Why Zappos Is A Poor Example For Customer Service


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Shocked at the idea that you shouldn’t try to emulate the legendary companies of customer service like Zappos and Nordstroms? Read on.

There are companies that are considered legends of customer service and held up as examples of how to treat customers. Zappos and Nordstroms come to mind as the most commonly mentioned. It’s true that these companies are good examplars of how you can build a company around customer service, but here’s the problem. If you try to copy them, you will fail. Pure and simple.

Why? These companies are singular companies. That is, they exemplify what works with ONE company, with a very specific culture, in a specific industry, and often the success of these companies is because of the people who drove the companies to be extremely customer service oriented. You don’t have those people. You don’t have the culture or any of the variables that you will need to effectively model your business on theirs.

It’s like saying we should all copy Einstein, only none of us have Einstein’s brain, or education or experience. There was only one Einstein. There will never be another one, just like there will never be another Zappos. To try to be Einstein or Zappos is to fail.

Build your customer service strategies by looking at your business, its values, and those of your specific customers. You can still build a company that succeeds in business, and you can do that in your own way that takes into account the specifics of YOUR business, not Zappos.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Robert Bacal
Robert began his career as an educator and trainer at the age of twenty (which is over 30 years ago!), as a teaching assistant at Concordia University. Since then he as trained teachers for the college and high school level, taught at several universities and trained thousands of employees and managers in customer service, conflict management and performance appraisal and performance management skills.


  1. I agree that directly copying Zappos, Nordstrom or, in fact, any business is not an effective strategy for sustained improvement.

    Every company is a singular company, every individual is singular – so not totally sure what your point is. Are there companies that are not, is there a company out there that you are aware of that is successful and what it does is applicable in totality to others?

    When specifics are not applicable then we zoom out to the abstract and find solutions locally guided by that abstract.

    So you mention culture – if we agree that the prevailing culture in place in a group, team, organisation drives behaviour, then we also agree that encouraging a culture that respects customers by respecting employees is maybe a good thing. How that actually works in a company is down to each company. But to imply that you cannot be the next Zappos and therefore don’t look at the broad areas that are positive in their organisation and seek to examine similar in yours is a sermon for mediocrity and I hope its not a message that you intended to communicate.


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