Where everyone is a customer service agent

Peri_shake_weightImagine an organization in which everyone from IT and finance to marketing and human resources considers herself a customer service agent. Their sole focus? Ensuring they're following through on the company's brand promise: delivering happiness.

Such an organization exists. In fact, I recently had the pleasure of taking a personal, guided tour of its remarkable headquarters. If you haven't guessed by now, the company is Zappos. And, my tour was led by Corey Schreiber, whose title is Content Dude for Zappos Insights. Corey, and a surprisingly small team of fellow Zapponians, are responsible for any, and all, web site content.

As for his title, Corey said he was asked what he'd like it to be. "Everyone calls me dude, so I said to my boss, why not call me content dude?" Done.

On the off chance you're not familiar with them, Zappos is positively white hot. Not only are they THE gold standard of customer service, but the online retail destination is also considered best-in-class when it comes to building a great workplace culture. In fact, the company is making money hand-over-fist by charging OTHER corporations to visit their Las Vegas facilities and take a peek behind the curtains.

And, in the case of Zappos, there actually are curtains. And footballs. And full-sized models of Elvis. And, sports team and movie-themed hallways and cubicles. My favorite space is called Monkey Row. It reminded me of the Tanzanian jungle in which I hiked en route to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Monkey Row also happens to be the home of the company's rock star CEO Tony Hsieh. Tony's work space is so densely covered in vines, trees, plants and replicas of African wildlife that one could easily imagine himself on the Serengeti Plain.

I guess my favorite part of the Zappos tour, though, was the hike up and down the stairwells. And, it wasn't because I enjoy my daily cardio workouts. Au contraire. It's because of the graffiti that literally covers the walls. But, unlike the gang logos and unintelligible rants spray-painted on pre- Giuliani Manhattan subway cars and walls, the Zappos graffiti is chock full of joyous expressions.

Employees are encouraged to write their feelings on the walls. A visitor reads such bon mots as: 'That was the best meeting I ever attended!' and 'I learned more in the last 30 minutes than I have in the past 30 years,' and 'That dude, Rob, has amazing biceps!' The latter was a tad disturbing, but still…

My content dude tour guide told me Zappos doesn't just deliver happiness to customers. It hires joyous employees. “We hire with our values in mind so that we know we are bringing in people who best fit our culture and want to contribute to it. We have a motto that we are slow to hire and quick to fire.” I like that. And, I saw and felt that.

The Zapponians, as they call themselves, are a happy, swashbuckling bunch who also happen to be raking in serious cash. In fact, one wall contains plaques that list the all-time high daily sales records over the years. The first one was about seven years old, and proudly proclaimed $2 million in one-day sales. I think the most recent one was in the range of $17 million!

Fun isn't just fun. It's smart business. And, Zappos has figured out how to not only bottle that fun and share it with its rapidly-growing employee population; it's exporting it to the rest of the business world (and charging a pretty penny to do so). That's what I call funny business.

Having walked the hallways of GM, J. Walter Thompson, Yahoo and other Jurassic Era companies, I've felt the palpable air of fear. So,  it was simultaneously liberating and refreshing to experience the genuine energy and enthusiasm of Zappos. And to meet people who really do believe their job title begins with the words customer service agent.

So, do yourself a favor. The next time you schedule a vacation to Vegas, take a quick tour of Zappos in nearby Henderson. Aside from a dip in the pool and a beer, I can't think of a better way to put a smile back on one's face after an all-nighter at the blackjack tables.

2 thoughts on “Where everyone is a customer service agent

  1. I wish Zappos would open a NY office so I could work there… It sounds like a dream environment which fosters creativity, individuality, and excellence.