Posts Tagged ‘Zappos’

My Copy of the Zappos' Culture Book

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.

To read Zappos’ employee perspectives on each of the ten values order the free Zappos culture book or consider purchasing Zappos Insights subscription service.


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After college I participated in the Walt Disney World Cultural Representative program training new cast members on Disney’s guest service. It’s rare to find companies that deliver customer service at the level of Disney, however online shoe, clothing and accessory retailer Zappos may be that exception. In 2008 Zappos hit $1 billion in annual sales, a success they attribute to their customer focus. Here are some of the features of Zappos’ customer driven business strategy:

  • Every customer contact is an opportunity: Zappos view every phone call and e-mail as an opportunity to make a lasting impression on their customers.
  • Investment in customer service: The company allocates a large amount of the money that they would have spent on advertising on customer service. If the customer service is perfect, word of mouth will make up the difference.
  • Keep core competencies in-house: At one point Zappos outsourced their warehouse and shipping. This sourcing strategy did not work as Zappos quickly learned that you couldn’t trust a third-party to care about your customers as much as you do.
  • Make customer transactions as risk free as possible: U.S. Zappos customers benefit from free shipping both ways. Customers have 365 days to send back the items that don’t fit or they don’t like. Zappos returns run high (accounting for approximately a third of gross revenues) but they have learned that the lower the transaction risk, the happier the customer and the more likely they will buy more.
  • Make contact information easy to find: Zappos list their 24 hour telephone number on every page of their website, so that customers can easily contact them if they need to.
  • Evaluate customer interactions from a branding lens: Zappos evaluate their customer service staff on their ability to go above and beyond. Zappos do not require their staff to up sell as such a practice can irritate customers. They also do not measure call center staff on average call handle time as they don’t want them to rush through calls damaging customer service experience. One member of Zappos’ Customer Loyalty Team (the name of their staff) once spent 6 hours on a phone call helping a customer find the right pair of shoes. 
  • The lifetime value of a customer can grow: In contrast to traditional marketing ROI calculations, Zappos believe that a customer’s lifetime value can grow if loyalty is developed and expectations are exceeded.
  • Surprise your customers: Surprising customers goes hand in hand with exceeding expectations. One such example at Zappos is their surprise shipping upgrades for repeat customers.

What do you think? Have you ever ordered from Zappos? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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