Discussing Zappos’ Culture With Tony Hsieh
May 28, 2008 16 Comments
As I mentioned in my post about popular customer experience topics, I’m currently researching best practices for the 3rd principle of Experience-Based Differentiation: Treat customer experience as a competence, not a function. It’s a topic that I sometimes call customer-centric DNA.
Given our schedules, Tony and I ended up speaking on Monday (Memorial Day) morning at 10:30 AM EDT (7:30 AM his time). I checked out Tony’s twitter right before we spoke and found this tweet:
About to do a conference call. Way too early to be awake, couldn’t find another time to do it. Getting out of bed was not easy. Red Bull!
So let me start by thanking Tony for getting on the phone so early on a holiday. That shows his commitment to getting the Zappos word out!
How good is Zappos’ customer experience? Well, my wife loves Zappos. And my mother-in-law, after finding out about my discussion with Tony, excitedly told me that she loved Zappos because “it is so easy it use.” She once ordered a pair of shoes at 10:00 PM and was amazed to receive them before noon the next day.
Those are not isolated impressions about Zappos; the retailer has a lot of adoring customers. As a matter of fact, Tony shared an interesting fact with me: the company’s Net Promoter Scores (NPS) are so high that they do not provide any guidance on areas for improvement.
Well, the interview was great. Tony was open, informative, and inspiring. Here are some of the interesting factoids from our discussion:
- The company’s culture is defined in its ten core values that include items like “deliver WOW through service” and “be humble.”
- Tony felt funny when the company codified those core values, because it felt a bit too corporate. But he realized that it needed to happen given the company’s growth.
- Tony doesn’t want to prescribe actions for employees that show how much Zappos cares about customers; he wants employees to do things because they genuinely care about customers.
- Zappos uses its culture as a reason to hire and fire people. All new hire candidates have a separate interview with the HR department that focuses just on cultural fit.
- New employees go though 4-5 weeks of training that includes education about the culture and spending time on the phone with customers.
- To ensure that employees have a strong fit with the culture, new employees are offered $1,000 to quit after their first week of training. That way they weed out the people who aren’t committed to working at Zappos. Hsieh didn’t feel like enough people were taking the company up on its offer, so he discussed raising the bonus to $1,500.
- Every year Zappos publishes its “Culture Book” in which all employees are encouraged to write about what the culture means to them.
- Tony recognizes that cultures often go downhill when companies scale. He wants Zappos’ culture to get stronger as it grows.
- Tony offers this advice to Zappos employees: It’s completely up to you guys. I can’t force the culture to happen; so part of your job description is to display and inspire the culture.
I asked Tony if I could share some of our discussion in my blog. He said yes. Why? It met his basic principle for deciding what he’s willing to share:
Would sharing it make the world a better place?
The bottom line: Most firms would be a better place if they were more like Zappos.