Best Practices
November 15, 2010

Happy Workforce, Happy Customers

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Established in 1999 with the primary goal of becoming the premiere destination for online shoe purchases, has since become a one-stop online store for an enormous range of products, from jewelry to sporting goods to apparel for all ages. Zappos has transformed from serving a niche market to becoming a retail giant, carving out for themselves a significant place among other big-name stores. But this is not what, Inc.’s CEO Tony Hsieh wants to be known for. His goal? To be known for excellent customer service and happy employees.

While this may initially come as a surprise in today’s tough economic market, Hsieh’s reasoning does make good business sense. Happy customer service agents, who feel that their job is valued and necessary, are bound to work harder to make their customers happy. And a happy customer is a loyal customer, bringing back repeat business and referring their friends and family.

“We're a service company that just happens to sell shoes,” Hsieh told an audience of about 200 in the summer of 2010. “We're in the stories and memories business.”

One of Zappos’ most beloved customer service practices is its policy of free shipping on all orders, so buyers can order as many items as they want and return the ones they don’t want for free for up to a full year. This is especially useful when buying shoes – the product that put Zappos on the map in the first place.

Also notable is the culture of Zappos’ customer service department. Representatives are allowed to joke and laugh with their customers and are not subject to any time constraints, forging comfortable relationships and making the customer feel at home. Zappos seeks to change workplace standards by allowing – and encouraging – their employees to be the same inside of work as they are outside.

Additionally, Zappos’ vetting process for new employees (whether call center representatives or executives) is quite rigorous. Interviewees come in for multiple interviews to make sure their personalities fit Zappos’ unique standards. Once past this point, they go through a 4 week training course to learn the ins and outs of the business, including the company’s warehouse procedures. Zappos then offers trainees an opportunity to quit and receive a no-question-asked $2,000 bonus, ensuring that they retain only the best and brightest employees that have a strong desire to work with the company. As a telling point of the unique and inviting culture at Zappos, only 2 percent of interviewees actually take the money and walk away.

Zappos is a leader among businesses committed to providing excellent customer service and promoting happy, healthy workplaces.