Running Shoes + Baseball Talk = Instant Brand Fan.

Let me explain.

My friend Deborah Brody mentioned that she’d just purchased new running shoes from Zappos. She also mentioned how convenient it was, and that she was able to purchase the last model at a discount. So I hopped on the Web site and located my shoes (at quite a nice price too, I might add). But I ran into a snag with the online checkout. So I reached for the phone.

Enter Jeff, customer service rep, transplanted New Yorker, and not fond of running. We start chatting about Las Vegas, awesome trails (for running and hiking), and somehow we get to baseball. And Jeff laments that San Francisco Giants, Oakland As, and Arizona Diamondbacks games are all blocked out in Las Vegas because they’re considered “local” teams. Which is absurd… but I digress. Jeff also upgraded me to VIP status and had my shoes shipped out for next-day delivery.

Yes, I’m buying shoes (boring!). Yes, we’re talking baseball (awesome!).

Zappos took me from brand virgin to brand fan in one phone call.

Now, I suspect not everyone loves running shoes (or baseball). And this isn’t really not about either one. It’s about connecting with your customers and delivering fantastic service.

Many companies train their customer service agents to complete the transaction (or resolve the problem), minimize off-script chatter, and get off the phone as quickly as possible. It’s a business strategy–and it certainly increases the number of transactions any one person can process. The problem: It’s a generic response. I don’t remember you. I’m certainly not talking about you. I might or might not buy from you again–but your pricing better be terrific because most people (me included) don’t only make buying decisions on price.

I’ve known about Zappos for a while. I reviewed Delivering Happiness when it came out. I’ve referenced the brand in several blog posts. I’ve seen tweets and case studies and heard stories about the 2-way free shipping and their customer service approach. But until this week I hadn’t sampled it for myself. Now, I’m sold–and I’ll be back.

What are you doing to connect with your customers?

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