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Customer Happiness Lessons for Any Company, Courtesy of Zappos

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of being invited to an event sponsored by Freshdesk as part of their Customer Happiness Tour. The intimate event was a chance to get to know customer experience leaders from brands in the Chicago area, as well as hear speakers from Zappos and Judson University.

Erika Paman-Mercado, from Zappos Customer Loyalty Team, walked through just some of the magic that is Zappos famous culture and customer experience. We also received copies of the 2014 Zappos Culture Book. The Culture Book is half employee scrapbook and half culture guidebook.

Erika, who I had actually met earlier this year at the Next Generation Customer Experience conference in San Diego, exemplified what Zappos promotes. She was humble, honest and completely and passionately dedicated to her fellow team members and the customers. She said the phrase “it’s all about our customers” more than once, and it was clear she meant it.

Like most customer experience students, I have studied Zappos as a leader. Listening to Erika speak of what all of this really means to them, a few things really stuck with me. Ideas integral to Zappos’s success, but often overlooked by other organizations.

What can your organization take away from Zappos?

1. Core values aren’t just a poster.


Erika shared how the 10 Core Values of Zappos culture are printed on the back of every employee i.d. badge. These aren’t just talk and they are far from buzz speak. These values are often referred to and employees are encouraged to share which value they align themselves with the most. These 10 Core Values are also printed in the Culture Book. They are:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

These values aren’t revolutionary in their words, but they just may be in their execution. A few years ago, Zappos started moving to a holacracy structure, meaning they are eliminating much of the hierarchy and management typical in business. They can do this because of their culture.

2. Customer service is seen as a hugely valuable part of the business.

Everyone is trained in customer service, regardless of their role. When times are especially busy, like during the holiday shopping season, it’s not unusual for people from marketing or other departments to answer customer calls. During typical times, half of the staff is dedicated to customer support. Everyone is trained so they can pitch in when needed. Because, in Erika’s words, it’s all about customers!

3. Transparency is a tool for good.

buzzwordIn Zappos’s culture, transparency is key. Again, instead of just using the buzzword, they deliver on this promise by making the outputs of any and all meetings published for all to see. If you are part of the customer support group but want to see what is happening in the next marketing campaign, you can find the meeting notes on their internal system. This means anyone can contribute to the conversation, and accountability is open.

4. Customer service is for everyone, vendors and community included

Zappos takes its promise of great experiences seriously, and doesn’t add arbitrary boundaries. Those core values are for everyone, employees, customers, vendors, suppliers, and partners alike. There are organizations who rank experiences – great for customers, ok for employees, and whatever is left for vendors and partners. Zappos sees them all as important relationships to nurture and respect. These good relationships serve everyone, all the way to the customers they serve.

It’s not revolutionary to hold up Zappos as an example of great customer experience. What is revolutionary, in my opinion, is truly committing to the practices they use to make that happen. Can your organization become the next great customer experience leader?

About Jeannie Walters, CCXP, CSP

Jeannie Walters CCXP CSP small square photoJeannie is an award-winning customer experience expert, international keynote speaker, and sought-after business coach who is trailblazing the movement from “Reactive Customer Service” to “Proactive Customer and Employee Experience.” More than 500,000 people have learned from her CX courses on LinkedIn Learning, and her insights have been featured in Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and NPR

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