Today's Mighty Oak


This article was published internally, describing how Zippo incorporates ideas of Behavioral Differentiation, one of the four parts of Customer 1st.

Zippo employees light up customers’ lives with “whatever it takes” attitude

One expectation of Performance-Related Behaviors is to own and proactively solve problems.  As the Westinghouse Behaviors state, we should “Proactively identify issues, regardless of origin, when working with customers, and behave as though you own the issue.  Address relevant commercial issues in the context of a solution and not as a barrier.[i]

“Positive behavioral differentiation has several important effects.  First, it’s memorable.[ii]”  Memorable is the word to describe the 70-year old company, Zippo.  Their commitment to their customers and their customers’ concerns make them stand out in the minds of consumers.

Based in Bradford, Pa., Zippo has offered its lifetime guarantee since its founding.  And the catch to this guarantee: there are no disclaimers.

Zippo lighters are repaired, at no cost to the customer, for any reason, even extraordinary circumstances.  One common situation is the lighter being run over by a car.  When Zippo customer relations are approached about any lighter in disrepair, they offer a repair packet, which includes a fiber-reinforced envelop with Zippo’s address.

Zippo’s in-house repair clinic fixes more than 131,000 lighters a year.  Grateful customers send an average of 20 handwritten thank-you notes a week.  These are kept on file and discussed during performance reviews, recognizing Zippo employees for their dedication to the customers.

When a lighter comes into the repair shop, the 14 full-time employees not only fix what is indicated, but also replace flints, hinges and anything else that may be wearing.

George G. Blaisdell, founder of Zippo, led by his image of customer relations.   His philosophy was, “Build your product with integrity … stand behind it 100 percent and success will follow.”

Employees of Zippo routinely state that their job is more enjoyable and fulfilling because of the importance placed on the customer.  Shirley Evers, consumer relations manager states, “I wouldn’t want to do consumer relations for a lot of companies because of their poor attitude toward the consumer or because they don’t stand behind my product.  This makes my job so much easier.”

The employees at Zippo truly do take on issues as their own, proactively identifying potential problems, regardless of the cause as Evers exclaims, “It’s a whatever-it-takes attitude here.[iii]

[i] Westinghouse Behavioral Definitions

[ii] Bacon, Terry R.  “Behavioral Differentiation.”  The White Paper Series.  Lore International Institute.  2002.

[iii] James, Dana.  “Lighting the way: Four tales of exceptional service from the best source—customers.”  Marketing News.  April 1, 2002.  Pp 1.  American Marketing Association.


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