I interviewed Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, to find out how he took a little online shoe company and made it into a billion dollar a year online retail success story.
Here are some of the things I learned from our conversation. Download the full interview to learn more directly from Tony.
Shocking customers – Doesn’t every company say that they have great customer service? When Tony told me about the level of service that Zappos gives its customers, I tested it by conferencing in the phone number on his web site. When I asked for a pair of shoes that they didn’t have in stock, the woman I spoke to offered to find it for me somewhere else. I was shocked, but if you listen to Tony’s voice at the end of that test, you’ll hear that he didn’t find it extraordinary at all. That’s just how his company operates.
Surprise – Tony told me that Zappos tries to surprise its customers by giving them more than they expect. For example, they’ll routinely ship an order using a faster delivery method that the customer paid for. Can you imagine how excited customers get when they receive a package sooner than they expected?
Social Media – Zappos encourages its people to use tools like Twitter (see them). I tried to understand how many extra sales they got from it, but Tony taught me that’s not the way to look at it. He’s doing a billion dollars in sales, the few orders he gets from Twitter won’t impact his bottom line. But the connection with his customers is priceless. Social media, for Zappos, is about letting the world know that there are real people behind the online brand.
(Thank you Tara Hunt for introducing me to Tony.)