness as more important than the cost.

2. Maintain Communication With Customers

Another vital element of great customer service is maintaining communication with the customer. Positive communication improves relationships, and the closer the relationships you form with customers, the more likely they’ll be to return and increase their lifetime value. Communication is especially important for online stores, Hsieh emphasizes. When there’s no in-person contact between a customer and employee, prompt and helpful communication, over the phone or virtual, is the only way to form a positive relationship.

Thus, customers should never have to search for your company’s contact information, Hsieh states. If it’s difficult to contact your company, you’re telling customers that you don’t want to communicate with them or form relationships.

What Is Great Customer Service? The 2 Key Elements

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Tony Hsieh's "Delivering Happiness" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Delivering Happiness summary:

  • Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh's guide to workplace happiness
  • The three principles that turned Zappos into a billion-dollar company in a decade
  • An exploration of the psychology behind happiness and why it leads to success

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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