Field Trip to Zappos – What We Learned

July 22, 2010

When the cornerstone of your company is rockstar customer support, there are always a few companies that you look to as an example for providing extraordinary experiences everyday, and Zappos is high on the list. So the FreshBooks support team took a field trip down to Las Vegas and experience first hand, how the Zappos team do what they do.

Our day started when Julie picked us up in the Zappos bus:

After a short drive down the highway, we arrived at the Zappos office and posed for a picture:

Hanging out in the Zappos foyer

Note the common denominator in both pics: hotness.

After pictures and a lot high fives from the Zappos team, we started our tour and one-on-ones with their Training and Customer Advocacy teams. We could write an entire series of blog posts on everything we learned (not to mention a ton of fan fiction), but here are our summarized take aways:

  • Zappos puts a huge focus on employee goals. Their Goals Coach, Augusta, is focused on helping their staff achieve both professional and personal goals, and they have awards and milestones for employees who reach them. It’s not full on counseling, but it’s more than a pat on the back – it’s genuine give-a-damn about employee success on and off the job. And it’s flat-out extraordinary.
  • Culture and history are extremely important. Before the tour started, there’s a full history lesson from Mig Pascual on how Zappos was founded, and how the core values were developed. The 10 core values of Zappos are written on every staff member’s name tag, and while not everyone knows them all off by heart, everyone can name at least 7.
  • Training is an established process with clear milestones. Next on the tour was meeting Roger from the training team and he showed us the ropes. Training at Zappos is a lot like a university degree – there are required courses, electives, classrooms, and if you fail a test (and there ARE tests) you have to repeat the course. Fail too many times and you’re in trouble. Training is all focused around the core values, so if someone is not ‘getting’ things then it’s a good indicator they may not be a great fit.
  • Employees’ well being is a huge focus. During the tour from Marie and Mig, you see A LOT of the Zappos office and one thing is clear: from the goal counselling, to nap rooms, subsidized cafeterias and incredible medical benefits, Zappos takes care of its employees. We’ve even decided to implement a few ideas ourselves. The nap room and free ice cream are pretty high on our list.
  • Every team is a cohesive unit. When the tour entered the HR department, they played “Eye of the Tiger” and shook Shake-Weights at us. The executive area is called “Monkey Row” and has a jungle motif. Each team feels like a family and it looks like they have a great time.

All in all Zappos was an amazing experience on two fronts. On the one hand, we learned that a lot of the support stuff we’re already doing, like having no limit for call times and encouraging our staff to go above and beyond to solve customer problems, is exactly what we should be doing. That’s a nice feeling.

On the other hand, there are definitely some new strategies we’re looking at trying out, and we got some great insight on how to scale our company culture as we grow. Zappos and FreshBooks both started as a few people in a small office, and it’s good to know that as we grow we can take our culture and experiences with us.

Saying Goodbye in the Royal Room

about the author

FreshBooks is the #1 accounting software in the cloud designed to make billing painless for small businesses and their teams. Today, over 10 million small businesses use FreshBooks to effortlessly send professional looking invoices, organize expenses and track their billable time.