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Tony Hsieh
Tony Hsieh

Zappos.com, the online shoe and clothing retailer owned by Amazon.com, is bringing the concept of Uber’s surge pricing to customer service.

Sounds a bit usual, and it is, but Fortune has a great behind the scenes report on how the retailer is trying to change the way it pays employees.

Starting late last year, Zappos began experimenting with surge pay, a idea it got from Uber, which charges customers during peak travel times. So, rather than pay the customer service reps a set hourly rate, Zappos decided to compensate employees more during high volumes.

If you didn’t know, the Las Vegas-based company strives to have the best customer service in the industry, often demanding its 540 employees to respond to an average of 10,000 inquiries a day within 20 seconds each.

To manage the schedule, Zappos internal technology team created what is now known as Open Market, which allows workers to set discretionary hours and compensates them accordingly. “We wanted the [customer service center employees] to work more flexible hours, eventually 100% flexible, and reward them based on how much or how little customers need them to work,” said Adam Goldstein, a senior product manager at Zappos Labs, according to Fortune.

Demand is especially high in the early hours of the weekdays on the East Coast, or during the early hours in Las Vegas, when few workers want to work. Employees earn an average of $14.50 a hour, and during the trial they received extra points during demand that could be redeemed for raffle tickets for prizes like gas cards, HDTVs and spa retreats.

If motivating customer service employees through alternative methods is a topic of interest, the whole story is worth a read.

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