SpoolCast: Company Culture Meets Customer Experience with Brian Kalma

Jared Spool

May 7th, 2009

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Guest Brian Kalma speaks about unique lessons from Zappos.com.
Duration: 26m | 15MB
Recorded: March, 2009
Brian Christiansen, UIE Podcast Producer
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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.

[I should also mention that Brian is one of the expert speakers on our Web App Summit Proceedings disc, which we're now taking orders for. If you couldn't make it to the summit, this disc provides hundreds of pages of speaker materials, and 19 hours of presentation audio. Brian's 75-minute talk, Baking a Corporate Culture into the Online Experience is one of the 14 presentations included on the disc. The disc is a great source of information and inspiration for your work. Learn more about the Web App Summit Proceedings. You won't regret it!]

8 Responses to “SpoolCast: Company Culture Meets Customer Experience with Brian Kalma”

  1. Customer Customers Company Xerox | World News Says:

    [...] course, including answering phones. So every employee has a strong grasp on the experience [...]principal customer solutions engineer – uk this position applies system level communications [...]

  2. Twitted by briandigital Says:

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  3. Billy Says:

    Hi Jared, had a bit of trouble (not for the first time I think) finding your podcast on itunes from my iphone, searching for spoolcast [iphone - 'Did you mean "spooncast"?'] before realising I needed to search for UIE Brain Sparks. Thought I’d point out the confusion for you!

    Billy

  4. Daniel Szuc Says:

    Great listening!

    Liked how you talked about experimentation on the site.

    Also liked how Brian spoke about the constant customer feedback they have available through their call centers. The constant “feed” from the customer where its not just about the 1-2 Focus Groups, where everything relies on those results i.e. lets test it with “those” customers to see what “they” think.

    Just as there is a need to tie together channel experiences, there is also a need for someone to tie together all the input from customers that happens internally and actually do something with it.

  5. Do you trust your people enough to let them talk to customers? | BPWrap Says:

    [...] That thought provoking question came to mind after reading a UIE Brain Sparks SpoolCast entitled: Company Culture Meets Customer Experience with Brian Kalma of Zappos. [...]

  6. web designer,web design India Says:

    Thanks u r information

  7. Do you trust your people enough to let them talk to customers? « Test Area Says:

    [...] That thought provoking question came to mind after reading a UIE Brain Sparks SpoolCast entitled: Company Culture Meets Customer Experience with Brian Kalma of Zappos. [...]

  8. Folk burde rejse mere med tog Says:

    [...] kan høre mere om overvejelserne bag i dette interview med Brian Kalma, der er ansvarlig for user experience hos Zappos. Related Posts:Citat: "Rich people have big…"En [...]

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