John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog


Zappos_LogoWhy all the fuss over By now you have probably heard countless legendary stories about a company started 10 years ago out of a living room. The goal was to get people to buy shoes online, and Voila! Only a few months ago Zappos sold for over $900 million! All this was done during one of the worst economic recession in decades. Their business was built using world-class customer service — not just relative to an e-commerce retailer– but world-class customer service by anyone’s standards.

Consider this: They sell shoes online, a concept no one ever thought would take off due to the unpredictable and inconsistent size of different brands and styles. But they do sell a lot of shoes online — over 1 billion. Last year their sales were up 20%, and they’ve been profitable since 2006. They have a cult-like employee base of over 1,300 associates referred to as Zapponians, yet they pay salaries often below market rate. The average hourly worker makes just over $23,000 a year. All employees receive four weeks of training. Midway through their training, all trainees are offered a $2,000 quitting bonus.

Jane Judd. Senior Manager, Customer Loyalty, Presenter at The Secret Service Summit

Zappos is built around one single concept – Deliver “WOW” through service and everyone is brainwashed to execute that. A Zappos customer enjoys free shipping, free returns, and a retailer that always under promises and over delivers. Zappos promises you will receive your order in 2-3 days and regularly sends your shipment next-day air. They also have toll-free customer support answered by a human being 24/7, a personal buying service, and free socks. What made Zappos act like a hospitality company that happened to sell shoes online? Survival! Early on, the company could not afford to spend money on marketing, so the sales strategy was quite simple: Make customers so happy and pleasantly surprised that they buy again and tell their friends. As a result of their success, these staple amenities that exceeded traditional service experiences elsewhere are still part of the Zappos experience today.

In most cases, the ones surviving with long-term sustainability are the businesses that are fanatical about differentiating themselves through the customer experience they deliver.

My favorite customer service models are the ones that are so unique to their industry that everyone else in the industry continues to be like blind sheep and do whatever everyone else has always done. Then you have companies like Southwest, Nordstrom, and now Zappos, who introduce such simple concepts, unheard of in their industry, and dominate even in tough economic times.

~John R. DiJulius III best-selling author, consultant, and keynote speaker, is the President of The DiJulius Group, the leading customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on customer experience trends and best practices. Learn more about The DiJulius Group or The Secret Service Summit, America’s #1 Customer Service Conference.

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