In recent years, so much praise has been heaped on Zappos.com – and its famous 10 Core Values – that you might think CEO Tony Hsieh was hoping to be elected the messiah.
Whatever Hsieh’s spiritual motives (if any), the messiah analogy is not as ludicrous as it may seem. The company’s fanatical focus on customer service is the chief reason for its miraculous rise from total obscurity to market dominance – a focus based on a single and simple commandment: Treat thy customer as you would thyself.
It’s a lesson lost in a business culture that worships profits above everything, rather than viewing them as one of many “bottom line” metrics.
But fear not! Salvation is at hand for those who follow the Way of Zappos, including:
- Wow your customers.
Not only does Zappos put the customer service phone number on every web page, it offers free shipping on all items, including returns. What’s more, customer service reps have the authority to do whatever it takes to knock the socks off buyers. This includes referring hurried people to competing retailers when their styles and sizes aren’t in stock, and offering surprise upgrades – like free overnight shipping.
- Empower employees – really!
The company thrives on honest input from front-line employees – those who deal with the customers and vendors every day – to drive continuous change and improvement. This isn’t the usual “mission statement” lip service about employees-as-most-valuable-resource BS. Zappos really makes key changes based on the feedback of employees at every level.
- Screw the Rules.
To help keep both customers and employees happy, Zappos strenuously avoids setting rigid policies and procedures. Management gives employees wide latitude to think on their feet, and make exceptions to the few rules there are, in order to deliver outstanding service to customers and promote a work environment that’s innovative, ever-changing and fun (without being anarchic).
- Train, train, train.
Zappos has an entire department devoted to developing classes. Since the marketplace never stands still, the company believes that continuous employee training is not just a luxury, but a “must.”
How do your customer service and HR practices measure up to Zappo’s?