Back in March I wrote a post on shoe and apparel web commerce company Zappos’ customer-centric business strategy. However, customer service is only one component of the Zappos’ success story. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh attributes much of Zappos success to their strong corporate culture:
“If we get the culture right, most of the other stuff, like the brand and the customer service, will just happen. With most companies as they grow the culture goes downhill. We want the culture to grow stronger and stronger as we grow.”
In this post I intend to explore the ten values that have enabled Zappos to create such a unique and successful culture. The video below provides an introduction into Zappos’ culture:
1. Deliver WOW Through Service: Zappos is known for taking customer service to extremes. The company believes that the more they invest in their customers and the customer experience, the more loyal their customers will become.
2. Embrace and Drive Change: As a growing company the Zappos’ philosophy is that change is constant and unavoidable. In order to be able to react to changing market conditions, the status quo should be continually challenged.
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness: The Zappos culture is fun and a little weird. Visitors taking the Zappos company tour are typically greeted by employees blowing horns and ringing cow bells. This culture is not for everybody as Zappos’ recruiters recognize by using cartoon like job applications and bizarre interview questions to determine individuality in order to ensure candidates will fit with the company culture. Interview questions may include: What’s your theme song? What two people would you most like to invite for dinner?
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded: At Zappos both employees and the company as a whole are expected to be bold, daring and open to new ideas. One bold idea was for all employees to have the freedom to use Twitter, something many companies would be horrified by. No guidelines were given except to use one’s best judgment.
5. Pursue Growth and Learning: Zappos recognize that it’s important for their employees to keep learning and be stretched in order to keep them engaged.
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication: The Zappos’ culture encourages open communications between employees, vendors, customers and other businesses. As part of this philosophy managers are required to spend 10-20% of time with team members outside the office, improving communication, trust and possibly building friendships.
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit: Being part of a great team where people look out for one another, can inspire outstanding performance. As part of Zappos’ positive work environment employees even have the ability to give one another $50 for a job well done.
8. Do More With Less: The economic downturn has forced Zappos to demonstrate that they can do more with less. In 2008 like many companies Zappos had to lay off (124 out of 5000) employees, a situation they handled with integrity and transparency. The company released the news right after it was decided to mitigate stress and also announced everything that was going on, on their blog and Twitter. Employees affected by the move were given generous severance packages and overall public opinion regarding their handling of the layoffs was positive.
9. Be Passionate and Determined: The Zappos success story is founded on passion and determination to pursue a vision to take the company forward.
10. Be Humble: As part of creating a positive culture where employees can be happy at work, regardless of the situation employees are expected to treat others as they would wish to be treated.