We’ve extensively described what Zappos was doing with its “Downtown Project” in Las Vegas, pouring some $350m to revitalize a stranded part of the city.
In this second episode, we’ll wrap-up our thoughts on Zappos corporate culture as we have been visiting its headquarters, ironically located since 2013 in the former town hall of Las Vegas, north of the strip.
Zappos corporate culture feature #1: Happiness for the employees
While preparing a learning tour for our clients in Las Vegas, I had decided to go beyond “just the CES” (already a 170,000 participants event) and have a look at Zappos, known to have a very strong and original corporate culture.
We booked our tour with Zappos Insights, a branch of Zappos dedicated to extract and offer tours & training on the corporate values crafted by the company.
The 60-min tour took us to different parts of the HQ, and here are our highlights:
Zollars… An internal currency for Zappos employees, earned through team and personal achievements, good deeds and the likes Other perks include 40% discount on all the website at all time with no limitation for employees, which apparently make Amazon employees extremely jealous : )
HR is doing a crazy job at Zappos. ALL benefits are free (or almost). Medical, dental, vision is all at max capacity. And retirement plan. And college savings plan. From a European perspective, part of this package looks normal, but from a US perspective, it’s quite unusual. As a result, many apply, and only 2% candidates are admitted at Zappos “it’s harder to get here than in Harvard”, says our guide!
The “goal room”. Each Zappos employee can come here and with the help of a life coach get 4 sessions to try achieve personal or professional goals. Only obligation: read the “Getting off your ‘but'” book, to avoid excuses and “stop self-sabotage”
Fitness room at Zappos, and free assessment of weight and other health data. Healthcare is free for all employees also! Employee care is customer care and vice versa.
A funny anecdote on this room is that it’s the former jail of the county police (remember, we’re in the former town hall of Las Vegas). They kept the bars at the entrance, as well as the phone with “5 minutes only” sign, and a few other testimonies of its previous use.
The 10 rules of the Zappos culture are shown everywhere in the company, from badges to posters.
Zappos corporate culture feature #2: What service means for clients
Before coming to Vegas, the little I knew from Zappos corporate culture was its sense of service for clients, including the “free returns” for as long as one year on any purchase, and the care they took to solve issues when they appeared.
The customer loyalty team room, here for managing inquiries by phone, email, live chat. If any of these channels have more than 20% inquiries with more than 120 seconds of delay, the teams are re-allocated on the fly to match the high expectations of clients.
All the teams in all Zappos take 4 weeks training in customer service. ALL Zappos including the CEO Tony Hsieh takes 10h/year of customer calls! Great customer-centric company.
Overall, only 5% of customers get in touch with the customer loyalty team. What’s also impressive is that the KPIs of the 600 employees out of 1,600 working in this team are not quantitative. No data is tracked on the resolution rate, the time spent (Zappos officially has a record of 10h29 for the longest call), or following a script (there’s none).
Rather, employees in their training learn how to run the PEC: Personal Emotional Connection with the customer. Introducing and closing the call nicely, talking in the context of the person (its place, the dog barking in the background), the use of empathic words are all things tracked by Zappos to ensure this high quality of service.
This is a “sunshine box”. Zappos sends gifts like this after a customer calls, randomly, just to thank them for the time spent with them! It’s now more easy to understand why the word of mouth of satisfied customers has been one of the top marketing strategies of the company.
Zappos corporate culture feature #1: Fostering a virtuous ecosystem in the city
Zappos corporate culture goes way beyond the employees and customers care. Two innovations keep the company’s brains active and moving forward.
The first and most obvious one is the Downtown Project. With $350m from his personal money, CEO Tony Hsieh intends to revitalize a derelict part of the town.
This big amount is spread into real-estate ($200m), investment in startups ($100m) and SMEs ($50), ensuring a virtuous entrepreneurial, job ecosystem can flourish and give Vegas another kind of jobs that unskilled workers required by the tourism and gambling industry.
The second, more subtle innovation is Zappos Insights itself. The branch has been setup by a handful of former HR employees who, after having crafted and spread in-house the culture of happiness and service, are now helping other corporates to get an understanding – if not a change – of their own company culture.
The formats of this sharing go from the tour we did take with our clients, up to 3-day culture camps which take attendees for a full guided tour of all parts of Zappos, with insights shared.
The result for us: happiness!