Is Customer Service a part of Marketing?

It’s highly likely you already have an answer! However, if that’s a ‘No’, you must not miss this one.

A customer calls up Zappos customer care toll free number and says, ‘I want to order a pizza’. Agent at the other end of the phone, without wasting a second, takes his order and says, ‘catch you in 30 mins’! This customer may be an idiot, but was also an opportunity.

I am not making this up! Zappos sell shoes that rest of the world sells, there is no extraordinary marketing genius that they have; but if asked to 10 random people, 9 say they love zappos. Zappos is case study of case studies, flipkart in India is trying to immitate that model but they are nowhere close.customer service is a part of marketing

Believe me, that telephone operator at zappos sent the guy, a pizza! He didn’t have to ask his manager, didn’t need approvals because customer care = marketing at Zappos, thats their culture. He was sensible enough to understand – you send a pizza to your customer when you run a shoe store!!! They will tell their friends, their friends will tell their friends and so on… Same is happening via this blog post. People are talking about them.

I am sure, this 10$ worth a pizza have got people love them and sold more shoes than what a newspaper ad would have. And some supposedly killer ‘marketers’ would ask for metrics for all this. While such marketers will get busy calculating the ROI, you enjoy the rest of the article. ROI is a math problem, a number in percentage cannot judge the satisfaction, happiness, sense of association and love for the brand.

For ROI guys, don’t miss the % of cost for new customer acquisition that came down drastically, savings from those bill boards etc. Zappos get 75% of their customers for-free through word of mouth referrals; which means 10$ worth pizza can do more than what a bill board, email blast campaign, newspaper ad do, collectively.

This free customer acquisition chain saves them a lot of money, they do no marketing via traditional channels and that saves another loads of money – which means, more such pizzas free, better customer service, awesome interaction with customers and more fun – leading to more customers, for free. This cycle pushes you in ever lower-ing marketing costs.

Digital world is democratic

In this new world of marketing, anyone can publish anything at any time for the entire world to see. Content produced about your company – by customers, partners, competitors, prospects, employees and anyone else – is indexed by search engines and easily accessible. Scared yet? You should be.

But every scary change is also an opportunity.

Here is another great story about Zappos customer service. Basically a woman had ordered a bunch of shoes for her mom who was sick and had lost so much weight she needed smaller shoes. She had sent in a return request because some of them did not fit. Her mom ended up passing away, and she was late in returning the shipment of shoes to be returned. Zappos emailed her to remind her to return the shoes. She replied saying her mom had passed away and she just did not have time to ship them back.

Zappos had a couple options at this point (a) not accept the return, their policy is clear that it must be done in 15 days, (b) accept the return late given the circumstances, or (c) do something really remarkable. Zappos chose option (c) – do something remarkable. Not only did Zappos go the extra mile and schedule a UPS pickup for the customer and notify her just to leave the shoes outside her door and UPS would take care of it for her, but they even sent her flowers as well.

The result? The customer wrote about it in her blog. She got a bunch (over 100 so far) of comments from others echoing her experience. Seth Godin wrote about it, as did lots of other bloggers. The ROI on the UPS pickup fee and the flowers is probably 10,000 times the cost. Zappos now has a lot of people linking to and talking about a fantastic story.

Is customer service yet different from Marketing. Whats your opinion?

Satyam is a Consultant with Infosys Ltd. and editor / founder of When he is not talking about Digital Marketing or dreaming of CRM strategies, he can be found on a treadmill. He enjoys travelling, reading and listening to music! Catch up with him on twitter at @xatyam