Guest Post By: Shauna Stacy

This month’s presentation focused on the relationship between marketing and culture and was led by Jon Wolske of Zappos Insights. Zappos Insights, an arm of Zappos, is dedicated to educating other businesses about the importance and impact of company culture.

The presentation included an overview of Zappos’ impressive growth and company values. Early in the presentation, Jon asked a critical question: “Do you have culture at your workplace?” Some, but not all, hands raised in the crowd. “The answer is yes,” he continued, asserting that culture is present in every organization, whether it is formalized or not.

Zappos culture guide Jon Wolske and fellow Zappos employees welcome a tour group with a choreographed weight-lifting routine featured on LasVegasSun.com

Zappos believes a company-wide focus on delivering great service is critical to its own success and that this focus relies on a strong, positive company culture. The result of this focus is evidenced in customer stories, employee advocates, and positive press.

Jon reviewed Zappos’10 core values. Customer experience is a key part of the Zappos marketing strategy, and they believe it starts at the website where their phone number prominently displayed. This leads back to value number 1, “Deliver WOW service,” and hinges on developing a “PEC” or a “Personal Emotional Connection.”

PEC-building also includes, but is not limited to, delivering bouquets of flowers and handwritten notes to customers. For Leap Year, it meant giving all customers who made purchases on Leap Year Day a four-year refund policy, instead of the usual duration. It also means going to the competitor on the customer’s behalf when Zappos can’t deliver, which can lead to powerful word-of-mouth marketing.

Culture is most evident in the Zappos’ call center. Unlike most modern call centers, front lines call takers have no script and no requirement to sell. The call center is not considered a cost center. Because of a shared sense of ownership and pride among employees, “there is no need to micromanage.” Employees are their strongest advocates and if you asked an employee what the company values are, he or she would not need to check the employee manual. “We just know what they are,” Jon said.

Their emphasis on culture has spurred more than just positive press and catchy theme songs and viral videos but ongoing success and growth. Zappos’ revenue reflects steady growth and, according to their reports, 75{2bbd478b6aadf2a9bb5e10dcf35d17c0d0772390afbaf5ac8145fb1096668903} of the average daily shoppers are returning customers and 45{2bbd478b6aadf2a9bb5e10dcf35d17c0d0772390afbaf5ac8145fb1096668903} were told about Zappos by friend.

Engaging online content, as well as interaction on social media sites and all other business operations, is designed to tie back to their commitment to the Four Cs: Culture, Customer Service, Clothing and Community. Zappos wants to be known for community. This includes their online community at zapposinsights.com. They are in the process of building a new home office in downtown Las Vegas to become a true part of their community. They are also working to grow education in Nevada, which is currently ranked worst in the country for education.

The presentation was followed with a Q&A session. Highlights are below:

What other social media sites does Zappos used, besides the big sites (Facebook, Twitter, et al)?

Zappos has “product managers” who are front lines to test out interaction on different social media sites. This includes the newest social media darling, Pinterest. There is also an application dev team which has previously launched their Couture Catalogue and Mappos, a visual map of what people are buying at any given moment.

Have you gotten feedback from the companies who tour the Zappos offices with the intent to change their own company culture?

Jon shared a story of one businessperson who had a one-hour tour which resulted in dramatic changes at his own company. “We’re not trying to get people to do what we do,” Jon explained. “A lot of it has to do with relaxing things a bit. We aren’t marketing Insights but we will be looking through our histories at some point soon.”

At a certain point during initial, required call center training, trainees are offered $3,000 to quit. What happens if someone gets through the $3,000 offer and is still not a good fit?

“Just like a performance issue, we coach,” said Jon. “If we can’t coach up, we coach out.”

What does Zappos use to monitor brand mentions on social sites?

“We run lean.” The team relies heavily on Google news and the Twitter conversation page. They monitor on a big picture scale.

Your value is “Do more with less,” and you say that you “run lean,” but great ideas cost money. How do you find balance?

If it’s free, they try it. If it costs money, employees are required to do a standard proposal process. “They’ve been good at taking risk and letting ideas fail.”

What provides a higher margin, the culture book or shoes?

“Well, the culture book is free, so the shoes.”

What is your philosophy on legal concerns?

The Zappos lawyers are also hired as a culture fit. Employees are expected to rely on common sense when making decisions; the onus is on the employee. “When you trust people to be adults, they will be. It works for us.”

He then added, “You can’t do the tour on roller blades, though.”

Many thanks to Jon for an excellent presentation! Be sure to check out the next AZIMA event “The Interactive Future of Hospitality & Tourism” on April 19th at 6:00 PM at the Scottsdale Hilton.

One comment on “Wrap-up of Jon Wolske of Zappos Insights Event

  1. kris-h-guzman-rga75@msn.com'
    Sugel on

    1. Deliver Wow Through Service 2. Embrace and Drive Change 3. Create Fun and a Little Weirdness 4. Be Adventurous, Creative and Open-Minded 5. Pursue Growth and Learning 6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication 7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit 8. Do More with Less 9. Be Passionate and Determined 10. Be Humble And the thing that Zappos figured out, and continues to deliver on,is the idea that people who don’t fit the company culture are better off being paid to leave.

    Reply

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