7 Remarkable Customer Experience Insights from Zappos

Here’s how the online retail­er Zap­pos has cre­at­ed – and nur­tures – a con­tin­u­um of hap­py employ­ees and fans.

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

When it comes to hap­py cus­tomers, online retail­er Zap­pos is in a league of its own. Case in point: the first of its <a href=“http://www.zappos.com/d/about-zappos-culture”>10 core values</a>, which are repeat­ed through­out Zappos.com, is to “Deliv­er WOW through ser­vice.”

These Zap­pos val­ues, which also include “Cre­ate Fun and A Lit­tle Weird­ness,” and cul­ture, in which man­agers are “mon­keys,” help con­sti­tute a unique brand that dri­ves repeat – and new – busi­ness. In writ­ing about Zap­pos’ deci­sion to become an Ama­zon sub­sidiary in 2009, founder and CEO Tony Hsieh wrote about putting this cul­ture above all else and how being good to Zap­pos employ­ees has trans­lat­ed to best-in-class ser­vice. Ama­zon itself is no cus­tomer expe­ri­ence slouch.

Per a rep, the Ama­zon expe­ri­ence includes the abil­i­ty to order vir­tu­al­ly every prod­uct cus­tomers want or need from the com­fort of home, as well as dai­ly deals, free ship­ping on eli­gi­ble items, an “ecosys­tem” via Ama­zon Prime that gives mem­bers access to con­tent and stor­age, and prod­uct reviews, which help cus­tomers make informed deci­sions. But Zap­pos has nev­er­the­less remained an inde­pen­dent enti­ty with its own val­ues and cul­ture. “I believe that get­ting the cul­ture right is the most impor­tant thing a com­pa­ny can do,” Hsieh said in Inc.

He went on to write a book, Deliv­er­ing Hap­pi­ness: A Path to Prof­its, Pas­sion and Pur­pose, in 2010, which spurred a bus tour and an inde­pen­dent com­pa­ny that is pro­mot­ing a full-fledged move­ment to inspire hap­pi­ness through­out the world. As if that was­n’t enough to demon­strate Zap­pos’ cus­tomer expe­ri­ence prowess, the brand’s cul­ture has spurred so much inter­est from out­siders, Zap­pos even launched a depart­ment, Zap­pos Insights, which it says helps share Zap­pos cul­ture with the world via tours, Q&As, con­tent and events.

In a recent con­ver­sa­tion with Jon Wolske, a cul­ture evan­ge­list from Zap­pos Insights, Momen­tol­ogy asked about Zap­pos’ keys to cus­tomer expe­ri­ence suc­cess. Here’s Wolske’s take on what makes the Zap­pos expe­ri­ence unique and how the brand trans­forms cus­tomers into pas­sion­ate fans:

1. Happiness, Through and Through

Wolske echoes Hsieh’s focus on employ­ees and says Zap­pos cul­ture ensures the brand pro­vides great expe­ri­ences both inter­nal­ly and exter­nal­ly. A peek at Zap­pos’ job site makes it clear Wolske and Hsieh are not just blow­ing smoke. Zap­pos pays 100 per­cent of employ­ees’ med­ical, den­tal and vision pre­mi­ums and offers 401(k) match­ing, employ­ee hous­ing ben­e­fits, nap pods and free pup­pies, as well as free food, class­es and shut­tle ser­vices and a 40 per­cent Zappos.com dis­count.

And, Wolske notes, hap­py employ­ees use those same val­ues to take care of Zap­pos cus­tomers. “The whole idea isn’t just about ‘What do we do for those buy­ing shoes?’” Wolske says. “It’s about who are we as a brand and how do we live that for every­body?”

2. It’s All About Service

Indeed, Wolske says Zap­pos sees itself as a ser­vice com­pa­ny at its core – and one that hap­pens to sell clothes and shoes to make mon­ey. In oth­er words, cus­tomer ser­vice isn’t just what Zap­pos does for con­sumers shop­ping for prod­ucts, but is rather an inte­gral part of Zap­pos cul­ture.

3. Ensuring the Right Fit

And it all starts with hir­ing employ­ees who are aligned with the brand’s core val­ues and who can then deliv­er con­sis­tent­ly great expe­ri­ences, Wolske says. “We invest on the front end to make sure it’s the right fit,” Wolske says.

4. ‘The Zappos Experience Every Time’

Fur­ther, con­sis­ten­cy is one of Zap­pos’ biggest brand advan­tages, Wolske adds. The brand calls its phone team the “cus­tomer loy­al­ty team” because it’s about pro­vid­ing a great expe­ri­ence and rein­forc­ing it. “We do the Zap­pos expe­ri­ence every time,” Wolske says. “One of most frus­trat­ing things would be if some­thing changed and now all of a sud­den, we throw a pol­i­cy in your face. It should always feel like Zap­pos, no mat­ter how big or small the con­cern.”

5. ‘The #1 Tool Any Company Can Use is Listening’

And the con­sis­tent Zap­pos expe­ri­ence also comes from hap­py employ­ees who are empow­ered to solve cus­tomer prob­lems. “We answer, ‘How can I help you today?’ and then we lis­ten and fig­ure it out, no mat­ter what the sit­u­a­tion is, you get a con­sis­tent feel­ing for the brand,” Wolske adds. And, like any rela­tion­ship per­haps, it’s lis­ten­ing that’s key. “When it comes to cre­at­ing great expe­ri­ences, the num­ber one tool any com­pa­ny can use is lis­ten­ing,” Wolske says. “We don’t have a script we use.

There’s no ‘If then, this, here’s the answer.’ We lis­ten.” In fact, Wolske says remark­able expe­ri­ences don’t have to cost a lot of mon­ey – and they don’t even always have to go above and beyond. It’s sim­ply about lis­ten­ing to what’s impor­tant in cus­tomers’ lives – and mak­ing it impor­tant to Zap­pos as well – and then com­ing up with res­o­lu­tions to meet indi­vid­ual needs. “If you call and say, ‘I got shoes in a 9.5 and have to stand up all day at my cousin’s wed­ding, so I want a size 10 to make sure they’re com­fort­able,’ we can ulti­mate­ly focus on the trans­ac­tion and exchange it for a big­ger size – we do that trans­ac­tion every day – but you men­tioned it was for your cousin’s wed­ding, [so we can say], ‘To make sure you get them in time, let’s ver­i­fy your address,’ and then it becomes an expe­ri­ence rather than trans­ac­tion,” Wolske adds.

6. ‘It’s An Investment in the Customer Experience’

But, he notes, Zap­pos isn’t offer­ing perks that oth­er com­pa­nies couldn’t choose to extend to their cus­tomers as well, point­ing to free ship­ping and returns as exam­ples. “Com­pa­nies can do it if they under­stand it’s not a cost you’re los­ing, it’s an invest­ment in cus­tomer expe­ri­ence,” Wolske says. “When you make an invest­ment, you look for a return. So it’s about chang­ing the lan­guage from cost to invest­ment.” Zap­pos’ 24-hour call cen­ter is anoth­er part of the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence that costs a lot of mon­ey, but, Wolske notes, “No mat­ter what time cus­tomers want to call, we’re hap­py to say, ‘How can we help you today?”

7. ‘Word of Mouth is Driving Customers to be…Raving Fans’

And it works. In look­ing at cus­tomer and pur­chas­ing behav­ior data since Zap­pos was found­ed in 1999, Wolske says on an aver­age day, 75 to 80 per­cent of Zappos.com vis­i­tors are return­ing cus­tomers. “When you get a good expe­ri­ence, you come back because you want it again,” Wolske says. Fur­ther, of the 25 per­cent of cus­tomers that are new, about 40 per­cent indi­cate that friends or fam­i­ly told them about the Zap­pos expe­ri­ence, per Wolske’s fig­ures. “Word of mouth is dri­ving cus­tomers to be not only loy­al, but rav­ing fans that will in turn dri­ve new busi­ness,” Wolske says.

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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