Tony Hseih on Zappos Culture

Tony Hsieh

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In this presentation at the Web 2.0 Conference, CEO Tony Hsieh talks about his first business selling pizza in college, starting Link Exchange after college, and how he eventually ended up leading Zappos as the CEO.  Tony discusses how his experience at Link Exchange influenced him to focus on corporate culture as a top priority, and why he thinks culture is so important to a company’s future growth and success.

Tony talks about the internal vision of Zappos not just to be an Internet footware merchant, but to be a brand that is known for an excellent customer experience.  He goes on to list a number of specific techniques that the company uses to enhance customer service, and explains why he thinks that the telephone is still one of the best branding devices available.

How do you define culture?  Tony talks about some of the core values of Zappos, and why it’s important to have values that aren’t just a plaque on a wall.  These values permeate every aspect of the company, and Tony details some of the hiring and training practices that Zappos uses to ensure that every employee fits into the corporate culture.

I read this good post on Peter Bregman’s How We Work HBP blog that made a lot of sense to me on multiple dimensions. 
Some of my take aways :
  • More often than not, the secret to customer loyalty lies in the little wows that you can generate across the customers’ experience of your product or service. 
  • The web of little wows across the experience life cycle involves contribution from across your workforce – thus making it harder to implement. And harder to copy & replicate too – thus a sustainable competitive advantage. 
  • A CIO I recently met was explaining about how his IT service help desk is the entry point for new IT graduates into his organization. Questioned on how he attracts top quality graduates into a help desk role, he answered that he looks at candidates for what they could be in the future – technical architects, business analysts, etc. – rather than just their fit into the help desk role. This potential based perspective also governs the way these candidates are treated & groomed at their first job. Sounds quite similar at Four Seasons too – potential to grow, potential to move to another resort, etc. 
  • Great way to build trust – create an opportunity to fulfill a commitment, even when one doesn’t naturally exist, and then fulfil it. This can so effectively be used across the experiential lifestyles of a customer. And when not practiced consistently, could just as easily build mistrust too. 
Nice article. 

Customer Experience – what lies ahead?

In his article The Future of CE: Post Purchase Experience Creation, Mark Binns brings out an important point –

The future of CE should be in experience creation. As an industry, we will continue to manage customer service and existing experiences, but never get them perfect. I expect the law of diminishing returns will eventually set in on managing existing experiences. So, creation of new experiences will be the true CE differentiator of the future. When something positive and unexpected happens to a customer, it creates instant word of mouth value. People talk about new experiences – they rarely talk about expected experiences unless they were bad ones.

He also goes on explain his theory on opportunities for experience management & creation through the life cycle of the customer interaction. 
On similar lines is this posting by Eric Fraterman. 
True loyalty happens when there is an emotional engagement with the organization or product. This engagement comes from experiencing the brand or organization in a unique way that creates true value for the customer.
How does this apply to an IT product company (esp an enterprise applications vendor) & its customer life cycle?

The Ultimate Question – NPS

A few months ago I started off on a NPS adoption journey. All though I have gone through some of the continual negative press on the topic, I have not heard or read anything compelling enough to drag me away from the simplicity & basic idea of NP. 

We have started really small & getting together the mechanism to capture responses to the NPS query. 
Some questions that I am searching answers for are :
  • What does one do with the NPS score?
  • How can NPS help develop & sustain a customer centric culture?
  • What have been the past experiences (anything specific?) of NPS implementations in B2B situations?
  • What have been the main grouses against NPS?

From the Blogosphere

Today, hundreds of companies around the world have subscribed to the Net Promoter philosophy. But many of them still don’t understand the true meaning of NPS and what Reichheld meant the question to become: an organizational discipline that transforms your business around the customers.
Reicheld admitted that companies cannot be driven by scores; it’s what they do with the scores that matter most and getting the people in the organization to treat customers the way they’d want to be treated.
Until companies can move beyond getting their organizations to reach high Net Promoter scores, and help their CFOs to understand how to quantify and increase the number of promoters, then they won’t find success with NPS.

Read the complete article at Think Customers: 1to1 Blog