Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos gave a great speech about the factors that have made Zappos the incredible success that it has become. Zappos is based on a fanatical approach to customer service and their devotation has grown gross merchandise sales from $1.6M in 2000 to $840M in 2007 by focusing relentlessly on customer service.
Tony learned early in his career about the importance of culture. Tony founded another startup LinkExchange, an advertising network that was successfully sold to Microsoft for $265M in 1998. He explained that the early days of the company were great. However, once the company reached 100 or so employees he dreaded going to work (for the company that he founded). The reason for that is that they ignored building a culture. They hired people with the right skills for the job but weren't part of the early culture.
Tony also told everyone about an amazin customer service story. A woman purchased some shoes for her husband. However just after they arrived her husband was killed in an accident. The woman phoned to see if she could return the shoes and the customer service agent helped her to do. Here's where things got incredible. The customer service agent them sent flowers to the woman expressing the Zappos' condolences for her loss. Needless to say the woman deeply impressed and phoned Zappos back to thank them for their thoughtfulness and shared her story with all of her friends and family. Zappos gained a customer for life!
4 Things to Build a Brand That Matters
VISION - Whatever you're thinking, think bigger. Does the vision have meaning? Chase the vision, not the money... Zappos decided to be the very best at delivering customer service.
REPEAT CUSTOMERS - "Great product, Great service, or Low Prices" (Choose and focus on 2 of the 3). They used to spend significant amount of money to acquire more customers. But they found that focusing on investing on existing customers was a much better investment and they became their best marketing tool.
TRANSPARENCY - "Be real, and you have nothing to fear". Zappos allows their supplier to log into their backend systems to view the exact same inventory and system information as Zappos employees
CULTURE - "Committable Core Values" The key component is being "committable" - these are core values that you are willing to hire, fire and evaluate performance on.
Email "tony AT zappos.com" for a copy of their Culture Book - it's available free of charge. Zappos also provides 1 hour tours of their offices.