Zappos: Lessons Learned in Company Culture

October 25, 2011


When we visited Zappos last year, the experience redefined how we handled many of our support functions here at FreshBooks. They inspired us to revamp our training program, refocus our support goals, and expand our culture activities in big ways. FreshBooks isn’t just a software product – we provide a service to our customers, and having an above-and-beyond customer experience is the cornerstone of that.

One of the shared values of our support team is that we should never stop learning. Whether it’s learning more about our customers, or learning more about how other companies handle their support, we strive to know more and grow every day. We hold support at a high standard, and visiting other companies that are world-renowned for their support helps us share notes, and expand our ability to provide next-level customer experiences. Sometimes learning isn’t even about getting some new tools – finding out we’re already doing this right is also hugely helpful.

If you want to share in some of the insights we picked up on our most recent trip to Zappos, I’ve summarized some of our big take-aways that we plan to incorporate into our everyday support experiences:

  1. Consistent, exceptional support is key. This was more of a high-five for ourselves than a lesson learned, but it’s nice to know you’re on the right page. We strive to provide the highest level of support we can for our customers, even taking steps to ensure to streamline our phone support hours so that we’re available as much as possible.
  2. Training doesn’t end when you finish your intro period. The Zappos first-month intensive training period is world-renowned. Other companies (including us) strive to emulate it, and people study hard for the exams at the end because they know a passing grade on this training is required for their job. The key difference at Zappos is that training doesn’t end when you’re done your first run – they offer ongoing training options headed up by an amazing team of people, and ongoing training is a pre-requisite for moving up in the Zappos family to new roles, and new opportunities.
  3. Quality is the bottom line. Zappos has gone through a few different iterations of helping to define high-quality support, but the end result is a highly polished Quality Assurance system administered by team leads to ensure that all support folks are functioning at their best. They also use an extremely cooperative system for administering feedback, so people have the chance to learn from their mistakes rather than be chastised for them.
  4. Creative follow-ups are part of the Zappos Support requirements. Their CLT Team sets aside a part of their day to follow up with customers that made them happy, and just to dispense some good vibes on the people they talk to. Having this built-in ensures that they are always on the lookout for opportunities to take customer expectations and absolutely exceed them.
  5. Helping employees achieve their goals makes for an amazing workplace. Zappos has an entire team devoted to helping employees achieve personal goals – anything from running a half-marathon to getting out of debt to quitting smoking – and it’s something we are working towards at FreshBooks too. We’ve recently invested in an EAP system that gives everyone access to trained counselors across a variety of topics 24/7.

There are a lot of similarities between Zappos and FreshBooks, and it’s always refreshing to see other services that embody the same 100% committment to great customer experiences. FreshBooks has one motto – Execute on Extraordinary Experiences Everyday, and we intend to use our learning opportunity with Zappos to make those experiences even better. We got some great insight from this tour and I definitely encourage you to try and add some of these lessons to your every day!


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.