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Marina Krakovsky
Marina Krakovsky

A Simple Lesson in Trust from

Zappos transforms a security procedure into an opportunity to delight customers.

In our previous post, we wrote about what a Disney Store cashier can teach you about trust. A similar lesson about avoiding the distrust penalty comes from, the popular shoe retailer.

Zappos is almost as well-known for its corporate culture as it is for its vast shoe selection. Its founder, Tony Hsieh, has applied his interest in positive psychology in creating a delightful place to work and in offering excellent customer service. (Accordingly, his best-selling book, Delivering Happiness, promises "a path to passion, profits, and purpose.") Zappos doubtless does hundreds of things to make customers happy--one of which, the 365-day return policy, we discuss in our own book. But for now let's look at just one small detail, the e-mail message Zappos sends when a customer forgets his or her account password and tries to reset it:

You, or someone pretending to be you, requested that your password be reset. If it wasn't you, shame on them for trying to be you (you're one of a kind!)

Don't worry, your password is still safe and sound and you can delete this email.

If it really was you and not a lame impostor, click on the link below to create your new password.

How clever is that? By clearly distinguishing between "you" and "them," Zappos avoids the problem of appearing to distrust its own customers. What's more, it does so with characteristic flair: by injecting humor into the process of making sure the person who is trying to change your account password is really you, Zappos transforms a dull but necessary security procedure into something else: an opportunity to show off the company's friendly, playful self. It goes through the authentication process, but does so with a big grin.

Like Disney, Zappos seems to understand that people are constantly making inferences about your actions--why you're doing what you're doing, what it says about you, what it says about the relationship between you and them, and so on. Disney and Zappos both get the human factor behind operational logistics: in this case, that you have to consider not only how much to trust, but also how your trust-testing will come across.

Copyright Kay-Yut Chen and Marina Krakovsky,

Chen and Krakovsky are co-authors of Secrets of the Moneylab: How Behavioral Economics Can Improve Your Business (Portfolio/Penguin, 2010).

About the Author
Marina Krakovsky

Marina Krakovsky has reported for Scientific American, the Washington Post, and the New York Times Magazine.

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