“To Live and Deliver Wow”: Lessons from a Visit to Zappos HQ

 In Association Management

I had a great opportunity to spend the day at Zappos recently – a true innovator in customer service. As they put it, “We’re a customer service company that just happens to sell shoes, clothes and stuff.” They have focused on a strong culture based on ten core values that permeate everything they do and every decision they make. They offered some great insights for almost any company – not just one with 1500 employees.

The overarching theme is “Purpose Over Profit.” This really resonated. Since its inception, Frontline has always focused first on its purpose – to deliver great work for the associations we serve. While we are a for-profit company, we are never for profit at the expense of delivering great service.

Zappos’s purpose is evident in its core values:

  1. To live and deliver WOW. Zappos is obsessed with customer service. They relentlessly teach and live outstanding customer service practices.
  2. Embrace and drive change. Zappos is always innovating and evolving.
  3. Create fun and a little weirdness. Zappos wants employees to be the same people during the week that they are on the weekends.
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded. Zappos offers peer to peer bonuses of $50 for activities out of the ordinary and consistent with Zappos core values.
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning. Zappos works to keep and grow its employees.
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication.
  7. Build a positive team and family spirit.  We’re at work more than we are with family and friends.  Zappos believes the people you work with should be an extension of your family.
  8. Do more with less.  This is Zappos’s only business-focused value. It reminds employees to be careful with resources.
  9. Be passionate and determined.
  10. Be humble. Check your ego at the door.

They believe that a great culture means less burnout, lower turnover and more profitability. They endeavor to treat their employees right and, in turn, count on the employees to treat their customers right.

Zappos never strays from its customer focus. EVERYTHING revolves around the customer experience and it begins with recruiting employees who share that commitment. They offered some tips we can all use when searching for the right employees.

Zappos maintains a pool of potential sources for future positions. When they post job openings, they seek out internal candidates first. They also employ social media, employee referrals and proactive talent hunting when they are seeking candidates with specific skills sets. They seek out talent on college campuses and they offer internships.

These are techniques that work for any size company. At Frontline, we rely on all of these approaches to identify team members who share our customer-centric focus and our passion for working with associations.

But recruiting great employees is just the beginning. Zappos invests heavily in employee training and engagement throughout an employee’s tenure. As a result, Zappos enjoys a relatively low turn-over rate and a high level of employee satisfaction.

In turn, this has created an extremely high level of customer loyalty. It’s easy to see why. The call center is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is virtually nothing that a call center employee is not empowered to do for a customer. Every interaction is personal and employees are trained to connect with customers, not merely meet a minimum standard. They endeavor to comply with every single request, even if the request does not generate a sale for Zappos.

A customer-focused experience is something every company can endeavor to deliver – whether it’s selling shoes or ice cream, or a professional service like accounting or engineering. We’re all customers and consumers on a daily basis, and we know exceptional customer service when we experience it. Those experiences provide insights that can in turn help us wow our own customers.

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