Have you heard the one about the Deli, the Shoe Store and the Cloud Hosting Provider?

Here at HOSTING we often look beyond our industry for inspiration on how we can do things differently with the idea of doing something truly unique and special.  One that stands out as a success is what we learned from two very unique and special companies – Zappos and Zingerman’s.

Over the next 3 days, in a series of 3 blogs, I’m going to share some vital learnings from these two companies – a deli and a shoe store. In this series, you’ll learn about great customer service, what constitutes a service culture, and how to build one.

Most people know Zappos, but if you don’t, here is what they do: They deliver happiness.  Now, they do sell shoes and clothes through their website and mail order business, but ask anyone at Zappos what they do and I guarantee you they will not say, “we sell shoes.”

Zingerman’s is lesser known than Zappos, however they share a common strand of DNA when it comes to what they do.  While yes, you can buy a sandwich from their deli and various fine foodstuffs from their mail order business, what they really strive for is that everyone that either calls them or walks into one of their stores in Ann Arbor, Michigan has a great experience – regardless if they buy anything or not.

Over the last few years, several of us at HOSTING have had the unique opportunity to spend some concentrated and quality time with the folks at Zappos and Zingerman’s.  They both have programs where they allow people to come on-site and learn about how they have built long lasting, customer-centric service cultures – imparting how you, too, can create an amazing customer experience.  Zingerman’s program is called Zingtrain and Zappos has Zappos Insights (as well as their Culture Boot Camp).

I cannot say enough great things about these programs.  They are engaging, eye opening, and fun, and I would encourage anyone that has the time and budget to go.  If you can, Go Now!  However, while the lessons, insights, and tools that we walked away with from both workshops were all that and a bag of chips, what we really learned was this simple, valuable lesson:

The HOSTING culture cannot be Zappos’.  The HOSTING culture cannot be Zingerman’s.  HOSTING can only be HOSTING.   

Attempting to copy another company’s values and culture will ultimately end in epic failure.  To build a great culture that will consistently deliver an amazing customer experience is one that you have to build yourself.  I see companies all the time that try to “be like Zappos”.  Typically, they are looking for that magical short-cut to building a service culture.  While they may have some fun trying to emulate the zany things that happen at Zappos, I can predict that it will ultimately fail because it isn’t – it can’t be – built upon the foundation that made Zappos and Zingerman’s truly great. Because they are not Zappos or Zingerman’s!  What Zappos and Zingerman’s taught us was not how to be Zappos or Zingerman’s, but how to build our OWN culture. And that was the beginning of a great journey for HOSTING — one we’re still on today.

Tomorrow, I will give you a brief outline on how to build that coveted Service Culture.


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