G U Y W I N C H P H . D .
I’ve heard numerous stories about CEOs who are reputed to read every email they receive and have generally taken such claims with a grain of salt (if not many, many grains). But a recent experience with Zappos customer service left a sufficient impression on me that I felt moved to chuck all skepticism aside and write a personal email to Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO and author of Delivering Happiness. Here is the letter I wrote. I did receive a response from Zappos. More about that after the letter.
A Complaint Letter from the Author of, The Squeaky Wheel
I am a Zappos customer, a psychologist and author of the just published The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way to Get Results, Improve Your Relationships and Enhance Self-Esteem. The book is the first to examine our complaining psychology and its impact on how we complain as consumers, as well as how our negative expectations and beliefs about complaining influence our interactions with customer service representatives and the customer service industry as a whole. Since I believe our complaining psychology is a single construct, the book also examines how these issues come to play in our relationships and how our complaining behaviors impact our self-esteem and mental health.
My “complaint” is that Zappos seems to be doing everything right in terms of complaint management and service recoveries. In fact, I’m pretty sure your outstanding customer service practices are empowering customers to speak up and tackle their complaints when previously, they might not have. This is a terrible turn of events! True, it is exactly what my book advocates consumers should do and yes it can create a shift in the public’s perceptions of complaints in just the way I think would benefit society best but if that happened, The Squeaky Wheel would be entirely moot!
Do you see my problem? My ideas about how our complaining psychology impacts our quality of life in significant ways, my pleas for people to be more proactive in pursuing their complaints so they can reap the self-esteem rewards of doing so, and especially my heart wrenching stories about the trials and tribulations of customer service representatives at the hands of hostile consumers, are all in peril because you and Zappos insist on providing a top notch customer experience!
How am I supposed to position my book as compelling and relevant if your amazing customer service employees keep making customers delighted and changing their consumer psychology by doing so? How am I supposed to convince people they pay a psychological and emotional price when they avoid pursuing their complaints out of fear that doing so would be too difficult if you keep making such endeavors so easy for your customers?
Surely it would not be asking too much for your contact center employees to screw-up once in a while. Perhaps a designated few could practice disconnecting a few customers, placing them on hold and ‘forgetting’ about them for a couple of hours. Maybe you could ask some of them to speak in thick foreign accents that are impossible to understand or even better, train them to sound irritable or bored, preferably as soon as they answer the call. Would it kill you to have a few broken links on your website? I just need you to maintain the perception that companies don’t care about their customers’ complaints for a few more months, until my book is in every household in America. After that, you can go back to your award winning customer service ways and none will be the wiser.
I hope my plea for help reaches you, Tony. My book cannot change how our society perceives consumer complaints if you and Zappos insist on doing it first. After all, you’ve already had a bestselling book, it’s only fair to give somebody else a chance.
If you refuse to make any of the changes I suggest in this missive, the least you could do is allow me to send you a copy of The Squeaky Wheel so you can see for yourself the contribution the book could make to society if Zappos’ customer service representatives could be just slightly less excellent.
Please let me know where I can send you my shattered dream, eh, I mean a copy of The Squeaky Wheel.
Guy Winch Ph.D.
The Response from Zappos:
I charming assistant, apologized for Tony not responding to my email personally and assured me he did read it. Given the man gets 2000 emails a day, reading them alone is quite a feat, responding to them is certainly impossible. Here’s why I believe Tony Hsieh read every line in my email. The assistant writes:
“Tony enjoyed your email so much that he forwarded it out to the rest of the company! “The Squeaky Wheel” sounds fantastic; don’t consider it a shattered dream, even in jest!”
He then provided me Tony’s address at the company. I was already aware Tony has sent out my letter to the entire company as I began receiving Twitter messages from Zappos contact center employees asking about the book and commenting on the letter, several hours earlier.
For me it was yet further proof that complaining ‘the right way’, even if the right way is in jest, always gets results!
Copyright 2011 Guy Winch
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