A “Shoe in” at Zappos

Empathy Organizational culture Respect



Key Point: Do you know a secret recipe that drives lasting positive relationships with customers and teammates? Zappos has 10 core values it imbeds into every fabric of the company. The other day, I spent a day with other colleagues visiting their headquarters; getting a behind the scenes look at their cultural strategy and tactics. All 10 values are clearly and deeply resident in the vast majority of Zapponians. If you don’t believe and embrace the values, you leave the company. There are no exceptions. The underpinning of everything the company teaches around their culture and core values is something they call PEC: Personal Emotional Connection.

A PEC at Zappos means every person makes a commitment to positive relationship development. And the company does not leave the idea of Personal Emotional Connection to chance. They spend weeks teaching every employee that a meaningful PEC involves three vital components: 1. An authentic connection. 2. Real empathy. 3. A valued solution. Additionally, they coach to these three elements. When you listen to Zapponians on the phone with their customers, the best calls include all three elements of PEC. And of course anybody who interacts with someone sincerely committed to a PEC concludes the relationship with a positive experience. We all love people who really care about our situation, find a way to connect with us and then do everything to solve our problems. When you listen to customers on the phone in Zappos customer loyalty center, after a strong PEC, they are almost in suspended disbelief and reluctant to hang up. Customers are so hardened by crappy customer service and steeled for conflict that they are waiting for the other “shoe to drop” (as it were). Instead, they’re pleasantly surprised to find out that there isn’t one.

Character Moves:

  1. Try intentionally applying the PEC framework to people you want to develop a positive relationship with. You will be amazed at how effective it is. Do it proactively and beyond just reacting to relationship issues. What if you identified people you wanted to make an emotional connection with and employed a proactive PEC? You would enhance your personal leadership brand.
  1. Think of a personal story involving a time when you changed someone’s life for the better and I bet you the “PEC 3” were fully applied and embraced. So in addition to concluding each day asking yourself how much you added positive value to everyone you interacted with, identify people you made a deep connection with, empathetically listened to AND brought a resolution to a present or potential problem for. That action will make you a masterful relationship builder and even more effective leader!

Doing the PEC in the Triangle


One Millennial View: It’s pretty popular knowledge that Comcast has some of the most abhorrent customer service. (Thus why a Comcast shirt accompanied with devil horns was a noteworthy Halloween costume in 2014). You wonder how a company like Zappos avoids this issue… Sure, maybe people just like talking shoes more than cable packages, but they both deal with troubleshooting. So, it likely comes down to instilled values and PEC. I happen not to be on the phones at a customer service desk, but I’d like to aim to always have the PEC to my position to develop positive relationships with anyone I engage with… And never leave them on “hold.”

– Garrett

Edited and Published by Garrett Rubis