Best Practices in Client Experience Strategy: Zappos

Zappos pays its new call-center employees $2,000 to quit. Inside the company, people refer to this as “The Offer.”

It comes after the first of four intensive weeks of training. Basically, the online retailer says: If you want to leave, please do. We’ll even pay you a week’s salary plus $1,000 to go.

Zappos believes this removes people—about 10 percent of new hires—who aren’t committed to its culture. And, that’s what made this firm a customer experience powerhouse. I know. I buy from the company.

What Zappos does is simple. It sells shoes, clothes, handbags, house wares and beauty products. What sets the company apart is how it focuses on clients. It does everything imaginable to make the buying experience a delight. Corporate leaders use all customer interactions to build the Zappos brand.

The results can be superior. For example, I placed an order at 10 p.m. and selected the free shipping. I expected to get something in four days. The next day, I was surprised—and delighted—to come home from work and find my order. By the way, the shipping is free. (Frankly, I’m tired of paying $15 shipping on a $50 order.) And, Zappos has a great “hassle free” return policy. If you’ve had an item for 365 days or less, send it back, no questions asked and shipping is free. I ordered several pairs of shoes. When they arrived I tried them on, kept the ones I liked and returned the others. The process was smooth, quick and free in both directions.

What Zappos has achieved is remarkable. It also has taken a huge effort. I believe that the company’s success rests on some basic ideas. Zappos does well because it:


  • Focuses intently on customers. For example, Zappos runs its own warehouse and shipping. Many online retailers don’t, relying on vendors for these. A decade ago when the company started, Zappos did the same. Dissatisfied with the results and the limited product selection, the company decided to perform these tasks in-house, despite the added costs and effort.


  • Creates a great customer experience. Zappos claims it’s “Powered by Service.” From everything I see, it is. The company culture ensures that everyone does all they can to give clients what they need and want.


  • Hires the right people. Throughout the organization, Zappos carefully selects every team member. Employees are not just chosen for skills and potential, but also for their ability to embrace the company’s service ideals. This process takes time, effort and money. Yet, the results speak for themselves.


  • Empowered frontline people. “Empower” is the most overused and under-practiced idea in America. However, Zappos gets this right. Call-center personnel have no scripts and no time limits. Instead, they have the knowledge, skills and authority to do what is needed to please a customer. Keep in mind that only 5 percent of Zappos business is done on the telephone. Yet, company leaders believe that sooner or later every customer will call. The goal is to make that event positive and memorable.


Typically, I hesitate to recommend a company. But Zappos is one organization I always encourage others to try. To me, that kind of loyalty proves it has an unbeatable customer experience.

For more insight on the Zappos culture, I highly recommend “Delivering Happiness” by Zappos Chief Executive Officer Tony Hsieh. It’s one of the best business books I’ve found this year. 


And be sure to take a look at this brief video: 


Company Profile

Name:, Inc. (acquired by Amazon July 2009)

Industry: Online Retailer

CEO: Tony Hsieh

2009 Employees: 1,500

2009 Sales: $1 billion