Do you remember when Zappos, the online shoe retailer, entered the market in 1999? Likely not. Their first-year sales were dismal. But, over the next 12 months, their revenue rocketed to $1.6 million. They continued to grow their annual sales to $1.2 billion until their acquisition by Amazon just 10 years after their launch.
One reason for this growth was the overwhelmingly positive word of mouth on the no-risk, exceptional experience of buying from them.
They seemed to go out of their way to delight us. And it worked.
Tony Hsieh, former CEO of Zappos, spoke at a conference I was speaking at in Miami a number of years back. He told the audience that once a new hire had completed their multi-week onboarding, they were paid to leave – $2,000 in fact. He added that he felt that might be too low. He wanted to ensure his people were committed to delivering an exceptional customer experience, not just taking the job for the pay check.
Is there danger in setting the customer experience bar so high? After all, once customers get accustomed to it, anything less than stellar would seem like a miss.
Case(s) in point? Lately, it feels as though companies we once considered to be bellwethers of customer experience – e.g., Apple, Starbucks, Nordstrom – have fallen into the customer experience abyss. Belly up to the Genius Bar (–or barista bar, –or customer service desk) and it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself reliving the good old days when product or service issues were solved with a smile and a little behind-the-scenes magic.
So, what is Zappos doing right? What drives their cultural obsession to delight their customers?
For starters, the tenet is baked right into Zappos’ 10 core values: Deliver WOW through service. Chiseled values like this one serve as the guardrails for company culture. When crafted with intention, delivered with consistency and adhered to with resolve, clear core values have the ability to empower employees to make good decisions and to take the right action – even when no one else is looking.
Is it time to refresh your organization’s set of values in order to boost the customer experience that your organization is delivering (or not delivering)?
If the answer is “yes,” consider involving your employees in the process. When you do that – and do it well – employees will feel a greater sense of “value ownership” and be better equipped to activate your desired customer experience.
Thanks for being involved today.