Looking Inside Zappos’ Corporate Culture Club

Published February 10, 2011
Last modified February 10, 2011

“How can we preach good corporate culture if we’re not even taking care of our own customers? Zendesk has turned customer support into a true teamwork activity.”

–Donavon Roberson, Culture Evangelist, Zappos Insights

Zappos Insights is a subscription video service that lets companies learn how the popular online shoe retailer Zappos does business. Launched in 2008, Zappos Insights is designed to give companies all the tools they need to develop the culture they want. Customers can use the service to get answers from actual Zappos employees about the Zappos approach.

Email-based support proves frustrating for popular new business shoes are in great demand – to the tune of more than $1 billion in annual sales. But there’s also a growing demand for information about the retailer’s famous corporate culture. That’s why launched the Zappos Insights membership service in 2008.

“Our membership site has customers in 34 countries, and we mailed out 1,400 Culture Books last month,” explains Donavon Roberson, Culture Evangelist, Zappos Insights. “But where there are customers, there are customer support requests to handle.”

Because’s support solution wouldn’t have fit the Zappos Insights business model, Roberson and his team initially set out to manage customer support by email – but soon became frustrated.

"The trouble with email-based support is that too many messages end up in the spam folder," says Roberson. "We couldn’t afford to have customer messages falling through the cracks.”

Tracking support emails centrally keeps conversations moving forward

Hoping to keep all customer correspondence in one online support system, Roberson began his search with Zendesk help desk software – and looked no further.

“The first thing we noticed about Zendesk was its ease of use,” Roberson recalls. “When it creates a ticket, it automatically emails us. Even employees who aren’t on Zendesk can then continue the conversation over email, but it will all be tracked in the system.”

Zappos Insights’ team of 11 support agents uses Zendesk's help desk software to field questions submitted on the company’s website or sent directly by email.

“We clear out 150 to 200 tickets per week,” says Roberson. “Zendesk not only makes it easy to respond with support information, but also to start conversations that can lead to additional sales.”

Visibility into support tickets lets company address problems proactively

With Zendesk, Zappos Insights has the visibility to make sure tickets are moving forward to resolution – not falling off the radar.

“Zendesk has enhanced our follow-through,” says Roberson. “I can easily see if a ticket hasn’'t been responded to, and then send the customer a quick email to let them know we’re working on the issue. That kind of communication goes a long way with customers.”

Zendesk’s macros enable Zappos Insights to send automated responses to frequently asked questions. Meanwhile, Roberson and his staff can easily begin to spot patterns that point to urgent issues.

“When we see five or six customers ask for a delivery status on their Culture Book in the same day, we can proactively address a shipping problem before it really disrupts our business,” says Roberson. “Zendesk has given us the visibility to reduce shipping complaints from as many as 30 per day to an average of just two.”

Even when key employees are out of the office, Roberson and his team no longer worry about dropping the ball. Support agents can log onto Zendesk from any browser. Some even access Zendesk through Android or BlackBerry devices.

“How can we preach good corporate culture if we’re not even taking care of our own customers?” says Roberson. “Zendesk has turned customer support into a true teamwork activity. Any agent at any time can jump in to solve a problem and keep a customer happy.”