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Brand Advocate After 60 Minutes Inside Zappos.com

A couple of months ago, I published Advocacy is the New Loyalty; describing the power of advocacy as hyper-focused on the customer voice. I occasionally shop at Zappos.com, but last Friday, I became an advocate of the online brand after witnessing the people and unique culture behind the company.

The Story

I had a couple of hours to kill between the end of the WOMMA Summit in Las Vegas and my flight back to Seattle. My colleague encouraged me to spend that time taking an insights tour of Zappos.com headquarters located just 11 miles from the Las Vegas strip. I tried calling (and tweeting) @Zappos to make an appointment but did not successfully reach a live person. I decided I would jump in a cab anyway and see if I could just pop in.

Having looked up tour times on their website earlier that morning, I recall seeing a 1 pm opening, but I did not pay close attention to tour days. I arrived promptly at 12:57 pm with three minutes to spare before the next tour. I soon learned from the cheerful receptionist, Elise, that they only offer tours Mon-Thur, and on this particular Friday they were giving a special tour to a VIP group that begun at noon and was just about to end.

I told Elise that I had just finished a 3-day word-of-mouth conference and had heard via WOM that one of Las Vegas’ best tourist attraction was a tour of Zappos HQ, and all I really wanted was for someone to give me the lightning tour around the building and show me Tony Hsieh’s (CEO) cubical – a quick 10 minutes would do the trick. She asked me to take a seat, grab some refreshments from the cooler, and help myself to popcorn while she checked to see if someone could do just that.

As I waited in anticipation, thinking to myself I should have read the details of the tour more closely, a young woman greets me and says, “Hi, I’m Renea, I just finished my shift, but I’m happy to run you around, though I probably won’t be able to take you over to the other building this afternoon.” I was feeling pretty fortunate and extremely grateful for her time, especially since she was now officially off the clock. She started me off with a quick 6-minute introductory video of Zappos’ history. Following the video, she spent the next 60 minutes (yes, the time she would spend giving a full tour) proudly showing off the Zappos culture.

The Zappos.com Culture Evident in These Photos

New York, New York Conference Room:
Just one of many themed conference rooms, many of them designed by employees.

Jungle-themed Pod:
This is one of many themed pods of cubicles. They are quirky and reminiscent of a college dorm, and this particular pod is where the company CEO sits.

Desk of Epic Glory:
This idea started as a prank for one of their employees and the idea stuck. They created the “Epic” desk and placed it front and center where any employee can work from for a day if they choose. The location of this desk allows an opportunity to see everyone that walks through the main doors.


Humble Quilt Wall:
Employees write humbling messages on a square quilt and attach to the quilt wall. My favorite “Don’t lose your shine for anyone.”

Zappos Employee Store:
They have a case of fun items that employees come up with that can only be purchased by employees for employees.


Company Benefits:
A list of all employee benefits displayed on the walls of their office—some cool benefits!


Zappos Kentucky Distribution Center:
Every HQ employee is given an opportunity to work in the KY distribution center for one week. Likewise, the KY employees work a week in the HQ office in Henderson, NV.

This only begins to highlight some of the things I saw as I weaved through cubicles embellished with streamers, faux foliage, and tin foil. As we walked through the customer service department, I was fascinated to learn that every single employee is trained to handle customer calls. Not only does this allow for extra support during the busy holiday season, but it gives each employee a chance to interact with customers. Yes, even their CEO takes to the phones during the busy season.

Another interesting fact about the Zappos family is that they have a single employee, known as the “Goals Coach” whose job it is to help employees meet their personal or professional goals. An employee simply signs up and writes down their goal, and she meets with them each day, for ½ hour, for 30 days, and holds them accountable for reaching that goal–whatever it may be. Once the goal is met, they write their accomplishment on this wall.

The experience was one to remember, and it says a lot about the growing importance of customer experience. They say you’re more likely to trust a company/brand when you see the people behind it, and the folks behind Zappos obviously enjoy what they do.

Thanks Zappos for the intimate, private tour, the cab ride back to my hotel, the free t-shirt, the books, and the discount off my next zapato purchase. Yes, all of this for someone who just “dropped in”.

I’d love to hear any great experiences you’ve had with Zappos.com or any other brand that makes you feel important.

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