Secrets to Service Success

Keynote From One Of Today's Most Innovative Business Leaders

Tony HsiehThe PPAI Expo audience was motivated by an inspiring keynote speech from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, one of today’s most innovative business leaders.

Las Vegas-based Zappos mainly sells shoes. But Tony Hsieh, the company’s founder and CEO, believes Zappos is the furthest thing from a shoe seller.

“We’re a service company that happens to sell shoes,” Hsieh said shortly after striding onto the stage as the keynote speaker at the 2014 PPAI Expo in mid-January. “We decided that we wanted our brand to not be about shoes, but about delivering the very best customer experience. That’s our brand and I’m pretty confident we can sell any item with that as our foundation.”

Hsieh, wearing jeans and an untucked flannel button-down, delivered a soft-spoken yet powerful speech to his riveted audience. Touching on how to build a hyper-motivated and productive workforce, as well as how to service customers in a memorable way, Hsieh said he believes companies can only be successful today if they have an untraditional approach.

“Companies need a vision that has a higher purpose than just revenues and profit,” said Hsieh, who built Zappos into a $3 billion business and is the author of Delivering Happiness. “You should work every day to chase your company’s vision, not the money. Money can’t be the primary motivator.”

To Hsieh, the most successful companies are the ones that have a clear corporate culture and are dedicated toward always feeding that culture. “Our number-one priority in our business is culture,” he said. “If we get that right, everything else will work out. Your culture is your brand, whether you like it or not. You have to be willing to hire and fire based on corporate culture and whether people fit into that – not whether they’re simply good at what they do. Sometimes, that’s not enough. Everything in your business –everything – should align to those stated values.”

It’s something that Hsieh said is highly valued at Zappos – to the point that he’s fired good employees simply because they didn’t fit into the culture and he’s told managers not to hire people that they weren’t absolutely sure would be a culture fit. “This is one place you simply can’t waver when you’re building a company,” Hsieh said. “If you have people who don’t fit in to what you’re trying to establish, well, then you’re not establishing the right thing.”

For Hsieh and Zappos, that culture begins with customer service. The company has what it calls Family Core Values that define its culture and mission. The 10 values are: Deliver wow through service, embrace and drive change, create fun and a little weirdness, be adventurous and open-minded, pursue growth and learning, build open and honest relationships, build a positive team and family spirit, do more with less, be passionate and determined and lastly, be humble.

“We’re a little odd, and we definitely embrace out-of-the-box thinking, but these values define our brand and our culture. To me, a company’s brand is a lagging indicator of its culture,” Hsieh said. “When we decided that we wanted our brand to be about delivering the very best customer experience, we saw that employees were more motivated and engaged. Once they clearly know what their mission is, they’re more likely to embrace it and do everything they can to fulfill it.”