I just posted on Mommy CEO about a great business, ZAPPOS.COM. I think the biggest takeaway from this business is that they have obviously understood that an excellent customer experience will be the competitive differentiator that will make them successful. I think, based on what I know about ZAPPOS, that they have accomplished this by hiring customer service people and letting them use their brains. Too often, when I call a company about an issue, I hear “the policy is.. or I am sorry but I am not allowed to…or the rules surrounding this procedure are…” Ultimately what they are telling me is that they are not empowered to help me, and that I am just plain out of luck. Too bad.

Now, what if you always dealt with people who were able to look at your problem, and you as a customer, on an individual level. Not that they would not have guidelines, and general policy, but that they were allowed to use their brain and help you fix a problem.

I remember calling United Airlines once, when I had bought a ticket for my 14 month old son, after I had already booked my ticket and my husband’s ticket. We had decided we wanted him to have a seat. United could NOT add my son to our itinerary.  He had his own itinerary. OK. Fine. Well, as often happens, one of the legs of the flight was canceled and we were re-booked. My husband and I were re-booked through San Francisco, and yes, my 14 month old son was booked through Denver. By HIMSELF. Seriously?!?  When I called to point this out I ended up having to speak to 5 different agents until I finally got a manager who could actually make a judgment call, and rebook all 3 tickets under 1 itinerary on the same flights. It took me 87 minutes (my phone display tells me how long I am on the phone) to deal with United’s mistake (unless of course it is their policy to allow a 14 month old to fly by himself??). How much better would it have been if the person I initially reached was empowered to actually fix the situation. And how much cheaper would it have been for United? 87 minutes for something that should have been 10 minutes.

So the moral here? Don’t skimp on your people. Hire good people with brains and you will see it in the bottom line!

AvatarSabrina Parsons

Sabrina has served as CEO of Palo Alto Software since 2007.