Alright I admit it. I'm jazzed up. So, I'll try to curb my enthusiasm and stick to the facts. And the fact is that Zappos is so much more than "WOW!"
I had the opportunity to make the trip to the Mecca of customer service last week while at the SOCAP conference in Las Vegas. And so, have you ever been in a situation where you're not really looking for something, or looking for one thing and, from out of nowhere... BAM!...something completely unexpected smacks you in the side of the head? That's what happened to me during my tour with the freakishly enthusiastic folks from Zappos Insights (trust me. they'd take that as a complement; as it's intended)
Leading up to, and as I embarked on my sojourn through 2280 Corporate Circle, Suite 100, having worn out the binding of my copy of Delivering Happiness, I was fully expecting to witness all the overt signs upon which the now-legendary Zappos culture has been built. What I walked away with is something completely different.
Pay attention now because here's the nugget. Zappos' culture and customer experience mastery is made possible by a bunch of wicked smart, savvy people that have developed a brilliant business model from the ground up. Let's face it. You don't sell over a billion dollars annually and get Amazon to pay you $1.2 billion dollars for your company by giving away the store and losing money. In contrast to Borders, the book retailing giant that, while apparently earning a stellar reputation for customer service, filed for bankruptcy last year, the leadership at Zappos understand that delivering happiness has a cost.
So what do you do? You have just as sharp a laser focus on such things as finance, logistics and merchandizing as you do on culture and customer experience. You do things like build your distribution center right next door to the UPS hub in Kentucky to, not only deliver anywhere in the USA within 3-5 business days, but to do that so cost effectively to be able to offer free shipping both ways. And, presto - exceeding the customers expectations.
Oh and do this. Go to Zappos.com and see how many pages you have to click through to see the word "SALE" flashing in your face in big bold letters. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Zappos doesn't sell cheap stuff. Well they do, but not under the Zappos brand. That's way too valuable an asset to dilute like that. They reserve that stuff for a separate brand - 6pm.com
And, looking closer, you realize they understand that its not just customer service, sales and marketing that impact the customer experience. Every single function in the organization is built from the ground up and viewed as a customer touch point.
So the next time you see a tweet about their customer service, or you place an order on their site, know there's more to the Zappos legend than meets the eye. Everyone from these folks to this guy makes sure of that everyday.