1 min Read
August 4, 2011

What your nonprofit can learn from Zappos

In recent years, Zappos has made a big splash with consumers for delivering exceptional customer service. Don’t like those shoes? Zappos hopes you’ll call and chat with their friendly reps about it. They’d be delighted to help, no matter how long it takes. And who can forget about free shipping? 

But what does good customer service mean for a nonprofit? Donor relations? Client or member relations? Community relations? Most organizations have so many different types of relationships it’s hard to know where to start, much less fund.

In a talk I gave with Katya Andresen and Jocelyn Harmon about online etiquette at the 2011 Bridge to Integrated Marketing Conference, Katya talked about how great customer service should be more central for nonprofits. Her comments got me thinking: what if we spent less time focusing on building our lists with new names and more time practicing pro-active customer service? Would attrition still be as bad?

Great customer service often means setting up systems and processes to make people feel like they’re your only client, even when they’re not.

Want your donors to feel serviced? Make sure your executive director personally calls a few people who make significant gifts each week. Send out a prompt thank you for every gift. Don’t ask so much that they start to feel like ATM machines. And make that online donation form easy and fast to complete.

In your clients’ case, great customer service may mean respecting their time as much as you do your own. Keep waiting times for services short, offer flexible job-friendly hours when they can reach you, and use unjargony, easy-to-complete forms.

As consumers, we’ve all had great and terrible customer services experiences. But somehow we fall asleep at the wheel when it comes to how we do our own work. Maybe it’s time to wake up?