And the SEED Conference winner is…

October 24, 2007

It’s been 13 days since we announced that we would pay for someone’s ticket to the SEED conference. To earn this right we asked that people submit stories of truly remarkable customer service. We’ve received a slew of outstanding entries. In fact, we’ve had customers of FreshBooks account holders take the time and write in to tell us stories of how FreshBooks users provided them with exceptional service. Absolutely marvellous.

Among all the great entries this one stood out:

Hey Mike and the rest of the Freshbooks team – I’m writing to submit to the “best customer service story” contest for the SEED conference ticket.

The Internet company that I believe has the best customer service going today is Having ordered from many times, their customer service is phenomenal, and they’re driven by creating the best experience possible for their customers. They’ve truly created a culture of service, this is hard to do within the organization but when they get it right, it’s truly amazing to witness.

Speaking of witnessing it, I had the opportunity to visit in January of this year. I was blown away at how welcoming all of the employees were and how as we walk through the entire building, everyone we passed stood up smiled and waved hello to us. It was a fantastic look at the behind the scenes operation of a truly focused company. After our trip there, and we were so inspired as a company that when we rolled out our “customer service is the new marketing” initiative, we referenced our experience at Zappos.

As far as the best customer service story I’ve ever come across, actually came upon it the other day. It’s not an original story by me, but I think it’s a wonderful example of the extent to which Zappos will go to show that it cares about its customers. Here’s the post:

I Heart Zappos

I really do.

One bright, extraordinary note in all of the sad stuff of the last few weeks – in May we had ordered several pairs of shoes from Zappos for my mom. She’d lost a lot of weight, and her old shoes were all too big. She had a whole new wardrobe of clothes in pretty colors, that fit, so I wanted her to have some pretty shoes that fit, too, when I took her up to Oregon to stay where her sister is. Out of seven pairs, only two fit. Not bad considering she’d never been this thin, so I was winging it, and the return shipping is free.

The rest were here waiting to be returned. Because of various circumstances – lost label, my mom being hospitalized and me being away, the shoes were never sent back. There’s a time limit on the return of 15 days. Remember this. When you do a return to them, they pay the shipping, but you have to get the shoes to UPS yourself. Remember this, also.

When I came home this last time, I had an email from Zappos asking about the shoes, since they hadn’t received them. I was just back and not ready to deal with that, so I replied that my mom had died but that I’d send the shoes as soon as I could. They emailed back that they had arranged with UPS to pick up the shoes, so I wouldn’t have to take the time to do it myself. I was so touched. That’s going against corporate policy.

Yesterday, when I came home from town, a florist delivery man was just leaving. It was a beautiful arrangement in a basket with white lilies and roses and carnations. Big and lush and fragrant. I opened the card, and it was from Zappos. I burst into tears. I’m a sucker for kindness, and if that isn’t one of the nicest things I’ve ever had happen to me, I don’t know what is. So…


With hearts like theirs, you know they’re good to do business with.

Tony Hseih has done a fantastic job building an culture of service within Zappos. During my visit I learned the extent to which the employees are empowered to go to keep a customer happy. If a customer cannot find a shoe they’re looking for on, the customer support rep is empowered to browse competitors websites,,, and help the customer look for the shoe that they want all the while on the phone with the customer. This is truly about keeping the customer happy.

Zappos recently introduced an industry first free shipping both ways. This encourages people to order as many issues as they want in different sizes and try them on. Through this initiative Zappos is competing directly with brick-and-mortar high-end shoe stores.

The story above is not the first I’ve heard of Zappos ordering flowers for customers. The culture of WOW encourages employees to go the extra distance to wow their customers with great customer service. This is truly the company with the best customer service going today. I hope this wins the magic ticket! Thanks for caring about customer service.

This account of great customer service — and more importantly a culture of extraordinary customer experiences — was submitted by Chris Schultz of Voodoo Ventures. Congratulations Chris — you’ve earned yourself a ticket to SEED.

We are going to post one or two of the other entries because the companies and the people they highlight deserve the recognition. Thank you to everyone who entered. We’re going to send you all FreshBooks shirts as a token of our thanks.

about the author

Co-Founder & CEO, FreshBooks Mike is the co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks, the world’s #1 cloud accounting software for self-employed professionals. Built in 2003 after he accidentally saved over an invoice, Mike spent 3.5 years growing FreshBooks from his parents’ basement. Since then, over 10 million people have used FreshBooks to save time billing, and collect billions of dollars. A lover of the outdoors, Mike has been bitten so many times it’s rumored he’s the first human to have developed immunity to mosquitoes.