Established in 1999, Zappos.com is now a leader in online apparel and footwear sales. By 2008, the company’s gross merchandise sales already exceeded $1 billion. In 2009, Fortune Magazine recognized them as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.” How did Zappos get to where they are?
Many companies talk about delivering a superior customer experience, but Zappos does it by offering something bold (even “weird”) and unexpected that’s rooted in their company values. That boldness makes other businesses reluctant to copy them.
Selling shoes isn’t exactly a brand new idea. But selling them online—to people who are used to trying them on first—is a pretty bold move. How did Zappos overcome that significant hesitation about buying before trying? They offered free shipping both ways, along with 365-day no-questions-asked returns. Customers could order multiple pairs of shoes, try them on, and send back the ones they didn’t want. No fuss. Zappos boldly trusted their customers not to abuse this service, and considering their success, it’s working.
I mentioned that their strategy was rooted in the company values. Here are the ten core values Zappos lives by:
1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More with Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
What’s interesting is that the Zappos values affect both the external (customer) experience and the internal (employee) experience. That’s by design and it goes all the way to the top of the company. “We believe that a company’s culture and a company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin,” says Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh. “If you get the culture right, then most of the other stuff will happen naturally on its own, including delivering great customer service and building an enduring brand.”
That’s a profile of a great company! Do your values drive both your customer and employee experiences? And are you boldly pursuing things that your competitors are too timid to try?