Zappos and Amazon: Such a Pretty (Unmatched) Pair!

Amazon's just-announced purchase of Zappos for $800 mil and change is a great move for Zappos and well-timed. Zappos’ forays into apparel, handbags and other categories seemed to torque the already bursting-at-the-soles site even further and, as much as Zappos’ bar-raising customer service and shipping bennies have been lauded (and copied out of competitive necessity) over the years, I’ve seen little change in the website or upgrades in the actual shopping experience. By contrast, Amazon’s competing Endless shoe site offers a much more refined shopping experience (and evidently will continue to do so. Much to my surprise; Amazon has no plans to shut it down).

As easy as it would be to focus on the seeming synergies between the men; Jeff Bezos (all goofy laughs and awe shucks) and Tony Hsieh (all t-shirts and proletarian understatement) and the companies (both quirky in their own way and with young sensibilities), I see an important difference lurking beneath the surface; one that justifies keeping the companies as independent entities. A while back, I was fascinated by Jeff Bezos' take on what he sees as a distinct difference between customer experience and customer service. His comments now seem prescient: “Internally, customer service is a component of customer experience. Customer experience includes having the lowest price, having the fastest delivery, having it reliable enough so that you don’t need to contact [anyone]. Then you save customer service for those truly unusual situations.” A stark contrast from Tony Hsieh’s philosophy that, “ . . .as low tech and unsexy as it may sound, we think the telephone is one of the best branding experiences out there. You have them on the phone for 5 to 10 minutes and that’s something they’ll remember the rest of their lives, if you do it well.” He wasn’t talking about “truly unusual situations,” he was talking about day-to-day encounters with customers.

 

The Amazon/Zappos pairing may be a beach sandal with a wing tip; however, I still see a perfect pair!

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