Making Customer Loyalty A Shoe-In Through Improved Call Center Operations

Rob and I have never worked in any other call center besides the one at Rob and I were hired at Zappos within months of each other to help answer customer calls in the call center in San Francisco. At that time the call center had maybe 20 or 30 people in it. Not too long after we started, the company announced that it was moving to Las Vegas, Nevada, and we were both offered positions. Our first thoughts was, "Absolutely not!" We both loved San Fransisco and never thought of moving out of it—especially to Las Vegas. But we were both young, had a passion for the job and knew that there was something special about this little company called Zappos. We wanted to see where it would take us.

That was five years ago, and here we are now living in Las Vegas and helping run the call center, which is now close to 400 team members. We have learned so much over the years and feel extremely lucky to be able to work for a company that has allowed us to grow into our positions as the company grew.

Zappos mission is to Live and Deliver Wow to all its customers and employees. We want to provide world-class service, and the entire company is on board to help succeed in that mission—not just the call center. In the below conversation, we’ll discuss what makes Zappos unique, the Zappos culture and what we believe are some best practices that you can bring into your environment and change what it means to work in the service industry.

M: What makes our call center unique from others (from what you’ve heard)?

R: Employee empowerment, philosophy on call center metrics, flexibility, fun; it’s about culture—culture is our brand.

M: Yeah, it’s definitely about the culture. We also don’t want to be your typical call center. Sure, there are the business aspects of it, but our philosophy on why we’re here is all about service. We don’t have a call center just because we have to. Zappos embraces the job being done in the call center. Every employee who works at Zappos must go through our New Hire training and learn how to do the job of our CLT Representatives. It instills in everyone at Zappos that we are here to provide service. Another great thing is that everyone in the company loves the call center, which makes a difference in them being able to positively impact the experience of our customers.

How would you describe our culture and what it means to our brand?

R: It starts with our Core Values. We have 10 of them and every person in the company has to step up and exemplify them in their actions and words. For the first six to seven years at Zappos we had a really strong culture, but nothing was documented that spoke to the shared values we all believed in. People worked hard, and we had a really fun and open work environment that fostered healthy relationships and very good professional partnerships between departments. When the Core Values were published they put into writing what we all already knew, but it helped us better communicate the shared beliefs to our newer employees. Maintaining our culture, as we want it to be, is an important part of Zappos. We don’t just talk about culture and values; we actively manage our teams in line with these values.

Maura, how has our culture changed over the years? Are we stronger? Why?

M: When we first started there was definitely that small dotcom family feel. We didn’t wear suits to work, we had fun, and we knew that we wanted to make our customers happy. As we grew, we wanted to keep those principles alive, while also adding some structure to help us be successful leaders. We needed to make sure that we hired people with similar passions for the customer experience. We wanted people who would fit into our culture and not just be able to do the job. Once we wrote down our 10 Core Values we were able to then use them as a basis for all the decisions we made. They are an integral part of our hiring process and we have based a slew of questions around them. We also base 50 percent of everyone’s annual review on our Core Values. These things have assisted us in managing our culture and in turn made us a much stronger company because of it.

Here are our 10 Core Values:

  1. Deliver Wow through Service
  2. Be Passionate and Determined
  3. Embrace and Drive Change
  4. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  5. Do More with Less
  6. Pursue Growth and Learning
  7. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
  8. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
  9. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  10. Be Humble

M: We are lucky to have the support of upper management to make decisions and try new things. What advice do you have for someone who is having trouble making changes in their call center?

Well, it definitely helps to have the support of upper management. That makes things easier. The best piece of advice I would give is to not to limit your capabilities. Don’t ever say "we can’t do this". If you don’t pursue all options and push for change then it isn’t going to happen. You have to stay tough and stick with difficult decisions. Also, communicate well with your team because change is more difficult to embrace when you feel like the situation is completely out of your hands. Get feedback from employees; talk with them regularly.

Maura, as you know, we definitely have challenges in our growing environment. How have we worked through them?

M: Yes, while we do have a lot of fun at Zappos, it’s not all flowers and lollypops! We have to work hard for what we have, and with a growing environment we’ve had to be open to change and face challenges. We have the three Cs that we say are always at the top of our list, and will forever be at the top of our list. The three Cs are: Communication, Consistency and Culture. We’ve grown so much, so quickly that these three things are essential to our success. The three Cs can be found in everything we do. In order for us to be trusted leaders we need to utilize the three Cs to gain buy in from our team members. Consistent Communication can only strengthen our Culture.

In the above discussion we hope that we have helped you learn a bit about Zappos and what it’s like to work here. We truly believe that happy employees will in turn lead to even happier customers. We hope to share our ideas so we can start changing the world of service into more positive, enjoyable experiences.

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