Companies like Zappos have proven that you can be at the top of your industry by providing amazing service. Sure they have nice shoes, but so do a lot of places. What other places don’t offer is the notoriously flexible return policy, friendly customer service, and a willingness to go beyond to ensure the customer is happy.

Their philosophy is a long game. Even if Zappos loses a little money making a customer happy this time, they’re likely to shop with Zappos again in the future. If Zappos can build a loyal customer, that’s worth far more in the long run than a few more bucks now.

Invest in a positive experience

Budgets can be tight, and it can make some businesses reluctant to give refunds. I touched on a related topic in an earlier post about the PR blunder of minimum wage fees at restaurants. What is the cost of dragging something out, particularly if it results in a lot of bad PR?

People are far more likely to share a bad experience. This is partially because good service is expected, so when it’s provided people just accept it for the most part.

Think about having a romantic dinner out with your significant other. If the service and food are good and the evening is enjoyable, you’re both happy with your experience but looking forward to the next part of your evening. It may not occur to you to rush online and post a positive review. But if the service was terrible or in some other way ruined your special evening together, now you’re angry. You waited all week for this night, and they messed that up for you. Right?

Reviews are easy to find and share

Popular say-so these days is that users on the internet have extremely short attention spans, so you’d assume from this that nobody does any research and everyone just makes snap decisions about purchases. But there’s obviously a flaw in that thinking because a lot of people love using the internet for pre-purchase research. In fact, I would argue that the growth of mobile usage has made it so easy to ask questions and get information on the fly that people are foolish not to look things up.


Let’s say that Bob, the star of our example, is an unhappy customer. Prompt customer service may allay some of his concern, but if it becomes clear there’s no way to rectify the issue a refund is the cleanest option. Insisting that he jump through hoops or that he keeps the product he no longer wants is only going to give him a bitter taste in his mouth.

Bob is a lot more useful to the company as a neutral customer (if a happy one is no longer possible) than an angry one.

Creating a rough back and forth with Bob over the order will make his experience a nightmare, and at that point he’s far more likely to share.

He may post about it on Facebook,, or a variety of other places if he’s empassioned enough. If other people have had a similar experience and reply to that effect, imagine how compelling that is for viewers checking out that company.

That’s tough to measure, but the effects are profound.

Google Analytics doesn’t show you how many people almost came to your site.

And if these negative reviews show up on Facebook or Rip Off Report, sites with strong ranking power, those reviews are likely to show up on the first page of Google when people search for your company. No one wants that.

Your loyal customers are your biggest advocates

The flip side is just as important. Providing outstanding service cuts down on angry reviews, sure, but more importantly it creates a following. Companies known for their excellent customer service like Zappos and Amazon have an army of happy people talking about them. Recommending them.

To me customer service is also marketing. It creates the culture your business projects, and can single-handedly be the reason a customer keeps shopping with you for years or heads elsewhere. Money you invest in service can have a big payout with the free marketing you’re receiving for happy customers telling your story.