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Case Study: Zappos Customer Service Model

Instructor: Amy C. Evans

Amy has a BA/MA Criminal Justice. Worked with youth for over 20 years in academic settings. Avid reader, history and mystery lover.

Zappos's customer service model has created a successful e-commerce company with loyal customers. Learn about Zappos and its customer service philosophy and strategies that make it such a popular enterprise. Updated: 03/02/2022



How often do you shop online? Is it a pleasant, easy experience or is it complicated and frustrating? Zappos is an online business that seeks to make shopping effortless and its customer service model goes a long way in achieving this goal. Zappos was established in 1999 after its co-founder, Nick Swinmurn, had a frustrating shoe shopping experience in brick-and-mortar stores.

Zappos' other co-founder Tony Hsieh, who was an investor in the company, insisted that the original name of the store, ShoeSite, should be changed to something more eye-catching, which resulted in the name change to Zappos, a shortened version of zapatos, which is Spanish for ''shoes.'' Over time, Zappos has expanded its inventory to also include clothing, bags, and accessories and it's Tony Hsieh who is credited for Zappos' approach to customer service.

So let's now take a closer look at Zappos' customer service model and how it has had an impact, not only on Zappos, but has also set a precedent for other businesses to follow.

Zappos WOW Philosophy

Zappos's philosophy is to ''WOW'' its customers with the best service. It's based on a company culture that places an emphasis on the judgment of employees and their ability to manage their time and on developing a positive relationship with customers to ensure a happy and satisfying outcome. Customer service isn't even referred to as customer service. Instead, it's called the ''Customer Loyalty Team.''

Zappos and Customer Service

Zappos' customer service model follows a simple ten-step process that encourages a customer-focused approach to retail as opposed to solely focusing on profit and sales. The ten steps are as follows:

  • Contact information is readily available and located on multiple site web pages.
  • Zappos doesn't pressure customers to keep buying more than they originally intended to, which is called upselling.
  • Customer service representatives are allowed to make decisions without having to refer to a supervisor.
  • Customers have unlimited time to speak with customer service representatives; there is no cut-off point.
  • Customers can return items up to a year after purchase.
  • Free shipping (purchases) regardless of how much a customer spends and free returns for unwanted or problematic purchases.
  • Customer service representatives don't read from a script and can speak naturally to a customer, including chatting on issues other than purchases.
  • Customer service representatives are always available, regardless of time or day.
  • Customer service is easy to reach. Customers don't have to press a bunch of buttons or listen to an interminable list of options.
  • Customer service representatives are interested and committed to helping customers in finding solutions to their purchasing needs.

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