How to do the Zappos Customer Care Challenge [Step By Step]

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We previously discussed the importance of shifting from a mentality of Customer Service, to Customer Care (from being reactive to being pro-active in how you treat customers). This post outlines the Zappos Customer Care Challenge that will help instill the Customer Care mentality within your business. (This is in no way actually associated with Zappos).

Since Zappos has been considered a leader in customer support and experience, it’s a great company to learn from- and it’s always good to support companies that are doing things the right way- and putting customers first.  I urge every business owner or manager to consider doing this challenge with your team to help move your team from a reactive mindset, to proactive.  It will also create opportunities to discuss what your companies Customer Experience Standards should be.

The entire exercise will take approximately 3-4 weeks, then you should revisit it on a quarterly basis to examine results and make sure your team is still dedicated to the standards they helped set.

So without further ado, here are the steps for how to run your own Zappos Customer Care Challenge.  I’d love to hear how it works for you, so please drop us a contact message if you had thoughts/feedback after you do it with your team…

1 – Call an All-Company Meeting...

or just a 1 on 1 if it’s only you and one employee.  Give the meeting a very official name, something like “Closing Pro Customer Care Initiative Discussion #1.”  Schedule it for no longer than 15-20 minutes.  Your employee will be shocked that you’d plan a meeting for that short of time, it will get them thinking and they’ll come pretty excited to see how you will keep a “meeting” to 15 or 20 minutes.

2 – Begin that meeting by describing the difference between Customer Care and Customer Service.  

Customer Service is Re-Active (like getting service done on your car and something you don’t look forward to)… and it takes you out of the flow of your day.  Whereas Customer Care is Pro-Active (like a Spa Treatment) and something you didn’t know you needed/deserved till you experienced it and pushes you towards the goal with ease and the comfort of someone holding your hand through the process.

At this point, talk about how you want to move from a Re-Active to Pro-Active approach, from Service to Care… and how serious you are about this.

3 – Define your Dedication to Care and the Expected Standard of Care. 

Tell your team that since most of the interactions that they will have with customers (real estate agents, consumers, lenders, etc.) happens online or over the phone, it’s important to have a benchmark for what “Care” should look like online and on the phone.  … and tell them that you realize that you (as the owner) can talk all day about what it looks like, but that people learn soooooo much faster by actually experiencing it for themselves.

You can tell them that you looked for “who does it best online and over the phone” and consistently returned the same results: Zappos.

Then unveil the Zappos Challenge.  Tell them that instead of just giving expectations, you wanted them to experience what the gold standard was… then brainstorm ways to implement care at your company.  They will begin to wonder what the “Zappos Challenge” is…

4 – Give your Employee a $50-$150 (towards the purchase of a pair of shoes) on Zappos on Shoes.  

I say $50-$150, but it can be any number (and I’d suggest you credit them once they buy the shoes, that way if they want a $200 pair, they can do that and then you can give them the stated amount back in the form of a check or on their next payroll as a line item), but that is enough to get a nice pair, and enough to show them that you are dedicated to investing in the process of defining what Customer Care could/should look like at your company. Your employee will be excited, but the only caveat is that they must do 3 things first…

5 – You should do this too. 

It’s important to do this with your employee so you can compare notes.

6 – A Phone Call about the Shoes. 

Your employee must go on and do their own research for what pair of shoes they want to buy.  Then they must call their Customer Support and ask three (3) questions about those shoes.  They should dig into specific details about the shoes- how they wear, how they fit (true to size?), have they had many returns on the shoes, any other suggestions that the Zappos person might have, etc.

They must takes notes of the 3 questions (hopefully turn into more questions) as well as the answers and what takeaways they had from the convo.

Please note: It is important that you emphasize that this should be done during company time. That may push the actual in-hands date back for when you can have the follow-up meeting with your team – since they will be busy doing actual work and doing this homework, but I feel like you probably have responsible people on your team that will still get their work done and “find” extra time to shop for shoes, haha.

7 – A Phone Call about the Culture. 

At least one day later, your employee must call the Customer Support again and ask three (3) more questions. The first should be about the shoes… but three (3) followup questions should be about culture at Zappos… why did that person decide to work there? What was the training like? They are dedicated to offering the best customer service online, how is it measured? How do they like working at Zappos? Etc…

Like before, they must takes notes of the 4 questions (hopefully turn into more questions) as well as the answers and what takeaways they had from the convo.

8 – A Live Chat that turns into an Email.  

Since most communication in business today is moving to online, let’s move the Zappos convo online- and specifically Live Chat.  I know you probably are not using Live Chat right now, but why not have your employee brush up against what the rest of the world is using to communicate with for a lot of online things? (especially if you are paying for them to learn and you want them to give you highs/lows of the experience?)

Like the first step in the Zappos Challenge, your team member should Live Chat 3 questions about the shoes… then transition it to the Zappos employee emailing them a follow-up to the Live Chat with something.  If an email does not occur at the end of this, it’s ok, because the learning really happens in the Live Chat time… but a good example of a question that could get the email from the Zappos employee could be: “Hey, can you email me the size chart so I can have it handy for tonight when I’m on the road?” or, “Can you email me that link? I’m on my work computer and wanna have it when I get home tonight.”

9 – Place the Order and Get the Shoes.  

Pretty self-explanatory.  Place the order on and then get the shoes in the mail.  If the shoes do not work for some reason, the employee can work with Zappos to return them for a new pair, or anything like that, but the big goal is to get the product in-hands.

10 – Your Follow-up Team Meeting.  

With shoes in-hands (or on the feet), call your next company meeting and schedule it for 1 hour.  Call it something like, “Closing Pro Customer Care Initiative Discussion #2.”  Have a BIG whiteboard present and write all ideas on the board.

In that meeting you will do the following:

  • Ask how everyone likes their shoes.
  • Thinking through the lens of “Care” and being Pro-Active, ask if there was anything about the Zappos interactions and employees that stuck out and went above and beyond what they expected.
  • Thinking through the lens of “Care” and being Pro-Active, ask if there was anything about the Zappos interactions and employees that didn’t measure up to what they expected.
  • Go through Call #1- Ask your team member(s) what 3 questions they asked, and what the answers were.  Then ask what the takeaways were and if their questions were actually answered.
  • Go through Call #2- Again, ask your team member(s) what 3 questions they asked, and what the answers were.  Then ask what the takeaways were and if their questions were actually answered.
  • Go through Live Chat & Email- For a 3rd time, ask your team member what 3 questions they asked, and what the answers were.  Then ask what the takeaways were and if their questions were actually answered.
  • Here’s where it starts to get fun…

11 – What does this mean for your team and your business?  

Considering everything that your employee(s) just went through, what do they think you could do better to pro-actively offer the best Customer Care to your customers?  Where are you measuring up, and where is lacking?  What tactical things can be implemented across the company to match your expectations?  Do you need new software, do you need to give your team more resources to answer questions better?  Do they need to just say “I don’t know, but let me check on that and email you back” more?  What takeaways did they have?

12 – Develop your Care Plan.  

With all of the ideas on the white board, start to group them into logical and easy-to-understand groups of thoughts.  Then develop your Care Plan or “Expectation for Excellence in Customer Care.”  With the help of your team, you can develop what standards you should hold yourselves to.  This is HUGE because at this point it’s not a top-down approach.  Your team just experienced something (good or bad – since I can’t guarantee how Zappos does, but they are considered the gold standard by most people) and they are going to help craft how your company should interact with clients based on the $$$ you spent.

13 – Revisit the Care Plan Quarterly.  

With the new Customer Care Plan in-hands and in their heads, schedule quarterly review meetings to make sure you’re always thinking through what the customer is experiencing… and asking the question, “How can we show that we ‘care’ more about our customers?”There you have it… please let me know how it goes by sending us a Contact Message – and we’d love to chat about how you can do this in your business if you had any questions too!!