I am a fan of zappo’s
Not of their shoes (they don’t ship to Europe), but of the way they sell their product and run their company. I was looking around for some shoes online (I have a sneaker fixation) and got to the zappo’s site, what I found was; numerous photos from different angles, clear description, nicely laid out page. I asked them if they’d ship to me but the nice lady in their customer service department explained that they were only focussed on the us, unfortunately didn’t ship to europe, but had i tried site x. And that’s the key to what they do, they’re a customer service company (their tag line is “powered by service”)

I’ve kept up-to-date with them anecdotally since then, there was a marketing Sherpa interview with them that highlighted that they don’t believe in marketing, but they do believe in delivering a WOW ™ experience. Jim Sterne talked about buying shoes from them (in a web analytics newsletter!) and seth godin highlighted a story that someone blogged about the customer service they offer. A woman had bought shoes for her terminally ill mother, and she had passed away without wearing them. She got an automatic mail asking her if she was happy with them; zappos has free shipping, 15 days evaluation, and free return shipping. She explained her situation, and zappo’s apologized for bugging her at this time, and then sent dhl to come and pick up the package. They then sent a condolence bunch of flowers the next day. This is the human touch that is lacking in many operations these days, zappos has no kpi’s on talk time or restrictions on what is done to keep the customer happy, but the focus is to keep the customer happy (you’ll see in one of the graphs in the presentation the significant revenues they make from return customers, so this pays off)

They get it; the customer experience is key; and its not for some bullshit reason that they then plan to pr what they do. In this case someone had a blog and talked about it, but there must be many such occurrences which remain undocumented (or spread to a couple of close friends).

Following on from the customer experience being key is that you need the right people on board in order to deliver that customer experience. Which is another innovative thing that they do. Everyone that works at zappos (irrespective of what they will do at the company) has to do a minimum of a week (and 4 weeks for customer service) working on the front line, packing boxes and understanding the nuts and bolts of how the company works. After the first week of this training everyone is offered $1,000 plus their pay-to-date to LEAVE the company; the thinking behind this being that if there isn’t an immediate culture fit, then the person can leave and both zappos and the employee are better off (this $1,000 has increased from $100 to $500 to $1,000, and could be looking at increasing).

Hearing this was pretty groundbreaking to me, and I started to do some online sleuthing into them. I read their ceo & coo blog, watched some movies, and contacted them to get some of their presentations.

So now I know more about zappo’s, and I’m even more impressed; I have an invitation to go and visit them for a tour the next time I’m in las vegas, they’re sending me their culture book (I’ll update you when I get it), and I am a firm believer in their value system and way of running their business.

2008; $1billion revenue, selling shoes & accessories;
2015; Amazon substitute?

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