5 Ways Zappos’ CEO Wins At Customer Focus and Leadership (And Has For Nearly 20 Years)
Tony Hsieh drove Zappos to success with his core values. Here’s how they can help you too.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Back when Zappos was just starting out, I decided to give them a try and ordered a pair of shoes. Not long after my purchase, I received an email that said my shipment was upgraded to "overnight shipping" for free. It wasn't a joke-- my new shoes were at my doorstep within 24 hours. To my surprise, the next time I ordered from this company, my shipping upgraded yet again. Zappos had me sold.
Several years ago, I decided to see what was behind Zappos' business model. Turns out, their mission is to not only make customers satisfied, but genuinely happy. All this is in large part thanks to their CEO, Tony Hsieh's passionate beliefs on business and entrepreneurship. His book, Delivering Happiness, covers his background as an entrepreneur, but also what he attributes to his team's success.
Hsieh established the 10 Zappos Core Values that his employees abide by -- I'll leave you to read his book to explain them in great detail, but I want to discuss the main takeaways from five of the 10 Core Values that all leaders should encourage their employees to embrace.
1. Deliver exceptional service.
While at one point Zappos's business model was a novel idea, they now have countless competitors -- and they welcome them. They maintain their advantage by ensuring their customer service goes above and beyond expectations. Whether it's knockout support resources, no-questions-asked returns, or shocking shipping speed, Zappos is known for quality service all the way around.
It boils down to respecting the customer and understanding that these consumers are the lifeblood of your company. Giving a stellar experience to your customer gives them little reason to look for an alternative.
2. Drive change in your company.
Originally, Zappos just sold shoes-- but to survive they had to modify and pivot their brand identity and become a retailer of men and women's clothing and accessories. I always tell my clients that if you don't face change, your entire team is going to suffer. Adapting to the demands of today's market is a natural part of business and embracing change is absolutely essential. I'm always encouraging leaders to adapt and study their industry, even if it means admitting something they've implemented is no longer working.
3. Create a strong office culture.
Tony Hsieh is a unique character -- even as a multi-millionaire, he sports a mohawk and lives in a trailer park. As you might imagine, he strongly believes in adding individuality to an office culture while at the same time promoting a feeling of team unity. By improving company-wide camaraderie, you are empowering your employees to take ownership of their role and the company as a whole. This enhances their pride in the company and improves their work quality and commitment.
4. Communicate in an open way.
As a CEO myself, I know that transparency and open communication can not only revamp productivity, but reengage your team's focus. I've seen this happen first hand many times. Tony understands that transparency is vital to his company's performance. Sure, leaders may be tempted to keep things close to the chest, but the more open and trusting you are with your team, the better they will be able to execute.
Tear down communication barriers at all costs -- whether your organization suffers from cross-departmental silos or your employees simply don't feel comfortable coming to you with bad news, everything, good and bad, needs to be out in the open.
5. Always improve yourself.
Many of Hsieh's core values center around self-improvement. I couldn't agree with this more -- you always have to further develop yourself as a leader and encourage your employees to overcome obstacles in better, faster, and more efficient ways. Be curious, always ask the "why" question and make sure you continue learning. The infrastructure of your organization should offer advancement opportunities and skill development programs to your employees to further motivate them.
Hsieh's success is apparent. Since joining Zappos, he drove enough change and promoted innovation to the point that the clothing and shoe retailer went from making hardly any profit to over a billion dollars annually. In 2000, Zappos was acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion. Almost 18 years later, they are an integral part of Amazon and continue to innovate and grow. Try working on these five tips and you will be able to see dramatically improved results in your company.