Zappos has built up a reputation for excellent customer service, and owes much of its success to this. The fact that 75% of its business comes from repeat customers provides convincing evidence of its importance.

I've been asking Jane Judd, who is the senior manager of Zappos' Customer Loyalty Team,  and was one of the keynote speakers at the recent Internet Retailing conference, about the company's approach...

How has customer service helped shape Zappos since it first launched?

Our customer interaction has been the ultimate marketing tool since Zappos began. Especially in the beginning when there wasn’t a ton of money to be put into marketing, we decided to provide the best customer service, which proved to be our marketing strategy by word of mouth. 75% of our business is repeat customers. 

Can you tell me about the Zappos Customer Loyalty team? How is it structured?

Currently we have 380 people in our Customer Loyalty department. CLT is primarily made up of our phones team as well as support teams such as our Resource Desk, Order Verification (fraud team), Quality Assurance, Kaizen (continuous training), Canada, Email/Live chat, and Business Units.

Each team is has a Team Lead that oversees the day to day business of coaching and providing feedback. The size of the teams average ten team members per Lead. These Leads reports to supervisors, who report to managers, and so on. There are five Managers in our department.

How does Zappos 'go the extra mile'? Can you give me some examples?

Our team members send personal handwritten thank you cards to customers of their choice. They can also put in a request to send flowers or a ‘WoW’ package (culture book, stickers, other Zappos items we have on hand, etc.). Usually we’ll send flowers for a celebration such as a wedding or to offer our condolences for a family/friend who has passed. 

How can retailers in general improve customer service online?

By not hiding their customer service number. Also, it’s the simple things that mean the most to everyday people, it’s about caring and listening to the customer. Many times retailers are about the sale and not the experience. We try our best to be personable and we don’t upsale our customers or put a time limit on our calls. 

Many of our team members don’t need to ask a Lead/Supervisor for permission to extend a coupon for receiving defective merchandise, they can make those decisions themselves.

How useful has Twitter been for Zappos? Has it been a sales driver or more of a customer service tool?

Twitter has been a great way for us to reach customers who may not ever call in. We don’t use it to drive sales, we’re really there to offer assistance and to provide another forum for customers to provide us with feedback. 

Do you receive / solve many customer queries through Twitter?

We do! If someone’s wondering where their order is, we’ll contact them with the information they’re looking for. Sometimes it’ll be product related or order specific. 

Which social media sites or tools have been most useful for Zappos?

Twitter has definitely been useful. Also, the basic tools with phone/email/live chat have been very effective. We are also on Facebook and our site has a Zappos blog that allows customers and employees alike to post comments. 

How do you measure the effectiveness of Zappos' social media engagement in general?

We don’t! We see social media as another way to personally connect with our customers. 

What tips can you offer for other e-commerce startups? How has Zappos been able to consistently get customers to keep coming back?

Be real and hire slowly. It starts from the top down to drive the culture and then it’s the people you bring in who keep your culture alive and well. You can train someone to answer calls, but you can’t train someone to be positive and happy. Hire the right people and the rest should fall into place.

Empower and trust your employees. When you take care of your employees they take pride in the work they do, which helps to provide the ultimate customer service.

Graham Charlton

Published 4 November, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

2566 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (6)

Save or Cancel

Rob Mangiafico, CTO at LexiConn Internet Services, Inc.

This a great interview that really highlights how to be a leader in your industry as an ecommerce merchant. It's not always about obsessing over metrics and conversions.

It's about engaging your customers, providing them with an experience instead of only a purchase, and being proactive when problems arise. Zappos model is not for everyone, but if you're not bottom of the barrel in terms of price, and want to be out in front of the pack, emulating their success sounds like a great first step.

For small ecommerce businesses, this can be a great way to go. Being small means being more nimble in many ways, so providing great customer service that goes above and beyond can truly differentiate your company from the big box retailers.

Rob - LexiConn

almost 9 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Graham,

Nice interview - Jane's comment "It starts from the top down to drive the culture and then it’s the people you bring in who keep your culture alive and well. You can train someone to answer calls, but you can’t train someone to be positive and happy" is refreshing. 

If you read Tony Hsieh's blog (CEO) you get the same feel for the culture that Jane is conveying and I find that reassuring. It says that from the top down employees are valued and that there is a focus on employing people who really care about the business and its customers. I guess Twitter is a natural extension of the customer service focus.

Earlier this year I asked Tony how he measured the impact of Twitter out of curiosity about how the CEO of a major retailer views social media investment. His reply was "we don't really measure it, it's just another relationship building tool". Interesting.



almost 9 years ago



According to the study, the most important tool for small businesses to succeed in 2010 is search engine marketing, while email marketing, public relations and social media cited as crucial for success. 23.8% of all small businesses reported that search engine marketing was the tool most needed for their business to succeed in

over 8 years ago


Shalin Shah

This is a great interview. Ms. Judd offers some wonderful insight on Customer Experience Management. I completely agree with her statement that many retailers are incorrectly about the sale and not the experience. Providing the optimal customer experience involves managing customer interactions across multiple, complex systems that often span numerous business applications, such as social media to email to billing. The key to success is to integrate all of this data into actionable insight that enables immediate action by the Customer Loyalty Team. The key lies in having Operational Intelligence.

over 7 years ago



Repeat customers are the staple of any successful business. A good way to improve customer service is to identify your strongest customers by the value they bring to your company, Then initialize a customer appreciation program thanking them for choosing you. It will create loyal customers who become brand advocates. Obviously this is the case with Zappos

about 7 years ago



This is an awesome article, I'll definitely be adding this blog to my bookmarks

about 6 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.