What Zappos, Apple & McDonald’s Can Teach You about Running Customer Support Centers

In business you can learn from both the good and bad examples of others. Sometimes a company’s success offers insight into an effective strategy that can be implemented in your call center. In other cases, a company’s flops can serve as glaring examples of what not to do.

Being aware of the strategies and outcomes of other companies can be instrumental in improving the quality of your call center. You may be thinking, “Wait, I have metrics for that.” But metrics aren’t going to tell you the whole story. Withcustomer retention growing more important even than branding, any step toward improved customer service is a healthy one for your business. In this post I discuss a few examples of customer support by major brands and key takeaways you can apply to your own contact center.

Zappos – choosing and training employees with care

The online shoe company quadrupled its gross sales in just a year after amending its core customer service philosophy. According toScott Klein, manager of the Zappos customer loyalty team, this new commitment to customer service extends from their recruitment process to the rigorous four-week training session. “The number of applications we receive versus the number of applicants we hire,” he says, “is comparable to the rate at which Harvard University accepts new students.”

The takeaways: Having a team of customer service representatives dedicated to customer satisfaction can make or break your company. Spending time on training the right people can quadruple gross sales.

Apple – customers’ “first point of contact”

Most of the tech world is in awe of Apple’s approach to the customer experience. They are trendsetters in terms of the ease of access in the tech support world. PC users often have to call Microsoft, then possibly the hardware provider, then yet another third-party. But Apple chose a different route. The company has a single support entity for handling all requests from either software, hardware or ancillary products. While they cannot provide all services themselves, they do ensure that they can be the “first point of contact for the services you use most,” according toMacworld.com. Moreover, Apple employees implement a “teach a man to fish” strategy in which, rather than forcing customers to buy or pay for technical needs, they train customers to resolve situations independently. Apple makes itself accessible enough that customers feel served.

The takeaway: Make sure your CSRs are trained to come to your customers’ aid when they are most needed, rather than simply acting as directories to the next step. Educational component to customer service makes customers feel served and empowered.

McDonald’s – big name but poor ratings

McDonald’s is proof that the customer experience is imperative to continued success. The fast food company may have done well during the recession because of their low prices, but now that more people can afford quality, that’s exactly what they’re seeking. McDonald’s is currentlythe worst ranking chain fast food restaurant in customer satisfaction according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Remarkably, the corporation has actually improved its ratings compared to its customer satisfaction in the 1990s. This is because they realize that having stable customer satisfaction is the only way to weather all economic conditions. Other chain restaurants have been in decline on the ACSI, this trend being a clear an indication that a big name is not enough.

The takeaways: A big brand name is not enough to have sustainability in today’s market. Companies have to actively seek to measure and improve their customer satisfaction ratings.


Robert C. Davis and Associates developed a CSR and management educational training program called The Quality Conversation, a model based on 30 years of experience in call center training. Our clients’ successes and revenue growth are proof that we make lasting changes in call center operations that keep your team motivated and customers feeling personally satisfied.