Last year around this time, I got to visit two of the greatest names when it comes to Customer Experience. Disney and Zappos. I traveled to California to learn all about CX magic at Disney Institute. In Las Vegas I got a tour at Zappos where I interviewed leaders at their fun property. Many of the learnings I shared in my blogs and I even published an e-zine on my insights at Zappos. But why did I do that? Why did I choose these two companies as my Go-To-Learning-Place for 2019? It’s all about development. Let me share my vision with you in this blog.

Buy my flowers!

But first I want to share with you that tulips are my favorite flowers. Nice to know, right? Or not? But hang on, it has to do with the story 😊. The picture you see is taken at the local flower market in Utrecht. Every Saturday you can buy all kinds of flowers and plants on this market. It is a very bright and happy place to visit, even when it rains. The colors, the smells, the people and especially the salesmen and women behind their flower stands make me smile. They get it when it comes to selling their goods. They look at you, recommend their flowers and try to lure you into their domain.

What could happen – and they understand sales really well, so it probably will happen – is that they seduce you to buy some flowers. Not just the flowers you planned to buy. But more and different ones. Which will cost you more money than you had planned to spend and they will take up more room in your house. Colorful, yes! But maybe not what you went out for.

Stick to the plan

The same might happen with development. You go out there, see all kinds of education and inspiration, but what to decide? When you go online you might get lost in a maze of development options. To learn new skills, get inspiration, be a better entrepreneur, learn all CX, be a better you. I know many people that get seduced to follow webinars, free events and buy education as a result. Sometimes for the good. Often maybe not for what they planned to do. Is that bad? No, but think of all the time and money that is wasted. So when I go out to get tulips, I get tulips. And maybe one extra bunch of flowers to give away. But I stick to my plan.

The big picture

That is where my big picture in development comes in. Every year I determine in what area I want to develop myself. Two examples to show you how I do it. In 2018 I wanted to learn more about comedy, about being funny on stage or when delivering my Masterclass. To learn what my trade was, when it came to this art. I went to a standup comedy weekend in Brighton with Jill Edwards, had a day course with Jeremy Nichols and watched tons of comedians. On stage as well as on Netflix. A big learning experience that resulted in finding out that I am more of an improv comedian, than a standup comedian. But it was such a good learning ride.

Personal and business development

2019 was all about learning more on CX. Really deep diving into my own profession and learning from the best. The reason I went to Disney and Zappos. And why I hosted the International CX awards and why I was a judge. Because we were also writing our book about CX, I needed to focus on my profession. An extra touch was that both Disney and Zappos focus on change from a cultural lens. Very handy with regard to our Employee Experience Game and the Masterclass CX Culture I am developing. This investment in me was not only an inspirational one, but also a business smart decision!

The plan for 2020

This year will be all about growing my facilitation and audience interaction skills. I want to find my own interaction games (I already have some fun ones, but I think I can be better). Not only in a small setting like our CX Masterclass with 16 participants, but also with audiences of thousands. I like people in my audience to be really involved. So, I have work to do. I will visit the Global Speaker Summit in Namibia in February to learn from the world’s greatest speakers and I will join the annual PSA Australia event in Adelaide to get some Down Under magic. In April I have booked myself a seat in a two-day Masterclass to be a better Master of Ceremony (dagvoorzitter for the Dutchies). I don’t fancy becoming an all-round MC, but at customer events, I love the role. Because I can add some Nienke Bloem and CX magic to the day.

Your theme for this year

So, what to learn from all this? The big picture. My question to you is, what is your theme for the year? Do you like my way of bringing focus to personal development? Or do you have other ways, that I can learn from? Please share, because there are far more ways when it comes to development, and there is no good or bad. Oh well, actually there is a bad one. That is doing nothing. Staying still. Not investing in yourself. So, when you are at the flower market, I hope you’ll be seduced to buy some flowers. I will get myself some tulips.


** Nienke Bloem is expert in Customer Experience (CCXP), both as Trusted Advisor, Keynote Speaker and co-founder of The Customer Experience Game and The Employee Experience Game. Do you want to read her blogs or learn more about her? Visit her website or subscribe to her monthly CX Greetz. **


** Feel free to comment on this blog and share it in your community! **

… or should I say, Employee Experience? Yes, I have been wondering what the title of this blog should be and I chose the one on Customer Experience. Just because I had to choose. If you think after reading this blog, it should be the other way around. Let me know!

The 22ndof January 2019. A big day: I was going to visit Zappos. I was excited, because I had heard so much about the company,  I follow them on Instagram (@ZapposCulture) and of course read the book “Delivering Happiness”. This day I was going to see it myself. Would it be a big hit or would it be a disappointment? I had no idea, so the excitement was real.

The first impression of the building was a little bit of a downer. The building isn’t a beauty of a building, it used to be the city hall of Las Vegas. It is a building like any other and they have tried to make it look happy, with some pictures, but I am honest, the building and the square didn’t deliver any happiness to me.

A little side step: I arrived in Las Vegas two days before and I had plenty time to stroll around the city. If you ever visited the city or have seen some pictures, you know that especially the strip is kind of a crazy place. A miniature Eiffel tower, Venetian gondola’s; everything for entertainment. My hotel was on the strip and I brought some crackers and as I am trying to eat healthy, I was looking for an avocado to spread on my cracker. As I walked the strip for more than two hours, there was not avocado to be found. Yes, I could gamble, drink, eat, buy souvenirs, but no avocado there.

Let’s go back to the Zappos experience. When you enter the building, you are pleasantly surprised. The colored Lego wall, the merchandise, the wall with the company’s story; the whole atmosphere is breathing the FUN Zappos feeling. Want to have an impression?

Megan was my tour guide and we started with the history of the company. A company pride movie, some examples of wow employee experiences, like the “snowman prank” and the CEO living in a trailer. It was a set up of the real tour, where they gave me the Zappos experience. We couldn’t visit the customer service department, but I saw HR, the way the company is set up, their fitness studio (in the former prison), their restaurant and their Aquarium resting area. Really!

When we passed the square during our tour. I saw at the main square a drawing of an Avocado, saying “AvocaDO”. I giggled and told Megan, that Las Vegas was more of an AvocaNO city. I shared my experience of the hunt for an avocado and we laughed together.

As my tour ended, I had two interviews with leaders of the company. To learn more about Customer Experience strategies, about listening to customers, about how it is to work in the company. As I was starting my first interview, Megan entered the room with a little bag with two avocado’s. “For you”, as she presented them with a big smile. How about that? Putting the magic around one of their values: “Deliver WOW through service”. Easy does it with a big result. Zappos does deliver WOW.

So, a nice story, and Zappos puts its money where its mouth is. So you have a first impression. But what did I learn and what can you learn from this shoe selling company? I decided to give you a list of ideas. You can pick yourself, what is applicable. What resonates with you. And I am honest. The longer I write, the more comes to mind. So be prepared, somewhere this year, I will publish blog number two about this topic 😉

  1. Choose your values: Zappos has their ten core values and they are everywhere. Where of course their most known value is “Deliver Wow through Service”. The other nine are just as important for the employees.
  2. Hire the right employees: “It is easier to get into Harvard, than to work at Zappos” Zappos receives thousands of job applications every half year. They only want the right people to work for them. The ones that fit the company, the ones that are motivated.
  3. Take time for onboarding: new employees get a four-week onboarding and training, where they work for three weeks in the contact center. Yes, everybody. Whether you start working in IT or in Accountancy: you will start in the contact center, so you know your customers and what their lifes are about.
  4. Test if new employees get it: once a new employee has done his onboarding, at Zappos that is the moment they have to go for THE test. This test is crucial, because if you don’t score 90%, you don’t pass and are asked to leave. The test is about culture and values, computer systems and how to behave on the phone.
  5. Make new employees choose: when employees have finished their onboarding, they get the offer of a month’s salary to leave the company. Yes, you read this right. If you stay, you don’t get it. They only want people that really want to work for Zappos.
  6. 10 hour rule in the holiday season. Everybody has to help the contact center for ten hours. Everybody. EVERYBODY. Sorry to that bold, but this is magic. It is already magic when colleagues from IT would listen in some companies, Zappos takes it to the next level.
  7. Honor employees and the years they work for you: every five years you work at Zappos, you get a plate with your name on it in a certain color. First five years is blue, five to ten is red, etcetera. These nameplates hang at the desks, so you can see who works there and for how long they are with Zappos.
  8. Serendipitous Collisions: the Zappos building has ten floors and on one floor, there are drinks, on the other floor there are snacks. So people have to move to get a drink or something to eat. By doing so, they will meet people from other departments, and they hang out together.
  9. Create business money. Zappos has their own monetary system; Zollars. Yes, where dollars and Zappos meet. You can earn Zollars in several ways and spend them in their own Zappos way.
  10. Zappos Merchandise: not only can you buy Zappos merchandise as visitor, they also have their own little Zappos store for employees, varying from a t-shirt to a bicycle. Zappos branded of course: here you can spend your earned Zollars.
  11. Co-working Bonus program: employees can grant colleagues a bonus of 50 Zollars for doing nice things for each other, or if they helped out customers in a brilliant way.
  12. Department of Celebration: in case there is something to celebrate, from birthday to wedding. At Zappos they have a catalogue where you can order everything you need to celebrate. For example, you can order balloons with a card and they are delivered to the desk of the person who is celebrating.
  13. Bring fun in the IVR: when you call Zappos you get the choice to either press one to talk to a representant or two to hear the joke of the day. My goodness, I love this one.
  14. Organize fitness: at Zappos they have their own fitness studio (in the former prison, so funny) and they have also yoga and boxing classes. You earn points that you can spend in a special Zfit store.
  15. Tech Support: in the cafeteria Zappos has a special desk for technical help. You can bring your laptop there and they make sure you are on your way as soon as possible.
  16. Bring values in yearly reviews: as an employee you are asked how you score on the core values and also peers will rate you. You can pick the core values that fit you best, because you don’t have to score all ten.
  17. Stimulate change: at Zappos they have investors that help employees who have ideas in an investor board. So these investors help employees with money to grow their ideas.
  18. Help employees as entrepreneurs: at Zappos they have a class called ‘48 Hour Founders’. People can pitch (like in Sharktank) to a group and when your idea is picked, you work it out with colleagues and a business coach. In 48 hours you will grow your idea forward and pitch to the Investor Board.
  19. Teambuilding: every month employees get a budget of 50 dollars to go out and have fun. Plan it yourself and create a team and a family feeling. You can also save it a couple of months, to do something more elaborate.
  20. Family time: every quarter of a year a family movie night is organized for employees and their families. So, the focus is not only on the employees, but their families are engaged too.
  21. Measure because than you know: HR measures every quarter of a year how employees are feeling and to learn what they can do better. The insights are shared with everybody by company email. And a follow up by HR on the actions is always done.
  22. Shadowing: if an employee is curious about another role in the company, they can shadow a colleague in that role for two days, to learn what the job is about. During my tour, a colleague of the Customer Service department shadowed Megan to learn about being a tour guide.
  23. Continuous focus on customer interaction: everyone at Zappos understands that every interaction counts. That means that the focus is almost mindfully at the customer in that moment. No average call handling times or other internal metrics that can harm the connection.
  24. Quality assurance: Zappos has a dedicated team that listens to live calls to learn and give advice and suggestions to agents. The focus is on learning, improving and customer happiness.
  25. Values and the floors: where they have ten floors and ten values. They dedicated one value to every floor. This is visible and just a touch of connection.
  26. Focus on making it effortless: the managers or leads are focused on making living the core values as effortless as possible. Employees should be able to deliver on these as easy as possible.
  27. Create photo opportunities on your premises: as we are in the Instagram Era and people love taking pictures. Help them and create beautiful spots for photos. I love this place at Zappos where they have painted unicorn wings.

This is my special gift, just for YOU! I decided to create an e-zine about the biggest learnings. Know that Zappos focuses on Employee Experience to grow Customer Experience. Interesting! Download this visually attractive e-zine and pick yourself: what learnings are most applicable for your organization? What resonates with you? I am very curious which lessons inspire you most. Please feel free to send me an email with your insights!


** Nienke Bloem is an expert in Customer Experience (CCXP), both as Keynote Speaker, teacher of the 2 day CX Masterclass to prepare you for the CCXP exam and she is co-founder of The Customer Experience Game and The Employee Experience Game.**

** Feel free to comment on this blog and share it in your community! **

Don’t want to miss any of my blogs? Then subscribe to my monthly CX Greetz!

Kijk eens goed om je heen. Wat zie jij als je op je werkplek zit? En als je daar nu niet zit, sluit dan je ogen en visualiseer je werkplek.

Wat zie je? Zie je wat ik de afgelopen jaren steeds meer zie? Inderdaad, die hele saaie kantoren en kantoortuinen. Misschien staat er ergens een verdwaalde pooltafel, of zijn er bureaus die je tot sta bureau kunt omtoveren. Staan er planten op jouw kantoor? In mijn optiek zijn dat toch essentiële elementen in een kantoortuin. Of was dat net even te duur qua onderhoud? Is het er gezellig, of toch steriel? Steriel zoals ik veel kantoren tegenwoordig zie: kantoorcrematoriumstijl.

Begin deze eeuw gingen vele organisaties over op het ‘Het Nieuwe Werken’. Doordat thuiswerken opkwam, waren bureaus op maandag, woensdag en vrijdag leeg. Dat betekende dat er met 0,7 persoonsbezetting per werkplek, een overcapaciteit aan bureaus was. Dus downsizen maar. Met floorplans, werkvlekken, overlegzones, en wat nog meer. Geen persoonlijke dingen meer op bureaus. Geen foto’s, awards, diploma’s, gekke bekers, magneten, slingers (brandgevaarlijk!) of andere kleurrijke memorabilia op of rondom je bureau. Nee, vanaf nu een kluisje waar je je werkspullen in kan doen. Zoek maar een plekje uit op de werkvloer. Iedere dag opnieuw.

Waar het in de praktijk op neerkomt is dat jij en ik gewoontedieren zijn. Dus zoeken we toch steeds weer hetzelfde bureau uit. Met heel veel gedoe tot gevolg. Wie heeft mijn bureaustoel? En wie heeft er aan mijn stoelinstellingen gezeten?

Bij Zappos gaat dit allemaal niet op. Bij mijn recente bezoek aan het hoofdkantoor in Las Vegas waande ik me in de Efteling. Echt volledig over de top en totaal on-Nederlands, maar wél vrolijk. Elke medewerker heeft een eigen bureau en mag dat naar eigen inzicht decoreren. Waar collega’s overigens graag een handje bij helpen. Ben je fan van Superman? Dan zie ik dat terug op of rondom jouw bureau, in de vorm van poppen, posters, buttons en misschien zelfs ballonnen.

Op de werkvloer van Zappos kwam ik ogen tekort. Ieder bureau had een naambord, of serie naamborden, in de vorm van een Amerikaans kentekenplaat. Bij elk jubileum – om de vijf jaar – krijgen werknemers een nieuwe kleur, dus het zijn echte statussymbolen. Al moet je ze soms wel zoeken tussen alle planten, slingers, ballonnen, apen (de knuffelvariant natuurlijk), complimenten, tweets en Instagramposts van klanten en de tig foto’s van teams die pret maken.

Zou dit in Nederland werken? Ik weet het niet. Maar vrolijk is het wel en dat zet mij aan het denken. Blije medewerkers presteren immers beter en zijn fijnere gesprekspartners voor hun klanten. Misschien vandaag toch maar een slingertje ophangen?


Dit blog werd geschreven voor CustomerFirst en gepubliceerd op 13 maart 2019

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