Aaron Gasperi is a Director in Velocity’s Innovation group.  He writes about consumer insights, product development and the practice of innovation at Velocity.
The Zappos motto is “Powered by Service.”  But why would an ecommerce website say that?
Tony Hsieh realized that the challenge was not a technical one.  He didn’t set out to create a better ecommerce store, to have a better selection of shoes, or better marketing.  Hsieh realized that ecommerce is about logistics, delivery, and customer service.  As a result, Zappos beat out the competitors and is the amazing shoe internet store that exists today.
Innovation is differentiation with customer value.
This made me think about my experience just yesterday with Velocity’s customer service team.  At Velocity, we use the same system for internal requests as we do for our customers.  I had submitted a server update for one of our development servers.  But just like Zappos, it wasn’t the technology of the customer service tool that stood out.  I remembered that Melissa from the Customer Support Center (CRC) team came to my office to ask questions about the issue.  
Think about your customers, external and internal.
Melissa was practicing one of Paul Cioni’s (Velocity Senior Vice President) directives: think about both our external and internal customers and how we can positively impact the customer experience.  She was taking me through the same root cause analysis she would take a customer through.  Our differentiation was standing right in front of me.
Mea Culpa: my service issue was due to my efforts to setup a server on my own.  Sure I had it up and running quickly, but I was running into permissions issues.
It’s about solving problems – for customers
Melissa made me think: If we can solve a problem with great service, is it not the same or even better than solving with a piece of code?  Technology is the solution to many problems – at Velocity, we consider service and technology solutions for our customers.  
Of course, this isn’t how every company-customer interaction takes place in this world.  For example, as consumers, we don’t think about how electricity lights up a light bulb, but we sure notice when it doesn’t work.  
We care about when the electricity comes back on.  And when it does, we don’t question whether it was a piece of code, a person, or a hamster on a treadmill that made the light come back on.  But maybe the electric company would mean more to us if they cared more.  What if they had a person to answer that call?  What if they addressed whether the problem was on their end or the customer’s? 
It wasn’t just that she solved the problem.
There is something to be said for amazing customer service.  It wasn’t someone in an overseas call center, it wasn’t a Google search, and (thankfully) it wasn’t a robot.  Here was a real person, who responded in real time, with a real voice, solving a real problem while making jokes about the weather.
The root cause analysis that she took me through identified issues that I hadn’t considered.  In fact, the problem had little to do with the issue I submitted.  As a result, I learned something about the cause of the issue.  And, the issue was quickly resolved.  I was smiling when I got back to my computer because I had the topic for my first blog post.