What we can learn from

Finweek English Edition - - INSIGHT: INTERNATIONAL -

Lisa was in a group of new re­cruits go­ing through an in­ten­sive week of im­mer­sion train­ing at a new em­ployer, learn­ing ev­ery­thing about its strat­egy, cul­ture and pro­cesses. Frank, the train­ing class leader, left the room, and long-stand­ing em­ploy­ees Joe and Cheryl came in to dis­cuss the new group’s progress and of­fer sup­port. Or so Lisa thought.

In­stead, Joe and Cheryl kicked off a can­did con­ver­sa­tion with the new­bies about their fu­ture at the com­pany. They asked: “Does it seem like the right fit for you? Is this gen­uinely where you think you want to be?” Lisa was slightly con­fused as to where this was head­ing. Then Cheryl made a very sur­pris­ing of­fer to the en­tire class: “If this isn’t the place for you, we want to let you know about an early res­ig­na­tion of­fer that you can take ad­van­tage of. We’ll pay you for the time you’ve al­ready spent train­ing, plus a bonus of $4 000, to quit and leave the com­pany right now.”

Lisa could not be­lieve what she was hear­ing. Were they paying her to quit? Do com­pa­nies really do this?

Sounds crazy? And yet, one com­pany really does pay its peo­ple to leave. That com­pany is Zap­pos.com, an on­line shoe and ap­parel re­tailer in the US that sells tons of shoes. And I’ll show you how the Zap­pos strat­egy makes busi­ness sense.

World­wide, Zap­pos’ ob­ses­sion with cus­tomer ser­vice is the stuff of leg­ends. All its new em­ploy­ees go through the ex­act same train­ing as the call-cen­tre staff. First, they learn about the com­pany his­tory. Then, they un­dergo cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing. Next, they take real calls from real cus­tomers. This train­ing is the same for ev­ery­one at Zap­pos, re­gard­less of whether you’re an ac­coun­tant, lawyer, soft­ware de­vel­oper or call-cen­tre agent. Dur­ing peak times, em­ploy­ees from other de­part­ments even chip in to help with the el­e­vated vol­ume of cus­tomer ser­vice calls. In the words of Zap­pos CEO Tony Hsieh: “If we are se­ri­ous about cus­tomer ser­vice, then it shouldn’t just be a de­part­ment. It should be the whole com­pany.”

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