These Shoes Kill My Feet, But They’re SO HOT

I had just finished a chapter of my book and was feeling quite satisfied.

You see, I had finally completed the first chapter of my book after nine long months in the making. I had decided to use the example of Zappo’s, my favorite online shoe outlet, as a company that was led by an extraordinary leader who inspires total team alignment.

The chapter started out with:

I recently became a product evangelist for Zappo’s Shoes. This happened much to my surprise—they neither asked me to perform this service, nor do they pay me to do so. This company quite simply blew me away with their service model.  I have referred at least six people to Zappo’s and I believe they have all placed at least one order. Their service leaves you saying “How do they do it?”  This is viral marketing at its best. And, they are constantly looking for ways to improve their service.

I then finished this section with a flourish, making the following bold statements:

This is an example of a company that has decided that impeccable service will be their competitive difference. I can imagine that a team of their employees, aligned for a common purpose, set out to think of all the objections a customer might have to ordering shoes from the internet and then proceeded to overcome those objections one by one.

It took a great deal of creativity to develop the delivery system that could accomplish that, and I’m sure this was also done through a team effort. I’ll bet that different teams working together within the company contributed to their entire service model. Service like this can’t happen at a company unless they have an effective team process in place—one that aligns everyone with the same goals.


Honey, Dear…

After I completed this section, I decided to get some trusted feedback. “Will you read this chapter and tell me what you think? I just sent it to your inbox.” I said to my husband who was busy reading his newspaper and paying absolutely no attention to me.

Several hours later, he said to me, “What do you know about Zappo’s CEO and how he runs his company?”

I tossed a wary look his way—his questioning, accusatory tone didn’t sound promising.

Well, I don’t know much first-hand,” I replied.“But, I know that you can’t build such a service model without inspiring your team to great accomplishment. I can tell, just by dealing with his company, that he must be a creative thinker, someone who operates by instinct and ‘throws away the book.’”

(There’s a kind of shorthand that comes with being together for over 39 years.)

My husband glared at me with a “you need to research this, you know I’m right” look. I meekly nodded my head and sat down to “google” information on Zappo’s. What I found wasn’t a surprise, but it was certainly reassuring.

Authentic Leadership readily shows, and it’s darned difficult to cover it up when it’s really good. As I suspected, great leadership filters down from the top to be reflected in the service that is delivered.


Here’s a kernel of what I found:

Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappo’s. He would rather spend money on the customer experience than on marketing. He has to “un-train” his customer service people who come from other call centers. He allows his agents free reign as to what actions to take to make their customers happy. He interviews people for culture fit and only wants those who are passionate about their jobs. He pays people to go away at the end of training if they aren’t a good fit.

His young company recently hit $1 Billion in sales. He has built a culture on ten core values and he actually lives it. He is building a consulting company to train those who want to know how to do it the Zappo’s way.

Is the leadership in your organization showing? Do your leaders “color outside the lines” in order to accomplish your company goals? When was the last time your organization acted against the grain and had a victory? I would love to hear your thought!

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Carolyn Jolly
is principal at The Alignment Forum
She helps with executive coaching, business strategy and teambuilding workshops
Email | LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | Web | Blog

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6 responses to “These Shoes Kill My Feet, But They’re SO HOT

  1. Hi Carolyn,

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience with Zappos in this entertaining and thoughtful way.
    Sadly they don’t (yet) ship to UK but I’ll keep watching!!

    More importantly their attitude to company culture and values is so refreshing for a superlative customer service model. Gosh, it might even be fun to work for them or with them – or even shop with them – what a craaaazy idea!!!

    Thanks – this is a great blog and I hope you have as much fun finishing your book.



  2. Carolyn,
    Great topic – and timely. I currently have the great pleasure of reading an advance copy of Tony Hsieh’s book, “Delivering Happiness” (comes out June 7). The building of Zappo’s has been truely amazing. What he and his friends went through early on to keep Zappo’s going would have stopped most people. Customer service really is their number one priority.


  3. Pingback: Tweets that mention These Shoes Kill My Feet, But They’re SO HOT « Linked 2 Leadership --·

  4. Carolyn,
    Great blog. One of my major passions is customer service. It appears Zappos understands the importance of it. Thanks for sharing.

    Mark Fryer


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