In any business, if you truly put your customers at the heart of everything to do and create a great culture amongst your team, the rewards can be immense. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of a company doing this is Zappos.com. Tony Hseih, the founder of Zappos, has built a company selling shoes on the Internet that is not only an amazing place to work but that has customer service that is second to none.
I had the pleasure of meeting Tony in California a couple of years ago, not long before Amazon acquired his business for over a billion dollars. His is a company that turns a lot of business conventions on their head and, for me, it has been a huge inspiration.
When you think about it, selling shoes on the Internet is not the simplest business idea in the world. In fact, only just a few years ago it would have seemed impossible. Surely people want to try shoes on before the buy them?
Well, what’s amazing about Zappos is that they let their customers do just that. You could go onto Zappos.com today and order ten pairs of shoes, try them all on and send back the ones that you don’t like; with free next day shipping in both directions.
Their call centre staff offer legendary customer service, always keen to solve their customers’ problems. They think for themselves, without any scripts or any emphasis on keeping the calls as short as possible, as is common practice in most call centers. And because of their dedication to customer service, they’ve built a billion dollar company selling shoes online.
Tony Hsieh puts a huge emphasis on the importance of creating a great place to work, of attracting the right people into the business and of creating a company culture that is fun and dedicated to giving their customers the best possible service. To give you an idea of how they cultivate that culture; when a new person joins the company and goes through their two-week training, they’re offered $3,000 to leave the company!
As you might imagine, very few people take up the offer, even though it is such a huge amount of money, because they’re so keen to work for such a great company. Tony figures, rightly, that the people who take the money and run probably weren’t the right type of people to be working with his team anyway. They’ve ended up with a group of people who really, really want to work there and who really believe in where the company is trying to go.
Zappos is a wonderful example of a company that cherishes its culture – they’ve even defined what its culture is all about by getting everyone in the company to enter their feelings into a ‘culture book’ that every new recruit is given to read. With such a motivated and happy team, it is a lot easier to give great service to anyone who calls up their call centre.
I think the Zappos story shows that no matter what kind of business you are in, there is a great opportunity to create a highly motivated, fun and entrepreneurial culture among your team. You can excite your customers no matter what you’re selling, by giving them great service.
This is one of my articles on starting your own business, from my column on HotFrog. You can see them all here.