I doubt I need to ask if you’ve ever heard of the online shoe retailer, Zappos! The company have been thriving since 1999, when CEO Tony Hsieh was struck with the simple and ingenious idea to sell shoes online (an extremely good call when you look at our online buying culture today!). As well as seeing constant increase in sales of their shoes, Zappos have become innovative leaders in the world of work. Their unusual approach to both customer service and working culture has attracted a lot of attention in recent years.
As soon as Zappos had established itself as a solid success in the early 2000s, they began working to revolutionize the way companies provide customer service. Early on, Hsieh realised that having strong customer service values was absolutely crucial to Zappos long-term success. In simple terms, he wanted to “deliver happiness”. It became his goal to create a family of helpful, energetic call-takers to provide the highest quality of service to his valued customers – no matter what the cost to the business. This meant relocating from San Francisco to Nevada to find the perfect location for the call-center. Over the next few years, he recruited a team of incredible individuals who are dedicated ambassadors for Zappos, willing to go above and beyond to meet the needs of each valued customer. There have been some extreme lengths that Zappos employees have resorted to in order to ensure customer satisfaction; a customer called very late one evening and asked the call-taker to find out the nearest pizza takeout still open at that time – only to be pleasantly surprised with a prompt list of the 5 nearest establishments. There seem to be no limits to their quest to be the best!
Other perks of being a Zappos customer include a 365 day return policy! Practically unheard of in the world of shopping! Hsieh admits that this means they have a high rate of returns, but is convinced that it “removes the risk from shopping” and creates a relaxing customer experience that people love. They offer free returns, too – which is a true gift if you’re an indecisive shopper like so many of us are! You can never be too picky when it comes to shoes! Zappos also likes to ‘surprise’ customers with random upgrades from standard to overnight delivery -just to put a smile on their face. Hsieh believes this will foster lifelong relationships built on trust and care. Read his personal account of what he attributes to Zappos’ success.
Recently, the CEO has been making headlines for a different reason. Hsieh has been faced with a lot of backlash surrounding Zappos’ radical and progressive company culture. This mostly springs from a controversial decision Hsieh made back in 2013 when he announced that he was getting rid of the traditional management structure. He said that he wanted the dynamics of power to reshift, creating an environment in which his employees could become more entrepreneurial and have their creativity flourish:
“I view my role more as trying to set up an environment where the personalities, creativity and individuality of all the different employees come out and can shine”
He was faced with some resistance within the company at first, and so offered his employees the chance to take severance pay – of which only 18% took up the offer. The remaining 82% of Zappo employees embraced their new, progressive company culture and business has continued to thrive since. Hsieh remarked that he wanted workers to “create fun and a little weirdness” and only hired people who he would want to “hang out with after work”. Sounds like a recipe for success.
At Better World, we are inspired by Tony Hsieh’s dedication to achieving success through happiness; both for his customers and his employees. If all companies adopted this approach imagine what an incredibly positive effect this would have on our daily lives. Hsieh’s policies could be potentially life-changing – if only we would get on board!
Have you shopped at Zappos and been delighted by the excellent and unusual customer experience? Do you agree with Better World International that Tony Hsieh is an innovative leader who is changing the world? Let us know what you think in the comments!
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