Zappos : A Valuation Of Values
Tony Hsieh in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek made a bold statement. He said “entrepreneurs shouldn’t take money from investors that don’t share their values”. He believes the Amazon sale is “a blessing in disguise.” Amazon, unlike his VC investors, understood that Zappos‘ values and culture is baked into the business model.
Such profound words from a man who does not carry the usual flamboyance one would associate with a successful internet marketer. Tony Hsieh seems like an introvert, somebody whose mind is constantly processing multiple ideas and figuring out innovative solutions that would further the Zappos empire. And yet, at the end of it all, this man weighs his achievements on 2 parameters – values and culture.
Not technology nor expertise – just plain old “values and culture”. Tony writes on the Zappos blog, “At Zappos.com, we decided a long time ago that we didn’t want our brand to be just about shoes, or clothing, or even online retailing. We decided that we wanted to build our brand to be about the very best customer service and the very best customer experience. We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department, it should be the entire company.”
Customer service was consciously made the focus of the entire company, the foundation on which the Zappos brand was built. This took the form of the 10 core values which trickled down to hiring, training, team building and service design.
A good question to ask here is, what did he defocus on? The product!
Now Zappos is like any other online retailer, a store for product brands. A conventional marketer would focus on getting better margins from product brands, creating a flurry of promotions, touting low prices backed by celebrity endorsements and massive advertising.
There was none of this in Tony Hsieh’s marketing strategy. What I find remarkable is his quest for that exclusive takeaway from the shopping experience that would be all Zappos. A typical shopping experience is a mishmash of product brands jostling for attention, price comparisons across multiple sites, constant online-offline debates and vague delivery schedules.
By checking Zappos out of the chaos, Tony brought a simplicity and minimalism to his branding strategy. He centered the being of his company on customer service and branded it Zappos.
Customer service is a humbling experience. It takes a missionary quality of truly caring for the other person, being empathetic to his needs and doing everything in one’s power to help him. The passion you display is for the individual you are serving, not for the water you are pouring from your jug into his cupped hands.
With an attitude such as this, any product you hold in your hands takes on a hallowed quality because it is you who infuses it so.
When I look at it this way, I sense great power in the Zappos brand. A power that Amazon would do well to tap into.