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Zappos Shows its Customer-Centric Culture Once Again: On Slippers and Cancer

Crystal Garrett
25 Oct, 2017

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’ve chosen to begin our series on Worth It Experiences with a story about a personal customer experience I had with Zappos and the power of their customer-centric culture.

Breast cancer… Stage 4. It sounded like a death sentence. This was the diagnosis my best childhood friend received from her doctor. It was shocking to her (and me), especially given that she's healthy and breast cancer does not run in her family. The cancer was aggressive so her doctors acted fast to get her started immediately on radiation and chemo.

Because my friend would be spending many weeks in and out of the hospital, I wanted to send her a comforting and helpful gift. I Googled “slippers” and several options came up from Zappos and other well-known merchandisers. I needed recommendations on durable slippers and guidance in narrowing down a decision. I recalled reading an article about Zappos’ CEO, Tony Hsieh, and his company's focus on appealing to customers who "enjoy a touch more backstory on the merchandise" and making a personal connection with customers.  This seemed a good place to start and, honestly, I was curious to know if they would live up to my customer expectations based on what I read. 

I chose Live Chat and Zappo’s rep, Tania, greeted me and offered to assist. I told her that my dear friend had just been diagnosed with cancer and I needed recommendations on comfortable and durable slippers. Tania first expressed how sorry she was to hear about my friend, which I thought was nice, but to be expected from anyone with an ounce of empathy. She continued. 

My mother was diagnosed with Stage 4... and beat it.  -- Zappos rep

Wait. What? That was great news for my friend. Tania went on to seamlessly weave the slipper conversation into our chat about cancer, “…[My mom] was all about her Sketchers though... They have soles, but feel like slippers.” She sent me five pairs of her personal recommendations to click and view and shared more comforting news.


Her mother had been cancer free for two years. Tania sent me the link to her mother’s website documenting her cancer fighting journey. As the chat wrapped, Tania asked if it was okay to email me for an update on my friend’s progress. Class act.

This is the embodiment of customer centricity. Sometimes we focus on the theory behind CX, detailing best practices and sharing how-to's, but execution is what matters to customers. Getting such a wonderful representative on Live Chat wasn't by coincidence or stroke of luck. In fact, she didn't have to share her mother's story. She is part of a customer-centric culture that encourages and empowers her to make a personal connection without being bound by a one-size-fits-all response. Tania immediately identified that I needed more than just slippers and became a messenger of hope for my friend. Zappos not only lived up to what I read, but far exceeded my expectations.

Needless to say, my friend was elated to hear that Stage 4 can be beaten and that I’d met someone who had witnessed it firsthand. She has since used some of Tania’s mother’s cancer fighting recipes, loves her slippers, and is making great strides towards victory! 

Thank you, Tania ;-)  

If you have any Worth It Customer Experiences you want to share with us, please comment or contact us

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