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Over Fed Objections, Lending Programs Will Expire. Here’s What Happens Next.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the Federal Reserve exposed a rare public rift last month when Mr. Mnuchin declined to extend several emergency lending programs put in place to repair credit markets convulsed by the coronavirus pandemic in March.

His decision to allow the programs to expire on Dec. 31 also intensified a partisan divide over the lending programs, which both parties supported as part of the $2 trillion stimulus package known as the Cares Act approved in March.


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Pfizer, BioNTech File for Covid-19 Vaccine Approval in Europe

BERLIN—Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE said they are seeking approval from the European Union for their coronavirus vaccine.

The companies, which have already applied for authorization in the U.S. and U.K., submitted an application on Monday to the European Medicines Agency. That application was accepted on Tuesday by the regulator, the companies said.


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Five Customer-Service Lessons From the Late Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh, the former chief executive of Inc., helped build the online shoe retailer with a model of customer service that rested on a simple premise: Make every customer as happy as possible, even at the expense of sales—in the short term.

Mr. Hsieh died Friday at the age of 46 from injuries sustained in a house fire Nov. 18 in New London, Conn.

After his death, entrepreneurs, marketers and others said his insights had influenced them to adopt similar practices or change the way they approach customers.

Put the Service First

Mr. Hsieh saw the Zappos product as a service, not something physical, observers said.

He focused on building repeat customers and word-of-mouth marketing, said Wendy Johansson, global vice president of experience at digital agency Publicis Sapient, part of

Publicis Groupe SA


“This shifted the brand-driven retail industry from a traditional measure of eyeballs on advertising campaigns, to one focused on a better digital ecosystem around the product engagement of the retail brand,” Mr. Johansson said.

Don’t Hide the Phone Number

One way that Mr. Hsieh tried to accumulate those loyal customers was to make Zappos reachable— more so than many other e-commerce companies. Most visibly, he put the company’s customer service phone number at the top of every page on the website.

“Our belief is the telephone is one of the best branding devices out there,” Mr. Hsieh said during a talk at

Alphabet Inc.’s

Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., in 2010. “You have the customer’s undivided attention for five to ten minutes and what we found is if we get the interaction right, that’s something customers remember for a very long time.”

Recognize a Bigger Role for Customer Service

Many companies treat customer service as a siloed function removed from core brand-building activities. But Zappos viewed customer service through a branding lens, Mr. Hsieh wrote in a piece for the Harvard Business Review in 2010.

Unlike traditional call centers, Zappos doesn’t measure call time or require customer service agents to read from scripts. If Zappos is out of stock in a customer’s size, agents are trained to look for shoes on competitor websites and direct customers there. Customer service at Zappos became an effort to build a relationship with customers and leave them with a good impression of the brand.

“Tony taught everyone that building a great community is the secret to a great customer experience.”

— Ben Parr, president and co-founder of Octane AI Inc.

Viewing customer service through that lens can help companies keep customers for the rest of their lives, said Sandro Roco, the founder and chief executive of Gantry Brands LLC who counts Mr. Hsieh as an influence.

Megan Petrini, an onboarding manager at Zappos, said that when she was a customer loyalty team member at the company, she once told a customer who repeatedly asked to reuse coupons that her request would no longer be honored. The customer responded by saying she would email Mr. Hsieh. The next day, Mr. Hsieh left a note on Ms. Petrini’s computer, telling her to give the customer the coupon.

“Here is where I learned a very important lesson in customer service—choose the customer over the bottom line, always,” Ms. Petrini said.

Pay Workers to Quit

To weed out employees that weren’t invested in the company and its strategy, Mr. Hsieh instituted one of his most unusual strategies: offering new staff a month’s pay to quit.

That would allow employees to consider whether the company’s path was right for them without fixating on the need for money in the short term.

Jackson Jeyanayagam, vice president and general manager of direct-to-consumer at Clorox Co., hasn’t adopted the same idea, but said he was spurred by Mr. Hsieh’s example to have conversations with staff to ensure they wanted to be with the company and grow with it.

“He taught me that we all need to find out what we are passionate about and what we are not,” Mr. Jeyanayagam said. “As a leader, sometimes you have to help your people figure that out as well. Lack of employee passion in the product will translate to lack of happiness for the customer every time.”

Create Community

Mr. Hsieh built a community both within the company and those who shopped, said Ben Parr, president and co-founder of Octane AI Inc., a marketing platform that specializes in messaging and chatbots.

He also invested in the community around Zappos, putting $350 million into developing downtown Las Vegas, where he had moved Zappos from San Francisco partly because it had been identified as a good place to open a company call center.

“Tony taught everyone that building a great community is the secret to a great customer experience,” Mr. Parr said.

As Zappos grew, Mr. Hsieh expounded on the need to stay focused on the customer, said Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the website Reddit and founder of venture-capital fund Seven Seven Six.

“By recentering his business on the customer experience, Tony injected humanity back into an industry that had become purely transactional, in turn fostering a fiercely loyal customer base and defying the belief that companies could not balance customer service and their bottom line,” Mr. Ohanian said.

More From The Experience Report

Write to Ann-Marie Alcántara at

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Amazon Makes Mac Commitment, Opening Door to Apple Developers

Tech giants Inc. and Apple Inc. are joining forces to support the growing number of companies developing apps and other software for Apple devices.

Under the agreement disclosed Monday, Amazon is making Apple computers available through Amazon Web Services, its cloud-computing business—enabling Apple developers to make and fully test apps remotely, rather than having to buy and maintain their own versions of the machines.

This could aid developers who are at the heart of a software and services strategy that is an increasingly important sales driver for Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple.

Initially, the Apple computers in Amazon’s data centers will be a version of the Mac Mini that has been available for some time, but David Brown, an AWS vice president, said the hardware will be updated as Apple launches new equipment. In November, Apple unveiled a Mac Mini powered by a chip it designed, called the M1, supplanting Intel Corp. chips. Mr. Brown said Amazon aims to install M1-based Macs early next year.

“We’re going to support the Mac operating system and Mac machines—whichever ones customers want access to,” he said.

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Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s Death Is Ruled Accident by Medical Examiner

Former Inc. Chief Executive Tony Hsieh died from complications of smoke inhalation, according to the Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, which ruled the death an accident.

Mr. Hsieh, who led online shoe retailer Inc. for two decades, died Friday at the age of 46 in New London, Conn. His attorney, Puoy Premsrirut, said Mr. Hsieh died from injuries suffered in a Nov. 18 fire in New London.


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Moderna Asks Health Regulators to Authorize Its Covid-19 Vaccine

Moderna Inc. said it asked U.S. and European health regulators Monday to authorize use of its Covid-19 vaccine, after it was shown to be 94.1% effective in a full analysis of a pivotal study.

The timing keeps the vaccine on track to become possibly the second to go into use in the U.S. by year’s end—after one already under regulatory review from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE—with inoculation available to the general public likely in spring or summer. Moderna said some doses also could become available in Europe in December.

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Exxon Slashes Spending, Writes Down Assets

Exxon Mobil Corp. is retreating from a plan to increase spending to boost its oil and gas production by 2025 and preparing to slash the book value of its assets by up to $20 billion, as the struggling company reassesses its next decade.

The Texas oil giant, which has lost more than $2.3 billion over the first three quarters of this year after the coronavirus wreaked havoc on fossil-fuel demand, released a reduced spending outlook Monday for the next five years. It now plans to spend $19 billion or less next year and $20 billion…

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Labor Department Published ‘Flawed Estimates’ of Weekly Jobless Claims, Watchdog Says

WASHINGTON—The nation’s system for providing unemployment benefits to jobless workers has consistently produced inaccurate data and lower-than-appropriate payouts to some workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a government watchdog said Monday.

The Labor Department’s weekly reports on jobless claims have published “flawed estimates of the number of individuals receiving benefits each week throughout the pandemic,” the Government Accountability Office said in a periodic report, warning that the inaccuracies could hinder policy…

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NPC’s Canceled Auctions Pave Way for Sale Of Wendy’s, Pizza Hut Chains to Flynn

NPC International Inc., the nation’s largest franchisee of Pizza Hut and Wendy’s restaurants, canceled auctions for all of its assets last night, paving the way for a potential sale of the entire company to the Flynn Restaurant Group LLC.

Wendy’s Co. has opposed the sale to Flynn, the largest restaurant franchisee in the U.S., and instead has made its own offer with a consortium of regional franchisees.