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A blog I wrote earlier this week was all about what you do in private, may end up in the public domain so you may as well encourage conversation as trying to control them.

Well, I came across this very interesting – if not challenging example of an organisation ‘showing their stuff’ in public. is the largest online shoe store in the world (they don’t deliver to Australia – I have tried… this site can meet any Imelda’s desire – 4 million pairs of shoes – yes there are that many made). They have more than 1600 employees (big in the online space). More than 300 of them are corresponding via (a public domain) social ‘what am I doing’ site.

Zappos has had massive sales growth (from $70 million five years ago to $1 billion today) by offering the following a big customer promise:

*  Huge selection (4 million pairs of shoes)
*  Fast delivery (promises 4 days, often delivers overnight)
*  Free delivery (not to Australia)
*  Free returns

Clearly, Zappos success lies in how it engages its team to deliver amazing customer experiences. It has a highly engaged call centre team. This engagement is enhanced by ‘Trust’ in allowing employees a great deal of freedom in how they deal with customers. I know this from our own experience – see the previous blog. Our pleasure relations team know that they can respond to any query, based on our values and they will be absolutely supported by our leadership team.

In addition Zappos back this trust value with 4 (paid) weeks of immersive training that focuses on strategy, culture and obsession with customers.  Now we don’t do this… something learned here. We talk extensively about the customer experience. And our team really get that… they know that what they say on the phone impacts how people experience our brand.

A large number (>300) of Zappo’s 1,600 employees are on Twitter. (We have not yet embraced this at RedBalloon). According to Zappos ‘For people unfamiliar with what can be accomplished with Twitter, this represents a huge presence in a community of customers and employees (and yes, competitors as well), talking and listening to each other about what’s working and what’s not, what’s hot and what’s not, and basically anything else that provides the “pulse” of the market.’

The CEO, Tony, Twitters away too. (as the leadership team goes so goes the rest of the organisation), further enhancing the Trust factor as well as providing him with another insight into their market. He is able to keep tabs on customer sentiment very quickly.

Zappo’s takes employee engagement really seriously. It knows that its brand is only as good as the last twitter or phone conversation. How interesting than that after a week or so on the job, Zappos offers new employees in their call centre the pay that they are owed plus $1000 to leave. This is because Zappos wants to really know if the employee is truly engaged and this provides a relatively inexpensive way to find out sooner rather than later. Zappo’s is taking very seriously the cost to its brand of a bad customer experience.

In addition, the $1000 option can be (and has been) adjusted as needed (it has grown from $100 to $500 to $1000). This offers a clear, tangible demonstration of the level (and value) of employee engagement (which is typically thought of as very intangible) and how it can be arrived at through measurements like this vs. relying solely on surveys, etc.

I have not yet tried this one…. We are a much smaller team of 43… If we ever give it a try I’ll let you know how it goes.

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