How I Got Zapped, or 3 Keys to Zappos Cultural Success

Laszlo Bock

Last week, I had the privilege of taking a behind the scenes tour of Zappos and speaking with several of their top leaders. ]

Mine was not the popular tour advertised on their website, but rather a real peek behind the curtain to see the wizardry of this renowned workplace culture phenomena and iconic brand.

I’ve read Tony Hsieh’s bestselling business book, Delivering Happiness, and have seen some of the clever Zappos employee videos on YouTube, so I wasn’t shellshocked by this very non-traditional workplace environment.

The converted city hall building in downtown Las Vegas that serves as Zappos headquarters radiates individuality and personality with a spattering of controlled chaos thrown in for good measure.

Like college fraternity – or Pee Wee’s Playhouse

The moment you enter the campus through the courtyard, you hear upbeat music pumping and see employees engaged in recreational activities. When you step inside the 11-story building, you’re immersed in a decor that looks as if a college fraternity has just raided Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

There are free snacks and refreshment stations on every floor, and if you’re hungry, the cafeteria features low-cost (and even some no cost) food choices. And as far as the employee dress code, well, beyond wearing a Zappos ID badge, I can’t imagine that one actually exists.

In a word, it’s weird — and it doesn’t take a gumshoe to see why employees, especially 800 plus Millennials, truly LOVE working at Zappos.

There are, however, some less publicized facets of the Zappos culture that set them apart from traditional employers. Here are three of them that impressed me:

1. Silos? What silos?

Tony Hsieh’s desk is the exact same size and model as those that are provided to all call center employees on their first day. And the door to his office is always open because there literally is no door.

In fact, none of the top execs are walled-off from other employees and their administrative assistants (or “time ninjas”) sit within a few feet of them.

This is holacracy by design and sends a clear message that we’re all here for the same reason, and, that no one in this operation is more important than anyone else.

2. Stressed? Tired? Catch a few ZZZ’s!

No boss wants to see an employee sleeping at their desk. The same thing applies at Zappos, and that’s why they provide hammocks.Zappos hammocks

Article Continues Below

Look, when you’re on duty, the managers expect you to be alive, alert, and enthusiastic. So if you’re not at your absolute best, don’t fake it. Go take your break and recharge your batteries in one of the comfy hammocks nearby.

Awaken refreshed, ready to give that customer on the other end of the phone the kind of focused attention you’d want if you were in their shoes.

3. Engagement deepens when you make someone’s day

In this digital world, online shoppers trade great service for low prices. No wonder most shoppers feel like the only thing about them that matters to the merchant is their credit card number.

However, Zappos wants customers to feel special and valued, so they train their CLT’s, or Customer Loyalty Team members (call center reps), to transform a faceless point-and-click sale into a warm and friendly experience.

Within close proximity of each CLT is a table of brightly colored thank you cards, envelopes, and stamps. Employees are encouraged to send handwritten personalized notes to customers who’ve experienced any kind of challenge or delay in getting their order.

It’s definitely an old school technique, but it’s just one more thing that helps connect Zapponians to their customers while reminding them that their first responsibility is to create WOW! for someone else.

ON POINT – It’s what you do for your people that goes beyond what they expect that ultimately determines the level of their engagement. Great cultures never stop evolving.

This was originally published on Eric Chester’s blog Chester on Point

Eric Chester is a leading voice in the global dialogue on employee engagement, and building a world-class workplace culture. He's an in-the-trenches researcher on the topic of the millennial mindset, and the dynamics of attracting, managing, motivating and retaining top talent. Chester is a Hall-of-Fame keynote speaker and the author of 4 leadership books including his newly released Amazon #1 Bestseller On Fire at Work: How Great Companies Ignite Passion in their People without Burning Them Out.  Learn more at EricChester.com and follow him at @eric_chester

Topics