Building a Customer Service Training Engine like Zappos

Good customer service = Zappos. Zappos = good customer service.

So what gives? How does the Amazonian innovator do it?

There are acclaimed books that answer this question – so I won’t try to do that here. I will however, break down the Zappos Training Engine to help understand how that leads to things like: a rep buying a disgruntled customer flowers, running to the nearest competing brick and mortar store to pick up a shoe that Zappos had out of stock, and a stunt to send a shoeless best man a pair of wedding shoes overnight.

The Zappos training engine: Step One

It starts with people…or should I say, a pipeline of people. We all know Zappos pays new employees to quit – which is becoming a widespread practice among the titans of corporate America, but if you think people are your biggest asset – you should think twice according to Tony Hsieh:

“Our philosophy at Zappos is different. Rather than focusing on individuals as assets, we instead focus on building as our asset, a pipeline of people in every single department with varying levels of skills and experience, ranging from entry level all the way up through senior management and leadership positions. Our vision is for almost all of our hires to be entry level, but for the company to provide all the training and mentorship necessary so that any employee has the opportunity to become a senior leader within the company within five to seven years.” via The Huffington Post

So, go build a pipeline of people over time, so that your hires are mostly entry level, and when someone leaves – you’ve got a backlog of really qualified/trained leaders to fill their shoes.

The Zappos training engine: Step Two

Take it slow. As someone put it – nothing at Zappos is a shotgun wedding.

“All new hires in Las Vegas go through four weeks of initial training. This is for everyone, no matter what job they will actually do after the four weeks. It incorporates a lot of things, and includes a big focus on helping our customers. We do this because we want everyone to have the experience of talking with our customers, and it also helps us during the holidays when we need everyone to put in hours to help our customers. Contact center employees have an additional three weeks of training after the first four weeks, so for them it’s a total of seven weeks before it’s full speed ahead in the call center.” via Business Insider

That’s 7 whole weeks they spend getting a customer service rep up to speed! It’s a long time and a big investment, but getting it right is crucial.

The Zappos training engine: Step Three

Choose your training content wisely. Sit down and brainstorm the content you want each employee to understand and internalize.
Here’s a high-level overview of some of the key concepts that Zappos teaches it’s new employees:

  • Four-week new hire training (including answering phones)
  • Zappos History
  • Zappos Culture
  • Science of Happiness 101
  • Tribal Leadership
  • 1-week Kentucky Boot Camp (learn the shipping process)
  • Public Speaking
  • Delivering Happiness
  • Intermediate-Level Competency with Microsoft Office

This is certainly simplified, but there is genius in their culture and training process. When done right, work becomes your calling, not your career. And who doesn’t want that?

Feel free to check out our customer service training manual resource to start improving your team right away.

Many of our customers use Lessonly as an effective way to train their customer service teams. If you are finding yourself in need of easy training software, drop me a line here.

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