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Why Sorry Shouldn’t Be The Hardest Word

According to Eric Engleman’s Amazon Blog on TechFlash: “Online shoe and apparel retailer Zappos, now part of Amazon.com, just made a very costly error. In a blog post, Zappos said a pricing engine mistake at its website 6pm.com capped all items on the site at $49.95 for six hours early Friday morning, resulting in a loss of more than $1.6 million.”

The Zappos Way

In my house, that’s a lot of docked pocket money. At Zappos it’s a lesson learned, a reason to change an overly complicated process, and another opportunity to push the dedication to customer service that grew a little online shoe retailer to national treasure in less than eight years.

Aaron Magness, Director of Brand Marketing & Business Development, was the first to reply. He did so on the day the problem was discovered, used his apology to push the key messages of the brand, and then stated that Zappos would be swallowing the cost and sticking to their customer promises.

Tony Hsieh, Zappos’ CEO and twitter powerhouse, followed up with a simple, transparent explanation of the problem, took group responsibility for it (no sackings, no finger-pointing), re-stated that Zappos would be honouring every sale, and even had time to promote his book.

The response? StefanieS9281 said “I’m not surprised at the honorable response to this mishap. More companies should stand out as much!” JamesT9288: “Yet again Zappos you take the higher road, and this is why I purchase from you… If only we had more services/websites/vendors like this in our world (ARE YOU READING THIS AIRLINES!).”

Most tellingly, and clearing up once and for all any lingering doubts over who has a longer memory, elephants or a spurned consumer, BenP9363 said: “August of last year, Best Buy did the same thing, and then refused to honor the sales, canceling everyone’s orders… I’d never heard of your site before today, but I’ll definitely be doing some looking around now. I like doing business with companies that honor their customers.”

It’s a clever company that makes a $1.6 million loss look like a wise marketing investment. I’m reminded of the bumper sticker: ‘Why do they call it common sense, when it’s so damn rare?’

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