The New York Times section on Media and Advertising has an interesting article on the customer and internet savvy retailer, Zappos which was recently acquired by the even savvier Amazon. The article notes that "In a (ad) campaign scheduled to begin on Monday (March 8th 2010), Zappos will celebrate its
customer service representatives, whom the company refers to as the
customer loyalty team. The intent is to demonstrate to potential
customers — and remind current ones — how the employees make it easy to
order or return merchandise, either on Zappos.com or by calling a
toll-free number." The article also quotes a Mullen (the ad company that created the ad) executive as saying that employees would "would stay on the line for as long as you wanted to talk. They would talk about anything.” A Zappos director also notes that "our customer loyalty team is not scripted and is not measured on time of calls."
Clearly Zappos is a customer service darling and a principal reason is that they view their call center not as a cost but as a primary value driver. Historically most companies, including in the hospitality industry relegated call centers to remote parts of the country and, increasingly, out of the country resulting in poor CRM outcomes. Leveraging technology positively – as opposed to inserting it as a barrier as in the case of airlines and even some hotels – requires a more inclusive approach to employees. That means giving customer service reps more leeway in dealing with customers including allowing them to determine the length of a call per the customers' needs. Software that merely measures time spent per reservation (for hotels) most probably will not serve the company well. Instead a measure of additional services and packages and even room nights sold by CSRs will better serve the employer. Also to be measured, as a consequence, is employee churn and absenteeism; both ought to be less.
The other seemingly obvious benefit to the ad campaign is better employee morale. Exposure to potential customers as models of what employees are truly about enables higher productivity and better customer-employee relations. Naturally, in the end, that results in a happier customer with the resulting higher profits mitigating any increase in call center costs. The Times article also cites other employee-centric marketers including Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor, Lowes, Nationwide Insurance, Toyota Motor and Verizon. Apparently no hotel companies made the cut.