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Episode #72 Company Culture Meets Customer Experience with Brian Kalma

May 7, 2009  ·  27 minutes

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This week I wanted to share my interview with Brian Kalma, Director of User Experience and Web Strategy for darling of Internet retail, Zappos.com. In case you've somehow missed out on their meteoric rise to top of online retail, now conducting over a billion dollars in sales a year, you're in for a treat.

Show Notes

This week I wanted to share my interview with Brian Kalma, Director of User Experience and Web Strategy for the darling of Internet retail, Zappos.com. In case you've somehow missed out on their meteoric rise to top of online retail, now conducting over a billion dollars in sales a year, then you're in for a treat. I can't think of a company with a more interesting case study in employee involvement and fanatical customer service. It's really nice to see a company succeed for all the right reasons.

Zappos is a unique place. Every employee hired at their corporate headquarters in Las Vegas is required to go through the four-week customer loyalty (call-center training) course, including answering phones. So every employee has a strong grasp on the experience of their customers, from lawyers to VPs, managers to software developers.

You might be involved with a design team with a handful of designers or perhaps a large number of stake holders. Brian has a similar experience, with one notable exception. He regularly conducts web strategy meetings with an open invitation to the entire company. That's more than 1,300 people! But design ideas are just the beginning. Employees are also encouraged to participate in other ways, from recording product videos, to being models on the site. In fact, all models on the site, which sells shoes, clothing, accessories, and more every day, are just regular employees.

On top of these duties, Brian also passionately supports Zappos' social media outreach, where all employees are encouraged to look for comments about their company on places like Twitter and Facebook, and then actively engage with those customers, without oversight. For many companies, that would be a nightmare. Brian says it's an amazing by-product of their dedication to their employees and their employees' dedication to the customers. This is the basis of the Zappos culture, which Brian has to translate into content on their web site and use to drive sales.

And drive sales he has. 75% of their sales are from repeat customers, spending more than 2.5 times more in the following months than their initial purchase. And I asked Brian how he leverages their unique culture into their web presence to make these sales figures possible.

Tune into to the podcast for more details on the life of Brian at Zappos and their experience success stories.