How Zappos ‘WOWs’ customers

One of the best customer service oriented companies is one that many Canadians have probably never heard of.  Zappos positions itself as a “service company” that happens to sell products (clothes, shoes, etc.)   It consistently scores high in ratings of best companies to work for and customer service experience.  Perhaps the two are related!

Zappos has been successful at retaining customers through their fantastic culture.  Zappos prides itself on being “Powered by Service” as is shown on the web site header.   It has one simple goal, which is to provide the best online shopping experience possible.

According to, it does this by offering fast, free shipping as well as a 365 day return policy and free return shipping!  The folks at Zappos pride themselves on fast fulfillment, expedited delivery and fast, friendly & expert customer service.

We can break this down even further.  How does Zappos offer fast, free shipping and fulfill their promise without being crushed by delays?   It has more than 1000 brands and 5 million items in its warehouse.  That’s right… 100% of products are in inventory.

Zappos is committed to ‘wowing’ the customer by improving three key areas

  1. What customers see first
    • They display the toll free support number on every page their web site
    • Support is offered 24/7
    • Free shipping both ways (U.S. only)
    • Have a liberal 1 year return policy
  2. What customers experience
    • Fast, accurate fulfillment
    • Many customers are “surprise”-upgraded to overnight shipping
    • Friendly, helpful “above and beyond” customer service
    • When Zappos does not have a particular item requested, they will direct customers to competitors’ web sites
  3. What Zappos does behind the scenes
    • No call times in their contact centre
    • No sales-based performance goals for reps
    • Run warehouse 24/7
    • All product is in inventory
    • 5 weeks of culture, core values, customer service, and warehouse training for everyone all employees
    • Pay employees to quit
    • Assembled a ‘culture book’
    • Interviews & performance reviews are 50% based on core values & culture fit
    • Social media encouraged to help build company culture

Why does Zappos go to this extent to ensure customer satisfaction?  They seem to understand the power of repeat customers and word of mouth.  Zappos believes that people want to be heard and feel like they are part of the conversation.  Customers enjoy sharing their experiences with friends, family and strangers!  At the same time Zappos can gather critical information about what is working and what needs tweaking.

Zappos knows that not all customers are contacting the company, and not all dissatisfied customers are contacting the company.  They have trained their entire company, at all levels, to be customer service reps.  Employees are encouraged to use social media to reach out to customers.

It’s not just as easy as deciding that everyone on the team can be trained in customer service.   A company must foster the right culture.  They need to share core values.  They must invest in hiring and firing.  Zappos actually offers money to employees to leave.  If an employee doesn’t feel they fit in to the culture, they are encouraged to take the money and run.

Through education and fun, Zappos encourages its employees to pursue growth and build open relationships.  Be adventurous, creative and open-minded!  If all companies could follow their example, the world would be a happier place.

Readers:  Do you think Zappos has an innovative business model?  Does the over-the-top customer service reward the company or are they paying too much for it?  Has anyone ever shopped with Zappos?


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