Are You Really Ready To Be A Customer Experience Company?

So, those of you that stop by often, know I get on these Zappos kicks every now and again.  I supposed this would constitute as one of those periods.  This time around, it’s because I think Zappos, to the general public and to many of those perhaps that tout its praises, is a highly misunderstood business.  It’s not for lack of transparency. 

The founder of the company Tony Hsieh puts it all out there.  All you have to do is read his book Delivering Happiness.  And, its within the pages of this book, among other places, if you read with intent (like I’ve done four times through), you realize that starting a business with the goal of becoming a customer service giant is one thing.   But, transforming an existing company into a customer experience powerhouse is a Herculean task.  Perhaps that’s the reason we’re always referencing the usual suspects (love that movie) in this dialog.

I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago questioning why you’d want to be like Zappos.  In it, I suggested that, unless your business is a online retailer selling shoes and other apparel, trying to copy Zappos doesn’t make too much sense.  Specifically, because just focusing on the “wow” cultural part of the equation won’t even get you close.  Transforming into a true customer experience company is a massive, risky undertaking.

More specifically, what you need to realize is that Zappos entire business model is build around enabling that wow culture.  About a third of the way through Tony’s book, is the nugget.  He tells a story of how he and his partners made a business-altering decision to stop drop shipping product and to inventory everything themselves.  This bold move, which at the time, jettisoned a highly profitable revenue stream and could have easily bankrupted the company, was the only way they felt they could deliver on one of the core elements of their customer service model.  The ability offer next day, free shipping.  The second giant move required to execute on this service model was to pick up and move their distribution center from California to Kentucky.  Becoming next door neighbors to UPS.

So, think about your company.  Think about every business process.  Every function.  Every touch point that could and does impact your customers’ experience.  Yes, even those functions that, on the surface seem so far removed from your customer.  Unless you’re prepared to toss out suppliers, take on functions that you may have outsourced for cost savings, turn your org chart on its head, and essentially remodel your entire company, no amount of “customer is king” rhetoric or window dressing, no matter how pervasive within your organization, is going to deliver the type of results that are the stuff legends are made of.


  1. I really think that most companies would like to get close to perhaps what Zappos has created but they will never succeed. The "remodeling" of a company to make any noticeable change to the customer experience is so daunting that many will just pass and opt to something easier like, refreshing their 30 year old IT infrastructure. I do think that some may genuinely will make a stab at it, but to make the whole experience which a customer "feels" when so many parts of a company's business have been sourced to external partners, how can they succeed.

    Thanks for this really great question.

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