Online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos says it realizes people in these troubled times have worries that go far beyond footwear—and its customer service reps are ready to help. In April, the company, finding that callers found small talk with their reps reassuring, started encouraging people to call for help with recipes, homework, coronavirus closures, or just for a chat, the New York Times reports. "Stuck in the middle of a project? Looking for services that are open in your town? Need someone to help you with research? We're here to lend an ear," says the website for the "Customer Service for Anything" line. The Amazon-owned company says the move helped customers get through lockdowns—and kept customer service reps busy while calls to its regular customer service hotline dropped. It was even able to help a doctor obtain 300 desperately needed oximeters.
"We noticed there were callers who had concerns and were wanting to talk. We started to see evidence of not just us feeling what was happening in the world, but also that callers wanted to talk about it," Zappos "Entrepreneur in Residence" Brian Kalma tells CBS. "We hired empathetic people, and that allowed us to repurpose our well-trained staff to help people beyond purchasing shoes." New York customer Rose Wang says she ended up talking to a rep in Las Vegas about all kinds of subjects for 45 minutes after calling with a question about Crocs. "To hear someone on the West Coast commiserate with me and talk about their plans and what they wanted to do after the quarantine—it felt very connecting," she tells the Times. (In 2013, Zappos did away with traditional management roles.)