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Zappos – Your Culture is Your Brand

Written by: on  August 9, 2011

Tony Hsieh is the founder and CEO of Zappos, the highly successful online retail company recently acquired by Amazon.

His fast paced and down to earth book ‘Delivering Happiness’ shows how a very different kind of corporate culture is a powerful model for achieving success, and how by concentrating on the happiness of those around you, you can dramatically increase your own.

Zappos is a great example of a company that has embraced the new world of work, and by focusing on the company culture as the number one priority it built on employee engagement leading to maximum productivity and a company that grew to $1 Billion in gross revenue over a period of 10 years.

He says that by establishing core values that your staff can commit to you create great ‘brand ambassadors’, both inside and out of the company. If you get the culture right everything else, including your brand, will fall in to place.

The core values Zappos have embraced are the fabric of the organisation and employees are encouraged to think about how they’re living those values every day. These are used both team meetings and individual staff appraisals.

Zappos culture’s 10 core values:

1. Deliver WOW Through Service

2. Embrace and Drive Change

3. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness

4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open Minded

5. Pursue Growth and Learning

6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication

7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

8. Do More with Less

9. Be Passionate and Determined

10. Be Humble

During the interview process the HR department uses competency based interviewing to identify how potential recruits would demonstrate these core values in order to ensure they recruit people who’d best suit the culture, and even having done that, Tony also says that during the induction training programme trainees are offered $2000 to leave with all expenses paid if they don’t feel that they fit the culture. You can see Tony explaining this in the video on our culture page.

Zappos also produce a culture book, which he claims is unedited (apart from obvious typos) and includes an honest review of the culture in all their departments. He’s truly embraced transparency, and he compares this book with looking at an Amazon review.

Their number one value, creating WOW through service, he says permeates every department in the company, because customer service isn’t just about the sales department. Everyone is the business looks at how they can increase WOW factor from the warehouse to the accounts department. Here are some of his ideas to create great customer experience.

Top 10 Ways to Instill Customer Service into Your Company

  1. Make customer service a priority for the whole company, not just a  department. A customer service attitude needs to come from the top.
  2. Make WOW a verb that is part of your company’s everyday vocabulary.
  3. Empower and trust your customer service reps. Trust that they want to provide great service….because they actually do. Escalations to a supervisor should be rare.
  4. Realise that it’s ok to fire customers who are insatiable or abuse your employees.
  5. Don’t measure call times, don’t force employees to upsell, and don’t use scripts.
  6. Don’t hide your 1-800 number. It’s a message not just to your customers, but to your employees as well.
  7. View each call as an investment in building a customer service brand, not as an expense you’re seeking to minimize.
  8. Have the entire company celebrate great service. Tell stories of WOW experiences to everyone in the company.
  9. Find and hire people who are already passionate about customer service.
  10. Give great service to everyone: customers, employees, and vendors

Experiments to try in your own workplace:

a) At your next team meeting ask everyone to create a list of values that they believe is what makes what they do unique and special

b) If you think your organisation could benefit from more internal customer service, then brainstorm (NOT tell!) opportunities for creating more WOW experiences between teams

c) Consider your recruitment and new staff induction process, is the aspect of ‘our culture here’  included clearly en0ugh?

d) Download the free Zappos Culture book here



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