Wondering if your business will have what it takes to stand the test of time? Then maybe you should get to know the Zappos.com story. 

In 1998 entrepreneur Tony Hsieh sold his company, LinkExchange, to Microsoft for many many millions. A year later he was approached by Nick Swinmurn, who came to him with the idea to sell shoes on the internet.

“I almost deleted the voice mail. Nick left a message saying he wanted to start a company that sold shoes online. I didn’t think consumers would buy shoes sight unseen, and Nick didn’t have a footwear background,[1]Hsieh said.

Fast-forward 10 years and this idea that started as shoesite.com was sold for over $800 million to Amazon. Zappos had become one of the world’s largest online retail distributors. 

I had the privilege recently of visiting Zappos’, 1500+ employee head quarters in Las Vegas. On arrival I was greeted by welcoming faces and happy souls who encouraged me to enter their realm. The smell of hot buttery popcorn and coffee was more than enough to entice me to follow the vivacious staff that greeted me.

Once inside my eyes were fixated on a wall of cut ties. Men’s ties to be exact. Should you enter their workplace wearing a tie you have one of 3 choices:

1.              Have it cut off

2.              Wear it as a headband

3.              Take it off and hide it

For you to understand the Wall of Ties, let me explain the phenomenon that is Zappos. They are regarded as one of the world’s best organisations in workplace culture and customer care.

On entering the building I am lead over to a row of computers waiting for me to register as a guest before proceeding to get my security pass. 

Zappos Bus

TICK Number 1: Prospect engagement. Set the intention of your brand and get to know your potential customer.

Then I was lead to a media room where myself, along with other intrigued participants, were introduced to the culture karma team who are in charge of entertaining the likes of me that want to unravel this culture buzz for their fellow Zapponians. We sit and watch the big screen video show which give us some history and meaning about what has been created.

We are taken into the heart of the engine room. The first room is filled with reclining chairs, large stuffed African animals and a ball pit filled with colourful plastic balls to play in – at least for the young at heart.  At the insistence of our Zapponian; myself and another cool cat dove into the pit of balls just to be sure that it was real. And yes, apparently some great ideas have come from lying in this very location. 

As I take in the creative workspace, the bright, picture covered walls, I pass the staff desks that are personally decorated to reflect their own personality, and to show off their “number plate”. Replica motor vehicle number plates have been personalised with the employee’s name and each year they receive the new colour that represents their anniversary of their commencement date. 

Another thing that took some time getting used to was the staff looking me in the eye, flashing their fabulous smiles and saying  “Welcome to Zappos”. 

Is this place for real?  Maybe this is all just put on for show, you might ask? Oh no, it is for real.

Everything.  $2 Cafeteria, mini-golf, gym, and much more. What really blew my mind was the Staff Help Desk, where employees’ personal life requests are arranged for them, such as; Car Service, Tax lodgement, buying a house and so on. 

So is it easy to get a job here, I hear you thinking?  Yes, they are on the look-out with their “Cool People Finder”, or recruitment.  It is may be easy to apply, yet not so easy to be successful as the recruitment process can take up to four months while they filter through the applicants looking for the best.  The best fit with their Values & Culture and the best fit for the Customer.

Zappos Family Core Values

  • ·       Deliver WOW through service
  • ·       Embrace and drive change
  • ·       Create fun and a little weirdness
  • ·       Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded
  • ·       Pursue growth and learning
  • ·       Build open and honest relationships with communication
  • ·       Build a positive team and family spirit
  • ·       Do more with less
  • ·       Be passionate and determined
  • ·       Be humble

If you are successful, you then have intensive training. Don’t think that you are let loose with customers without loads of training.

TICK Number 2: Staff Recruitment, Engagement and Retention.

Now I am taken to the heart of it all, the Call Centre floor. Here I see a sea of happy Zapponians who make up the Customer Loyalty Team (CLT), taking care of the customers on the end of the call.  There are only a few rules here which include:

1.              No scripts

2.              Press 5 for the Joke of the Day

3.              Remain on the line as long as the customer wants or needs you

4.              Don’t upsell

As a customer you might be lucky to receive a random act of kindness in the form of upgraded shipping, a thank you card, a bunch of flowers or Zappos cookies. They actually have a large whiteboard dedicated to all the Customer WOWs that are gifted each day.

TICK Number 3: Exceptional Customer Service.

As my tour comes to an end, I get to sit in the Zappos royalty Chair and have my photo taken, along with the opportunity to part with money and buy myself a Zappos Tshirt.

I leave the building in absolute amazement at the standard that has been created and maintained by this organisation. So if a team of 1500 employees can live by these standards, then what can you do in your business that will have your customers and staff dedicated to your business!

1. http://www.inc.com/magazine/20060901/hidi-hsieh.html 

Charmian Campbell, The Driven Business Edge

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