Surprising Customers with Amazing Service – The Tony Hsieh, Zappos Interview


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.

Right click here to download the interview

(Thank you Tara Hunt for introducing me to Tony.)

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  • http://blog.dtelepathy.com Alex Funk

    Andrew, great interview! We had the pleasure of speaking with a few of their UI designers and engineers about their new site design (http://zeta.zappos.com), features, marketing strategy and what’s next for them. Look for them to improve their service and customer loyalty programs over the next year even more!

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  • Sean Comeaux

    Alex, Thank you for this insightful interview, it was highly informative. As a serial entrepreneur myself, Tony Hsieh has long been one of my heroes. In fact, for my most recent endeavor, I was being interviewed for my local college’s 'Entrepreneurship program' whereby a group of our cities top Entrepreneurs will be walking us through the process of launching our business from start to finish in 16 weeks. All the while introducing us into their network of contacts and resources from legal to marketing so we can continue to be successful afterwords. In my initial interview for the program (since they were only picking 15 out of the almost 70 that applied) they asked me what my passion was for the product I was selling (I sell a niche category of high-end women’s apparel online). They kept searching for the reason I got into the product alone. I leveled with them that it was not at all the product but the process that I love. I was ELATED to hear Tony say the same thing, “I'm not a shoe person so for me it’s not about the shoes; it's more just about the people and the start up, y’know, environment and just, y’know, facing a different challenge every day and everything being really fast moving and y’know making decisions quickly and sometimes they’ll be the wrong decisions but then changing course if they are the wrong decision very quickly. So I think just all of that is just very exciting for me.” While it could have been a little more eloquent, I knew exactly what he was saying. He's a serial entrepreneur who loves starting businesses and making them work. I am driven by that same force. Great interview, Mr. Hsieh is a brilliant person whom I aspire to be only half as successful as. Thank you again Alex.

  • Sean Comeaux

    Alex, Thank you for this insightful interview, it was highly informative. As a serial entrepreneur myself, Tony Hsieh has long been one of my heroes. In fact, for my most recent endeavor, I was being interviewed for my local college’s 'Entrepreneurship program' whereby a group of our cities top Entrepreneurs will be walking us through the process of launching our business from start to finish in 16 weeks. All the while introducing us into their network of contacts and resources from legal to marketing so we can continue to be successful afterwords. In my initial interview for the program (since they were only picking 15 out of the almost 70 that applied) they asked me what my passion was for the product I was selling (I sell a niche category of high-end women’s apparel online). They kept searching for the reason I got into the product alone. I leveled with them that it was not at all the product but the process that I love. I was ELATED to hear Tony say the same thing, “I'm not a shoe person so for me it’s not about the shoes; it's more just about the people and the start up, y’know, environment and just, y’know, facing a different challenge every day and everything being really fast moving and y’know making decisions quickly and sometimes they’ll be the wrong decisions but then changing course if they are the wrong decision very quickly. So I think just all of that is just very exciting for me.” While it could have been a little more eloquent, I knew exactly what he was saying. He's a serial entrepreneur who loves starting businesses and making them work. I am driven by that same force. Great interview, Mr. Hsieh is a brilliant person whom I aspire to be only half as successful as. Thank you again Alex.

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