At Zappos, Customer Loyalty Starts With Employee Engagement

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Rob Siefker, Director of the Customer Loyalty Team, discusses employee empowerment, the power of customer feedback, and inspiring other companies to do their best.

Zappos, one of the world's most revered customer experience companies, has created a loyal customer base in part by training, nurturing, and rewarding its employees. Here, Rob Siefker, director of the Customer Loyalty Team at Zappos, talks to 1to1 Media about how customer loyalty starts with the company's culture.

Given Zappos' constant pursuit of attaining customer loyalty, in what ways are you working with employees to deliver exceptional service and work toward the brand promise?

It starts with the culture. It's extremely important for us to have a positive environment. It's tough to talk in the contact center environment for eight hours every day. It makes a huge difference if that environment is supportive, encouraging, and empowering. Since Day One, the environment here has been fun and awesome and it makes a big difference to focus on customers. If the culture is great it's easier to deliver the best experience to the customer.

Are there a set of standards you've put in place to ensure this?

There are numerous ways. We're really a transparent company and we're good at listening to feedback from customers but we're also proactive in making sure we're hearing the voice of employees and taking in what they have to say. And that's not just related to improvements on the website, it goes back to what we can do to make the culture better. There are all sorts of ways we listen to employees. Surveys are the main way. We also make sure they have simple ways to communicate and places to deposit that communication. I also do one-on-one meetings and take people (team leaders, supervisors, etc.) to lunches on a regular basis. We talk about all the kinds of things going on at the company-both customer-facing and employee-facing-and find ways to talk about issues and improve upon things.

Are there processes in place to take action on the feedback?

If it's a small issue, we have somebody on our team to get that fixed. If it's culturally related in our department, depending on where the impact is felt, it's directed to a person responsible for that area. We also have a group that runs a committee that has involvement around the call center. That group has an owner who takes feedback directed toward the call center into account and first decides if it's something that we can implement. We also have a committee that oversees phones. That group handles everything related to phones teams. Then we have recognition committee. If frontline employees have an issue they want to address, they come to this committee. We're also starting a team committee as well. We need 10 members and participation is based on recommendations. We have representation from all areas of the campus. Acceptance into this committee is a reward in the sense that you have to be a high performer to be eligible. We want them to drive things forward. It will be challenging.

Can you offer an example of the internal changes that have resulted from the recommendations of these committees?

We've made changes to our journey guide that helps people decide how to move through their departments, to our team leads and to the resource desk. We've also made changes to fulfillment areas...the list goes on. The first month or so of having these committees was interesting to see how these teams can resolve these things so much quicker than before.

Do you incorporate customer satisfaction metrics and NPS into employees' performance reviews?

Not necessarily. We do have a metric in the contact center that takes into account quality, attendance, and personal service level. We've factored NPS data into it. We survey customers when they contact the call center, but not every time. In looking at that data, we're evaluating interactions with employees, but that metric only goes up and down with the overall performance of the business. The only time there was a dip was with an issue with fulfillment. Even though we're looking for information about the contact, we're just focusing on Zappos and not the individual. We don't hold them accountable for that number; we hold them accountable for feedback. If we get a one-off feedback that is negative we make sure we improve through coaching and we offer recognition if the feedback is positive. However, our service employees are getting coached every four to six weeks and getting feedback all the time whether they're doing good or not.

Looking ahead, how will mobile, social, and other emerging technologies change how Zappos plans to deliver the customer experience?

The best answer I can give is wherever our customers need help or want help we'll be there to provide it as best we can. I'll use Twitter as an example. We were early adopters. We were using Twitter early on and interacting with them. We used to get questions early on. We have a Twitter account that someone monitors. We want to be there too. We don't use Twitter as a customer service tool-it's more of an interaction/connecting tool. With mobile we have chat functionality. Mobile is big. It accounts for a lot of business. Customers are going to have different needs. Ultimately it's a balance of making sure we're meeting customers where they are. We don't know where all of those places will be in the future.we want to provide a great experience so we have to be quick to respond. We're not making them adapt to different technologies. We just have to make sure when we do we're available.

How do you hold employees accountable for monitoring and responding to customers' service requests via social?

There's a resource team and the training is surprisingly basic. They have to be experienced and highly skilled. The training is to sit with people on the team that is handling the Twitter account. They watch them and tell people to have fun and use their best judgment and we encourage them to interact with customers and empower them to interact on their own. We don't have an official policy and don't make them sign a document.

How many people are on the team?

There are 30 people who are actively monitoring Twitter. Our marketing team is handling the Facebook page. Our team also looks for blog posts.

Can you cite any companies that have implemented the Zappos model and are delivering great customer experiences as a result?

I hope companies are doing what's best for them. As far as companies doing what we're doing, I don't know. People definitely get inspired by what we're doing. The comment I hear from time to time is, 'We picked up bits and pieces of what you do that will make a difference in our culture.' We don't want them to replicate Zappos, but instead inspire them to do what they do. When I share information with people, I don't want people to think that's the best route. I'm just hoping to inspire them to take their businesses to the next level.

Zappos has done so much around optimizing the customer experience. How does the company plan to continue to innovate?

I think real innovation comes from first making sure you have the resources to build the technology to do so. We have to move fast and build out the roadmap. We have to prioritize what's most important and has the biggest customer impact. We have to continue to be smart about that and test some things in small ways. We go big if it has a positive impact on the customer experience. And we test a lot. Our philosophy is to fire some bullets around before you fire a big cannon ball.