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I’ve written a lot here about the "hall of shamers," companies that forget that customer service is their most powerful branding tool just as it is for personal branders.

All of which made me all the more pleased when I came across a blog post by William Taylor on Harvard Business Publishing about Zappos. Zappos is the 4 million pound Internet shoe gorilla that offers a selection of 4 million pairs of shoes. As the article notes, Imelda Marcus would have a coronary on the spot if she visited Zappos’ warehouse.

Taylor says that what makes the company successful – it’s gone from sales of $70 million to over $1 billion in just five years – is its phenomenal customer service. Zappos provides does everything right when it comes to serving customers and then some. It offers free delivery and free returns. While so many Internet companies hide their telephone number with a hands-off customer attitude, Zappos plasters its 800 number on every page.

While that’s all well and good, what makes the company extra special, according to Taylor, is that customer service is no after thought but baked into Zappos’ culture. To insure its call center employees are committed, it makes its call center employees an amazing offer. Work there a week and you’ll not only be paid for your time, according to Taylor, but offered $1,000 to quit. Whoever heard of a company paying a brand new employee to skeedadle? Of course, the company by doing this is not trying to get rid of folks, just insure it has the most devoted employees. Taylor says about 10% of employees actually take the money and run.

Zappos also doesn’t simply hand over the phones to its call center employees on day one but gives them four weeks of training that instills in them a sense of the company’s culture and customer service commitment. Employees are paid a full salary during the training period.

The company's tag line unlike so many others is a true brand promise: "We are a service company that happens to sell."

It’s a company says Taylor "that’s bursting with personality and a huge number of its 1,600 employees are power using of Twitter so their friends, colleagues, and customers know what they’re up to at any moment in time.

This is truly an example of a brand in action. It’s what we as personal branders should strive to do. It’s not enough just to talk the talk but to make our personal brand such a part of who we are that it’s inseparable from our business. How are you doing that? I’d love to hear from you.

Personal Branding Specialist, Marx Communications

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