Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos – Part 2 of 3

zappos_logo This is part two of three of the interview with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. In this part of the interview, Tony talks more about the company’s very generous policies, how they’ve dealt with their growth to date, and more about the company’s incredibly strong customer service culture.

Question: When designing the policies, were you concerned that people would abuse them?
Answer: With anything, there is always a very small percentage of customers or people that might abuse a policy, but that is pretty much true regarding whatever the policy is. I guess what we don’t want to do is punish the other 99% because 1% is abusing a policy. We try to stay on top of the people that are abusing the policy, but a vast, vast majority of our customers don’t abuse our policy and they are the ones that have made the company successful.

Question: Zappos has had amazing growth over the last few years. How have you dealt with this as a company?
Answer: Our biggest challenge is definitely making sure that as we grow, we don’t lose our focus on the company culture or customer service. It is definitely challenging as we’ve grown to make sure we don’t lower our standards with hiring people, for example. So, along that front, we actually have implemented more and more things throughout the years to make sure we really do get people who are passionate about customer service and fit in with our company culture.

An example of that is for everyone that is hired in our Las Vegas headquarters, we actually do two sets of interviews. The first set is when the hiring manager and her team will interview for skill set, experience, technical ability, how well they will fit into that team, etc. Then, our HR department does a separate round of interviews purely to assess culture fit that they have to pass in order to be hired. How much you contribute to the company culture is also part of our annual performance reviews. It is really just being diligent about making sure we place company culture and the customer service mentality in the forefront and making sure we act consistently about that.

There are plenty of examples where we had the perfect candidate skill-wise and we know this person would add a lot to the company in the short term, but if we don’t think that person is a culture fit, we won’t hire that person.

Question: What if they seem like a strong culture fit, but not so strong of a technical fit?
Answer: We usually try to find other places in the company that fit them. If we think someone is a great culture fit, that usually means that they are proficient somewhere where that person can make a contribution. As a hypothetical example, they might have originally been interviewed as a software developer and they were a great culture fit, but not necessarily a great developer, then we would look at what other departments we might be able to fit that person into.

Question: What would you say is contributing to the company culture?
Answer: It can be anything. There are small and understated things like just being friendly and smiling and saying hi to people you pass in the hallway even if you don’t know them. There are plenty of employees that organize activities outside of the office. For example, we have someone who is passionate about golf, so he organizes monthly golf tournaments. We have other people that are passionate about hiking, so there is a hiking club. There are employees that might just organize an impromptu happy hour. It’s really up to each employee what he or she is passionate about, but we just want to make sure that if they are passionate about something outside of work to try and get other people within the company to participate in that and really build these relationships outside the office. We try to encourage all of our managers to spend 10-20% of their time outside the office, whether it is with their team, or with other people that they work with, to develop these personal relationships.

One Response to “Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos – Part 2 of 3”

  1. Service Untitled» Blog Archive » Many happy returns said:

    Mar 09, 10 at 10:36 am

    […] making an exchange or return, we make it easy,” the policy should be whatever keeps the customer happy which is getting their money back with the least resistance and work. Of course the store owner […]