Exclusive Interview with Robert Richman, Co-Creator of Zappos Insights


If you’re more of a video person, go ahead and watch the video below to see what Robert Richman has to say. If reading is more your thing, skip the video and hop straight to the transcript below!

If you like what you see, be sure to take a look at the event guide for Shared Services & Outsourcing Week 2020!

Q: How do you measure the value you contribute to the business?

A: I think value can be measured in many ways. One of my favorites is NPS, Net Promoter Score, because that's something that goes way beyond satisfaction. People might say they're satisfied with their car, but if you ask them, scale of zero to 10, how likely are you to promote this thing to somebody else? That's a true test for if somebody really truly values it.

Q: What do you think is the main challenge with talent today? How are you overcoming it?

A: I'd say the main challenge with talent today is something actually counter-intuitive: people are trying too hard to appeal to them and too hard to make them happy. Because that, in a way, is like dealing with spoiled children to be honest. Because what's better is really creating a game that people love to play. You don't have to motivate people to play soccer or basketball. If they really love it, they'll do it. The same thing goes for a company. If you create a vision, a purpose, rules, everything around it like a game that is fun to play, with a goal that everybody wants, then you're going to bring in the right people, and actually detract the wrong people. 

Q: What’s the number one thing that your customers want from you? How are you working to deliver on that request?

A: I think the number one thing people really want is an experience. Because there are so many different choices out there of what somebody can have, and if you think about it, especially something like a conference or a speech. If I asked you, how much do you remember of that speech you really liked? We can really only say just a few bits of it, but you'll remember everything about the experience and the feeling, and I think it's feelings that are really driving everything. They're driving our memories and they're driving our purchasing decisions.

Q: How do you benchmark your operation to find out where the opportunities are?

A: I'd say the best way to benchmark and find opportunities is to look for frustrations. People think that that's a negative thing, finding frustrations, but it's actually really positive. A story that happened out of Zappos that was really interesting is that everybody has to work customer service. And so, when a developer starts working customer service on the phones, it's a really interesting experience. What used to go through QA and seem like, "Oh, okay, so it doesn't matter that it takes "these four screens." Suddenly that person, that developer, has to deal with those four screens on the phone for hours a day, and they say, "Oh my God, this is really a problem!" And all the customer service people say, "Yeah, we've been trying to tell you that "for a long time now." So actually paying attention to frustrations that people have, are the gold. Because once you can clear those out of the way, those obstacles, people are really free to do their job.

Q: Everyone is talking about automation: To what extent are you improving performance through automation?

A: I'd say the best way to use automation to improve performance is to use it to put something in front of somebody's face that they can deal with at that time and place. What happens with something, for example, like email, is you've got all these other types of messages that you don't need to deal with at that time. But if you could use automation techniques to deal with only what you need to deal with at that specific moment, then that means high focus and concentration, which means high performance.

Q: What are your top objectives for this year?

A: My top objective is to bring in more experiences to companies. I think that everybody is so filled up with content, with books, with speeches; but experiences, especially ones where employees get to talk to each other. So one I use is called "Open Space". This is a crowd source format, where employees get to talk to each other, they get to bring up the most important issues and the best ideas that they have, and it's highly engaging. And every time, even though CEOs get really hesitant, because it just frees anybody to talk about anything, they're ultimately happy because they see the truth and the best ideas come out of that.

Robert Richman was the 2019 keynote speaker at the 23rd Shared Services & Outsourcing Week presenting on "The Game Changing Experience: Building a Culture of Customer Service that Crushes It!"