Leadership / Management | Organizational Development

Service revolution: ‘Bigger than just getting paid’


Editor's note: Here's a final (we promise!) note before we close the book on our Zappos experiences.

Plenty of companies do customer service right. Southwest is friendly, open and accommodating. L.L. Bean will let you return anything at anytime ... for any reason. SixApart (creator of Typepad, the service that hosts this blog) uses Twitter to listen to its customers' concerns and follows through until the problems are solved.

Focusing on your customers is nothing new. Heck, it's what all successful companies are supposed to do.

So why is Zappos getting all the ink these days?

After touring the company's offices and talking to the people there, I think the answer is obvious.

Zappos's stellar customer service is a direct byproduct of its stellar employee service.

It starts before your first day on the job. The company's culture factors into hiring decisions as heavily as one's resume. If you don't fit the culture, you don't stay long.

That culture is defined by fierce loyalty to the company and its customers, by the notions of service and learning, and by just the right touches of individuality, fun and weirdness. It's a strange brew, but it works. The word around the company's cube farms is that it's harder to get hired by Zappos than it is to get into Harvard.

That commitment to culture is ongoing, too. According to Zappos Culture Guide Jon Wolske, a full 50 percent of the company's performance reviews are centered on each employee's fit within the Zappos culture.

"People are beginning to understand that business as it has traditionally been done has run its course," said Wolske. "We need to know that we're part of something that's more than just coming into work and getting paid. I need to know that I'm coming in here to make a difference. That's the revolution -- that change from just clocking in to get a paycheck to understanding that you're part of something bigger and are making a difference."

Zappos employees who make the cut tend to be fanatical about providing awesome customer service ... which leads us to this chicken-and-egg scenario: Do Zappos employees deliver great service because of the company's culture, or did the company's culture rise from its employees desire to deliver great service?

Does it really matter? In the end, we all win.

And if you don't believe me, take a couple of minutes to read Michelle Golden's take on the movement. Turns out there's a reason why everyone is talking about Zappos.

What are you doing to follow their lead? Let us know, then listen to parts 1, 2 and 3 of Wolske's advice for companies that want to join the cultural revolution:


Bill Sheridan