John Eklund, Pro Mach

Be the Zappos of Your Industry

By John Eklund, Pro Mach | Permanent Link


You really should strive to be the Zappos of your industry. Seriously. Ever heard of Zappos? If not you should know that they’re an online shoe and clothing company. How is that relevant to the packaging industry or any industry that’s not online shoes and clothing?

Simple – Zappos understands that their business is not about shoes and clothing. If you’ve heard about them you probably know of their legendary customer service. But you know the most important thing at Zappos? You’d think it’s customer service. It’s not.

Culture is the most important thing. WITHOUT the right culture you don’t create a legendary customer service experience. WITH the right culture the service experience and all the other great stuff will naturally happen. If the culture is right you don’t need all the bureaucracy and process. You can’t game plan for every possible scenario. The right culture makes sure that when the unthinkable happens it’s dealt with the right way.

Easier said than done though, right? It’s actually fairly simple. Figure out what your core values are. What they really are. If it’s teamwork, positive attitude, simpler engineering designs, more complex engineering designs, whatever makes up your core set of values, that’s what you hire for. Figure out ways to make sure you and the person you are hiring see eye-to-eye on those points. And if you do hire someone and realize those core values aren’t there that’s what you fire for.

Hiring for skill set only can occasionally work, but only if they fit the culture. Hiring people who fit the culture keeps everyone wanting to come to work in the morning.

To be sure, having the right culture in place isn’t the most cost-effective thing. Zappos notoriously offers employees who go through training $2,000 to quit at the end of their orientation. Right there. On the spot. Take the cash and leave. Cost-effective? No. But it’s powerful stuff that makes the people who stay positive they’re making the right choice. We’ve all taken jobs we knew weren’t a good fit. Zappos works hard to make sure that never happens.

On the cost front as well Zappos recently had an issue with one of their web sites where pricing went awry for about 6 hours and all items were sold for no more than $49.95, even items that normally went for much more than that. Zappos took the blame, admitting the mistake was their fault and then, after fixing the problem, decided to honor all the purchases that took place. They took a loss of $1.6 million in those 6 hours because of the mistake. Deciding not to void the sales was probably not a hard decision either, because their culture says you do the right thing. It’s a radical example, for sure, but it speaks to the culture they have in place.

If you want to better understand what Zappos preaches about culture, carve out 20 minutes of your day to watch this video of Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO, as he explains why he does what he does. It will open your eyes:

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