AutoPoint Blog

Not the shoe company you expect.

Posted by Hilary Biggart Wednesday, June 29, 2016

This is an installment in a weekly series on uncommon tech innovations and implementations across all industries. Get an inside look at how other companies have changed their brands, their sales, and their retention through digital and mobile tech.

It all started with a pair of brown Airwalks. Or rather, without a pair of brown Airwalks.

In 1999, Nick Swinmurn went looking for a specific pair of shoes at his local mall—and he didn’t find them. So he decided to start a company that sold shoes online—all kinds of shoes, including rare ones. In a nutshell, that’s how Zappos, the ubiquitous web-based shoe company, was born. But since its earliest beginnings, Zappos has come to be known for much more than footwear.

When you hear about Zappos, you rarely hear about the products it sells. Instead you hear about the Zappos’ experience—whether it’s the customer experience they completely redesigned or the unique employee culture they perpetuate that takes radical leaps within the bounds of management and training.

If we’re talking about a tech company that turned the industry on its head, Zappos is an obvious choice—and we’re not even sure which industry to start with. The shoe industry, certainly. But more than that, Zappos remodeled our expectations for how to interact with companies, employees, and the business world around us.

Quit if you want to.

New hires at Zappos face an intense, four-week training period. They become immersed in the company’s unique culture and learn about its strategies to provide a fundamentally different experience for customers and employees alike. At the end of the first week, the management makes new hires a strange offer: quit right now and they’ll get $3,000.

That might seem crazy, but many call it genius. First, only a tiny percentage of new hires take the money. Second, the offer spurs those who remain to carry a sense of purpose as they go forward in their Zappos career. They are part of something bigger and they made an important decision to stay.

This commitment is important for the customer side of the Zappos experience. From their beginnings, this company sought to do it different, do it better.

No call limits here.

The customer experience is where Zappos really shines. It was one of the first companies to turn call centers into a place where employees are actually supposed to serve customers. Zappos doesn’t set limits on call times and it encourages employees to go above and beyond to provide exceptional customer service.

Zappos also gives its employees significant freedom to make appropriate decisions regarding customer care. Employees don’t have to constantly check with supervisors to take action—each employee is empowered to do their job the best way they know how.

What we can learn.

Zappos teaches us that experience matters. Why do only a tiny percentage of Zappos new hires take the $3,000 offer? Why do customer service reps make a consistent effort to go above and beyond for the company’s patrons? It’s because Zappos prioritizes an easy, effortless experience above all else. And the company’s results prove that this kind of experience will win you loyalty, from both customers and employees, more effectively than almost any other means of operation.

In a dealership environment, you may not want to pay your techs to quit after one week, and you can’t give your staff exactly the same kind of leeway Zappos can. But you can still empower your employees to provide an exceptional customer experience through the right tools.

The best news is the tools you need to empower your staff and revamp your customer experience to impressive, Zappos-level proportions already exist. In the dealership, tech tools that connect with your customers in meaningful ways through their preferred channels (i.e. digital and mobile) give you a huge edge over the competition and enable you to create the kind of experience that keeps your customers coming back for long after their first visit.  


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