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The Numbers Zappos Looks At

home made call center phone strapped to unhappy looking manThe longstanding stereotype about Community Managers is that they sneak out of the room at the moment people start talking about “metrics” or “ROI”. Community Managers are focused on doing the qualitative – limiting frustration and increasing happiness in the community. Creating quantitative metrics from a qualitative activity is asking the left side of the brain to report on the right side’s progress.

It hasn’t helped that Zappos, the poster child of “love thy customer and thou shalt succeed”, is largely touted for not measuring call times. People latch on to stories about 6-hour support center calls and Zappos directing customers to other retailers if products are out of stock. The assumption seems to be is that Zappos is successful despite the fact that they don’t use support center metrics.

The fact of the matter is that Zappos does have very specific metrics at work in their customer service center. They’re just not as sexy as individual Zappos stories, so nobody seems to be talking about them.

Thomas Knoll and Attel Learson-Johnson, from Zappos and Zappos Insights respectively, gladly filled me in on their metrics, which are built with the opposite mindset of standard efficiency metrics like call time. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh says it best:

“We really don’t think that customer service is an expense that you should try to minimize, it’s really an investment in your brand. The telephone is one of the best branding devices out there. If you wow [customers] during that interaction, that’s something they’re going to remember for a very long time and tell their friends about.”

The Zappos Call Center Metrics

NetPromoter Score

zappos reps in front of a zappos signWhat it is:

  • Four questions asked to many customers after they interact with Zappos support (these are based off a widely-used metric)
  • Question 1: On a scale from 1 – 10, How likely would you be to recommend Zappos to a friend or family member?
  • Question 2: On a scale of 1-10 how likely would you be to request the person you spoke with again?
  • Question 3: On a scale of 1-10 how likely would you be to recommend this person to a friend or coworker?
  • Question 4: On a scale of 1-10, if you owned your own business, how likely would you be to try and hire the person you spoke with?

Why it works:

These scores focus on whether customer interactions have the potential to generate more revenue for Zappos instead of how much it’s costing them. These ratings are hard to game (unlike call time) so it forces employees to focus purely on customer happiness.

Full Circle Feedback

What it is:

  • Internal coaching on what to look for in a successful call
  • Supervisor sit-ins on calls and feedback sessions afterwards
  • Self-evaluation, where employees listen back to one of your old calls with your supervisor
  • Group sharing of great calls

Why it works:

This process looks at the qualitative element of support. It’s not really a metric, but Atrell emphasized that it was an important part of measuring their call center. It makes employees focus on how diverse the methods of customer happiness generation are, instead of how easy it is to break the call center rules. Coaching and self-evaluation take away the fear associated with being “reviewed”. And the emphasis on sharing happy stories instead of horror stories reinforces the goal of happiness.

Service Level

a landline sitting on a tableWhat it is:

  • The goal of answering 80% of calls within 20 seconds

Why it works:

A great way to get happiness is to answer quickly. Instead of forcing people through robotic phone trees that set them up to leave the call upset, Zappos focuses on starting calls on the right foot to end them with a loyal customer. There’s little need to militantly enforce this metric because it helps employees achieve high NetPromoter scores, but having it gives people a number to focus on.

Goals are the Goal

The trick here, as it is with most things, is to know what your goal is. The idea that one metric fits all (or even most) companies is idiotic. Zappos is trying to make customers extremely happy so that they become return customers and refer others to their business. To quote Tony again: “What we’ve found was that repeat customers spend more than first-time customers and they actually drive a lot of our word-of-mouth.”. From there, it’s easy to build metrics.

What I’m Measuring

Here at UserVoice we’re focused on helping people have success in their own business. With that in mind, my goal with social media, blogging, and support is to both solve problems with our product and help people become better at understanding their customers, so that we are the first company that comes to mind next time they’re in a job where they need to understand their customers. With that goal, here are the metrics I’ve been slowly sketching out since I started here:

  • Time to respond – Time to close doesn’t feel important to us, as some threads will just take longer because they’re bigger issues. Time to close encourages gaming to get a good metric, time to respond encourages a focus on customer happiness.
  • Share of voice – If people aren’t talking, we’re doing something wrong. We look at what percentage of the conversation in our space is about us.
  • Advocacy – Are we encouraging people to tell their friends? We’re starting to measure what % of our signups are coming from people who were referred by a friend.
  • Referrals – Is our content helping people and leading them to check out our company? We measure how many people who visit our blog posts are then going on to our marketing site.
  • Engagement – If people aren’t interacting with us, we may not be providing value. We measure what % of visitors/followers/fans are interacting with us/our content.

What are you measuring?

What metrics do you use for your customer support or community management? Are these metrics from Zappos making you re-think your strategy? Let us know in the comments – we’ll grab some of the best to feature in a future blog post.

Zappos photo courtesy of bunnicula.

Headset photo courtesy of Toby Bradbury.

Football photo courtesy of Jennifer.

Phone photo courtesy of tedeytan.