Company Culture Spotlight: Zappos
In this company spotlight, we look at how Zappos turned ordinary service like shoe delivery into an extraordinary company.
A few months ago, I attended a networking event at a local coffee shop. Around this rectangular table of 7 people, there was a sales rep. that wanted to be a top performer in her company. The business coach asked her what differentiated her company. She adamantly replied, “Customer Service”. The coach retorted, “Everyone says their customer service is amazing, how can you prove it?”
You can't prove customer service. Everyone knows great customer service when they experience it. You walk into two identical hotels and by only changing who worked behind the front desk, your experience could be magical or mediocre. However, the difference between good customer service and great customer service is rather nuanced. Customer service is how someone treats you, speaks with you, understands you. It’s hard to form a corporate policy handbook explaining how to act in every scenario. So how do companies like Zappos create a culture of extraordinary customer service?
Amazing customer service is a result of caring about your employees, which in turn flows through to your customer service.
I recently finished reading the Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson. A point he hammers into the reader's skull is: your life satisfaction comes down to the values you hold. If you believe happiness lies behind ludicrous wealth, then you will put yourself in a torturous rat race to out-compete those around you. If you change your value to affecting people’s lives, then not only is it attainable every day, it's continuous. With Zappos, their fundamental goal is to deliver happiness. The values they hold to achieve that goal are their 10 company / personal values. They are not exclusively company values. Everyone at Zappos holds those values as personal values. Zappos takes its 10 values so seriously, they hire and fire employees by it.
Their 10 values are:
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
They select talented employees with these values and foster them. Everything is employee focused. Contrary to the antique belief that employees are unintelligent, lazy, unmotivated cogs in a machine that need to be watched with an eagle’s eye, it’s proven that if you are just to your employees, they will be just to your customers. Next time you’re sitting in a meeting or get a memo about improving customer service, think for a moment that employees are only the vessels of the values of the company. If a company holds and fosters poor values, their clients will feel the effects from its employees.