I can’t believe Zappos.com did that!

You probably already know about Zappos’ legendary customer service. If you don’t, catch this recent Good News Guy column and my follow-up interview with Zappos Customer Service Director Rob Siefker.

And if there’s any doubt left, get a load of this.

Zappos.com happened to me. And it was a powerful reminder that good customer service is endemic to good companies. It’s the rule, not the exception.

Let me repeat that: It’s the rule. It happens every day.

Today’s story is all Zappos.com, but I credit Google’s incredible artificial intelligence and its loosey-goosey privacy policies. (And don’t get me wrong; in this particular instance, I am not complaining.)

I switched to an Android phone at the beginning of the year, about the same time as I needed to retire my well-loved, well-worn hiking pants. I’m a little particular about what I wear, and the Kühl Kontra Airs are perfect for me. They’re comfortable without looking too casual, and they travel well. Zappos.com had the best price I could find ($80 a pair) which is a lot less than what my local camping store charges. I ordered three pair of deep river blue Kontras.

A few days later the package arrived, and everything was in order. I opened it, tried on a pair, and was pleased with my purchase. I felt as if I’d gotten a decent deal from a reputable online merchant.

That’s where Google comes in. The AI on its phones is pretty remarkable. A few days after my purchase, my phone notified me that Zappos had lowered its price on the Kontras, from a reasonable $80 to $60 a pair.

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Google uses your browser search history to make an educated guess about what purchases you’re likely to make. It didn’t know I’d already purchased the pants, but close enough!

I thought about the endless debates we have on this site about travelers who discover lower airfares or hotel rates and then demand a refund. I didn’t want to be one of those people. In fact, I didn’t think I deserved anything.

Still, I called Zappos.

When you phone the company, it answers fast and doesn’t subject you to an endless phone tree. Points for that. I explained my situation to a representative.

“I realize I’ve already made my purchase,” I said. “But the pants are still in the box. Could I return them and then buy them at the sale price?”

If she’d said “no” then I would have probably let it go. I mean, sales happen. I missed this one by only a few days, but I still missed it. I got unlucky.

“Keep your pants,” the representative told me. “We’ll just just credit your card for $60.”

Seriously?

Yes, seriously.

Now, it’s possible that any number of other businesses, online or otherwise, would have done the same thing. But I’m relatively sure I would have had to do more arguing.

The cynics reading this will say, “They knew who you were, Chris. I mean, how hard is it to Google you?” Perhaps. But I kind of doubt it. I don’t think Zappos has the time or the inclination to keep a dossier on each of its customers, nor would it offer that kind of preferential treatment in order to curry positive media mention. That would also be inconsistent with our past coverage, which suggests every customer is equally important.

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Zappos did a good thing and turned me into a loyal customer in the process. Based on my own experience, this site’s coverage of Zappos and my knowledge of the company, I believe this kind of exceptional customer service is part of its corporate DNA. It isn’t so much the result of careful employee screening, training, team-building and effective leadership. Rather, it’s what Zappos is.

Maybe that’s one of the keys to offering terrific service. It’s not a new corporate mantra embraced by the executives in a corner office. It’s just what you do.

It’s definitely what Zappos.com does.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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