Book Review: How Zappos Shoes in Success

I really enjoy some of the free books that Amazon regularly makes available to Kindle users.  The best part is that you don’t even have to own a Kindle to read these books!  I do have a Kindle, an iPad, and iPhone, and a MacBook Pro that can all access books that I have downloaded to my Amazon Kindle account.  This feature allows me to really take advantage of pockets of time where I might have a few minutes to read.

A lot of the books they make available are short books that are very focused on some sort of business, management, or leadership principle.  That is how I ran across How Zappos Shoes in Success. I have always heard good things about Zappos and people usually seem pleased with the service they have received from this fairly-new company.  I read this entire book in about 30 minutes one afternoon.  It is not currently available for free on Amazon, but I believe the cost is less than $3 and I guarantee you that is a deal for the great nuggets that are available in this book!

Here are some ideas that I highlighted as I read:

  • ‘We’re a service company that just happens to sell shoes.’”
  • The most extreme example of the Zappos commitment to customer service is its call-center operation. It starts with the listing of the center’s number on every page of Buyers are welcome to order online, of course, and many do. But unlike most companies, online and off, Zappos encourages customers to call. “We don’t view the contact as an expense,” says Hsieh. “We view it as an investment. It’s a branding opportunity for us and it gives us the opportunity to deliver great customer service in a very personal way.”
  • It takes a special kind of workforce to deliver such over-the-top customer service. Zappos has arrived there by breaking several more conventions to create a powerful culture and a painstaking hiring and training protocol. The premise of the strategy is easily stated: Happy employees make for happy customers. Zappos’ people are expected to have fun on the job.
  • Basic to Zappos’ culture are some assumptions embedded in its so-called Ten Commandments. “Build a positive team and family spirit,” for instance, envisions a fully dedicated, mutually supportive workplace where employees cheer each other on to ever-greater achievement.
  • Managers are strongly encouraged to spend 10 percent to 20 percent of their off time socializing with members of their teams outside the office.
  • Job applicants are asked offbeat questions like “How weird are you?” and “What’s your theme song?” “We want people who are passionate about what Zappos is about – service,” says Hseih. “I don’t care if they’re passionate about shoes.”
  • Though you may be running a very different kind of business, the Zappos view of customer service is apt to be relevant. Hsieh sees a strong cause-and-effect connection between the level of customer service Zappos delivers and the working conditions and culture affecting the people who deliver the service. In other words, the more you’re willing to invest in your people – in terms of time and thought, not just cash – the better the service you will deliver. You may find ways other than office parades, free lunches, and nap rooms to express your corporate culture. But to expect decent customer service from ill-paid, unhappy workers is a sure path to disappointment.
  • When employees tweet, write on Facebook walls, or post videos on YouTube, it helps cement their own commitment to the company and its culture. As they get to know each other better online, it also builds stronger relationships within the organization. And their display of enthusiasm for the company, along with their insights into company operations, can attract just the kind of recruits you’re looking for.

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