Zappos' collaboration with Birkenstock

Zappos is reallocating resources to provide a public service during the coronavirus crisis. The footwear e-tailer has launched what it’s calling a “Customer Service Anything Hotline” that people can call for Netflix recommendations or to track down a hard-to-find grocery item. No purchase is necessary to receive this service.

Zappos is known for customer service, it’s how we differentiate ourselves,” said Brian Kalma, Zappos’ entrepreneur-in-residence. “We were thinking how we can use our talent and company culture and put it to good use. People are paying less attention toward buying shoes and clothing so we want to provide a valuable service to our community. We had the means to do it and the culture to adopt it relatively quickly.”

The e-tailer has already received more than 1,000 calls to the hotline in its first week of service — ranging from people looking for recipe recommendations to stay-at-home single parents who are “sick of talking to kids and want to have conversations with an adult,” said Kalma.

Zappos’ hotline did field a request from New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital, which tweeted at the service asking for help finding oximeters. The overtaxed hospital could not track down the devices that measure oxygen levels in patients’ blood. Zappos was able to track down a bunch of the devices, and in this case decided to contribute to the cost.

“Not every company have means to be able to do that, we are fortunate to be able to pivot. I think it’s a responsibility for companies, particularly large ones, to give back. A lot of companies exist because of customers supporting us, this is a time to give back,” said Kalma.

Zappos is now hoping to team with local politicians and social networks to inform the public about its service hotline so it can become a resource for people of varying needs.

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