Is it possible for customer service to become a cult? I think so. Many companies tout customer service as their key differentiator. No company I have ever seen carries through on that mission like Zappos. They even have a name for it internally: the WOW philosophy. The CEO is Tony Hsieh – Author of “Delivering Happiness” and he occupies a cubical in the middle of their offices along with the employees with whom he works. If you order shoes from Zappos, shipping is free. They also pay for the shipping on returns. There is no limit on returns either, and you can return a pair of shoes up to 365 days after purchasing them. If the customer wants shoes that are not in stock, call center employees will find the shoes on a competitor’s web site and direct the customer there.
Visitors to the Zappos offices are greeted with cheers, applause, and the occasional kazoo. Each employee takes a 4 week training course in customer service – even if their job does not require them to talk to customers. After training, if you don’t like your job, if you think you would be better off elsewhere, the company offers each employee $2,000 to quit. Zappos only wants employees who want to be at Zappos. The tactic has served the company well as Fortune magazine ranked Zappos 23rd on its list of “Best Companies to Work For” in 2009, 15th in 2010, sixth in 2011, and 11th in 2012.
They have an internal “Code of Conduct” to which the employees must adhere. Try this on for size (preferably in a size 10):
- Deliver WOW Through Service
- Embrace and Drive Change
- Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
- Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
- Pursue Growth and Learning
- Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
- Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
- Do More With Less
- Be Passionate and Determined
- Be Humble
Has a corporate culture of treating customers and employees well paid off for Zappos? Fifteen years after launch they sell over two billion dollars worth of shoes each year. Billion.
What a radical notion – treat customers and employees (internal customers) well, make that your core value, and your business will prosper. I’m thinking there is something here for travel agencies. We work in a business that should be nothing but fun. Yet the dour look on many travel agent faces when you visit their offices suggests you are about to get a scolding instead. Where’s the energy and excitement that should be a part of your own internal corporate culture? Are your employees happy? Are you? If not, then I can almost guarantee that neither are your clients. Enthusiasm and joy are communicable diseases.
So is a bad attitude.
Gather your co-workers and watch some of these videos. Spend some time looking at the Zappos website. Then, get to work on having more fun.