customer serviceWe have entered an age of customer obsession. Businesses have begun to realize the value in focusing on providing excellent, efficient customer service and are exploring new tools and fancy options for serving their users’ needs. But a recent article by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is drawing some attention for its endorsement of what Hsieh calls “unsexy” customer service. Zappos is known everywhere for its stellar customer service, so what does Hsieh credit with Zappos’ success? The telephone.

“Our belief,” Hsieh says, “is that as unsexy and low-tech as it may sound, the telephone is one of the best branding devices out there. You have the customer’s undivided attention for five or 10 minutes, and if you get the call right, he or she remembers the experience for a very long time and tells friends about it.”

That belief has gotten Zappos ranked in the top 10 for best customer service for several years in a row. So what is Zappos doing right and how can you do it too?

They Put Phone Numbers on Every Page

“We put our phone number at the top of every single page of our website because we actually want to talk to our customers,” says Hsieh.

Zappos has the right idea. When you place a phone number on each page of your website, not only do you provide an easy way for your users to reach out to you with any problems they encounter, you get a host of other benefits. For example, with unique trackable phone numbers on your website, you have the ability to have that data passed into your CRM so that you know exactly what page the caller was viewing when they picked up the phone (as well as the marketing source – like Google search ads or email marketing – that brought them there). This makes it easier for your brilliant call center staff to address the questions your callers have: when they know what the caller was looking at, they’re one step ahead of the call. Whisper messages—a “whispered” audio message to the call center rep that only they hear before the call that provides information about the customer’s situation—are also very helpful for businesses focused on excellent customer service: the more information you have to solve their problem, the better and more efficient the interaction will be.

They Use the Phone as A Branding Device

“Usually when marketing departments do their ROI calculations,” says Hsieh, “they assume that the lifetime value of a customer is fixed. We view it as something that can grow if we create positive emotional associations with our brand.”

Zappos nails it when it comes to the power of the telephone in creating a strong relationship between customers and your brand. The phone (however unsexy) represents something personal that has been lost in an age of impersonal communications. It can be a tool with which to create a relationship built on trust and reliability. A business relationship is all rainbows and butterflies until the customer needs to contact you and can’t get beyond a contact form on a website. They want to talk. Make it possible. It will mean better things for your branding than you can possibly imagine.

They Staff Their Call Centers With Their Own People

We didn’t trust that a third party would care about our customers as much as we did,” says Hsieh. “So we agreed that Zappos employees should staff the call center.”

Ultimately the decision to staff their call centers with their own employees as opposed to a third party meant that the people taking their customers’ calls were dedicated to living up to the Zappos standard. This can mean the difference between lackluster customer service and life-long customers. The increasing sophistication of the virtual call center makes it even easier for businesses to provide Zappos-level customer service, even if they can’t afford the kind of space Zappos has on the West Coast. Customer service reps can work from home more easily than ever before with the capabilities offered by a virtual call center. Employees can take calls from anywhere on any phone, so your customers will always find someone to take their question.

We’re with Zappos on this one. The phone might be “unsexy,” but when it comes to customer service, reliability and a personal touch ranks higher than sexiness.