You just got a spiffy new job as a customer service rep at online shoe retail giant, Zappos. During training you quickly realize that the company is fanatic about exceeding customer expectations. You find out that your word is gold, when you tell a customer their shoes will arrive in four days they’ll get them in one. Maybe that’s not the gold that interests you. That’s where the company’s fanaticism really takes an interesting turn.
They offer you an ‘opportunity cost’ hypothetical straight out of your high school economics book. If you are dedicated they invite you to stay on as a hard working, problem solving individual. No scripts, ultimate authority, just make the customer happy. Or take $1,000 cash and walk out the door.
Bill Taylor at Harvard Business Publishing explains why: “If you’re willing to take the company up on the offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. It’s hard to describe the level of energy in the Zappos culture—which means, by definition, it’s not for everybody. Zappos wants to learn if there’s a bad fit between what makes the organization tick and what makes individual employees tick—and it’s willing to pay to learn sooner rather than later. (About ten percent of new call-center employees take the money and run.)”
They define themselves as a customer service company, “that happens to sell shoes.” It’s hard to fulfill that mission if it’s workforce isn’t completely committed. It will be interesting to see if they’ll up the ante. What happens at $5,000? $10,000? One thing is clear, this innovative company is sure to negate its largest cost: negative customer experience.