6 tips from Tony Hsieh on how Zappos delivers happiness

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Zappos has earned fantastic word of mouth by delivering incredible customer service. They’ve got an amazing 365-day return policy, they send customers flowers, and in one legendary example, they actually sent a customer a pizza who called to order one.

And Zappos isn’t just making customers happy – they’re making money. A ton of it. In just 10 years, they’ve gone from zero to $1 billion in sales.

But all this great service isn’t the result of some corporate mandate. It’s because Zappos inspires every employee to earn the respect and recommendation of their customers. At our last word of mouth event, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh shared how they’re doing it. His big ideas:

1. Culture is what makes a great brand
2. It doesn’t matter which core values you choose
3. Chase the vision, not the money
4. There’s a difference between motivation and inspiration
5. Measure what matters
6. Who do you want to be when you grow up?
7. Watch Tony’s video

1. Culture is what makes a great brand

Tony figures that if he can get the culture right, the rest will follow. To make it happen, Zappos created 10 “committable” values. More than a generic corporate vision, Zappos hires and fires based on these core principles. They’ve designed interview questions to evaluate applicants on how much they agree with these values, and 50% of employee reviews focus on whether or not they’re living up to them. Tony says that if he could change one thing about how he started the company, it would be defining these values on day one.

2. It doesn’t matter which core values you choose

One of the surprising things Tony found when researching the effects of core values on a company is that the actual values don’t matter. What’s important is your commitment to them and how fully you align what your company does with them. So while Zappos’ values might not match yours – that’s OK. Determine which values really matter to you, and then incorporate them into everything you do. If you do it right, you’ll experience similar results.

3. Chase the vision, not the money

Tony explained that the irony of focusing on a higher purpose that isn’t related to profits or market share is that it actually enables you to achieve more profits and more market share. If money is your prime motivator, you’re going to have a much tougher path to success. Instead, Tony urges you to find and pursue a passion, not profits.

4. There’s a difference between motivation and inspiration

There are a lot of ways a company can motivate employees: money, bonuses, fear, etc. But Tony stressed how powerful a strong vision and a sense of purpose can be. When your company and your employees are aligned around a common goal that’s bigger than making money (at Zappos, it’s to deliver happiness), you can accomplish incredible things.

5. Measure what matters

With these core values, Zappos is able to measure everything they do against them. For example, because one of their goals is to establish personal, emotional connections with customers, they don’t track call times. (They once had a call last more than 7 hours!) Every decision an employee makes – whether they’re a buyer, an executive, or a customer service rep – is much simpler: Whatever it takes to deliver happiness.

6. Who do you want to be when you grow up?

In 1999, Zappos’ vision was to be the market leader in shoes. But in 2003, they asked themselves what they really wanted to be when they grew up. Was it just about shoes, or something bigger? That’s when they decided to deliver the very best customer service – and when they communicated this to employees, they found their staff were much more motivated. It further spread to customers and even to vendors who felt this culture. So, Tony asks, who do you want to be when you grow up?

7. Watch Tony’s video

Watch Tony’s video below. To see more incredible presentations like it live, check out the lineup for our upcoming Word of Mouth Crash Course conference.

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