Inside the Quality-First Contact Center

Making Friends with a Beauty Queen

Because we can't all be Zappos...

To me, Zappos has always seemed like the beauty queen of customer service. Everyone in our industry gushes about how beautiful she is. Not all of us can be Zappos.


In the world of contact centers, online retailer Zappos is regarded as the gold standard of customer care. The company began selling shoes back in the first dot-com boom, grew fast, and since 2009 has had the corporate power of Amazon.com behind it. Zappos has built a culture entirely oriented around the customer experience. At the annual Call Center Week conference and expo in Las Vegas, one of the big side trips is to take a sponsored tour of the Zappos contact center.

At industry events, I never go on the Zappos tour, or that of any famous companies with endless resources. Instead I gravitate to places like Molina Healthcare, which sponsored a tour at an ICMI event in Long Beach earlier this year. That's the kind of operation I could relate to. There was no flash. It wasn't sexy. Their culture was primarily to get things done, answer as many calls as they could during a growth spurt, and try to have the right QA, training, and work force management tools in place.

Not all of us can be Zappos, as much as we would like to be. We don't all have the same resources or intellectual capital. To me, Zappos has always seemed like the beauty queen of customer service. Everyone in our industry gushes about how beautiful she is. Well, duh. Of course she's beautiful. She's the beauty queen.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are trying to figure out how to do the best with what we've got.

A seat at the table

Then in mid-August I was moderating an ICMI Twitter chat on Accessibility In The Contact Center. It's a hard concept to even define, let alone discuss. There were some awkward silences in the first few minutes, which is very uncomfortable when you're the host.

And then Zappos showed up.



Zappos deals with the same contact center challenges that the rest of us face, from staffing to metrics and everything in between.


At first I was mostly surprised. The beauty queen was sitting down at our lunch table? But it got even more impressive. The people from Zappos were deferential. They were honest. They contributed.

All this time I had assumed that Zappos had everything buttoned down, clean and clear, with all the best practices in place. It turned out that beauty queens have their own challenges. It was kind of a star-struck moment for me. I actually stayed behind a couple of minutes after the official discussion ended so that I could ask a couple of extra questions.

Follow along

In short, the people behind Zappos became human to me. They have earned their reputation as the gold standard, and we should pay attention to them. They have devoted a lot of time and resources to creating a culture aimed at keeping customers loyal. They struggle at times to get their customers to respond to customer satisfaction surveys. And from the comments in our chat, they deal with all the other contact center challenges that the rest of us face, from staffing to metrics and everything in between.

It doesn't discount the journey that the rest of us go through, because Zappos goes through incredible challenges just like we do. -Neal 



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Topics: Case Studies