One of the most valuable marketing tools available to brands has always been and will continue to be word of mouth. Maybe even increasingly so as we move further into being a connected world. You can buy full-page ads in the most popular publications around or pour mountains of money into TV and social media campaigns, but nothing will equal the impact of customers advocating on your behalf because of the amazing experience they had working with you.

It all starts with defining your organisation’s culture — the attitudes, feelings, behaviours and values that characterise and inform the identity of the brand (WHO you really are). Whatever that culture may be — and not every organisation’s has to be the same — if it is then channelled into the service you provide, customers will pay attention. Here’s how we did it at Zappos.

Be a Service Company

At the start, doubters said selling shoes online would never work. After all, people want to try on shoes before they buy, they said. But, what if we could create a fantastic online shopping experience that we know our customers wanted, but that few in the online retail industry believed was possible?

That’s exactly what we aimed to do. We introduced customer-focused service policies, like easy returns, free shipping in both directions and 24/7 customer service. These ideas made it easier for customers to buy from us – they knew if their new shoes weren’t the perfect fit, exchanges were easy. Happy customers told their friends. The positive word-of-mouth translated into a growing business.

It was possible because we recognised that our earlier focus on product selection, consistent transactions and fulfilment control for consistent delivery were not going to set us apart in the industry. Creating WOW experiences for customers was.

Today, we don’t view ourselves as a shoe company. We’re a service company that just happens to sell shoes, handbags, clothing and more. We’ve seen this approach pay off, and we’re proud to say that more than 75 percent of Zappos daily orders now come from return customers.

Define Your Culture

Creating a culture of service fuelled our success at Zappos.

We have even become known for how we defined and have remained committed to our culture as the top priority for our company. We developed Zappos Insights, the team within the Zappos Family that focuses entirely on sharing our approach to corporate culture. At the centre is our focus on creating a “WOW experience” in all directions, where employees feel open and encouraged to be themselves and bring individual contributions to the table. Their enthusiasm for work translates to their interactions with customers.

The idea is that if we take care of our employees well, they will take care of our customers. When both are wowed by the experience of working together, they share that with the rest of the world more effectively than any paid marketing campaign could ever do.

Jon Wolske, Zappos Insights
Jon Wolske is the Culture Evangelist for Zappos Insights, a part of the Zappos Family of companies headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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