Zappos: Delivering WOW through Service

crew zappos tour

crew zappos tourAs a thank you for being a valued member of CREW, our Las Vegas chapter hosts several members-only events and tours throughout the year.  On this occasion, CREW members were invited to tour the Zappos Headquarters located in the old City Hall building off Las Vegas Boulevard in Downtown Las Vegas.

The tour began with a quick presentation of the company’s history and culture—something that Zappos takes VERY seriously.  Every piece of information we learned about Zappos—its people, its operations and above all else, its culture— was tied back to one of the 10 Zappos Core Values, which were written by the entire staff at Zappos.

They are:

  1. Deliver WOW through service… something we said a LOT during our tour
  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

The Zappos Headquarters is made up of the 10-story former City Hall which sits on seven acres worth of campus.  Of the 10 floors, our group was able to tour only two.  The campus has a bistro where every employee gets three free meals per day, a separate cafeteria with coffee, juices, sandwiches, etc. for purchase, a gym (located inside an old jail cell on the second floor), a yoga/dance studio where classes are offered to employees free of charge, a merchandise store for employees to purchase Zappos gear, a room filled with nap-pods for employees to rest, mothers’ rooms for breast feeding and much much more.  Each floor has a selection of snacks and drinks that are free to employees, with additional options available for 50 cents.  The building also has its own party store called “Balloons and Shit” where employees can purchase balloons and other birthday knick-knacks for co-workers.  Zappos celebrates every single employee’s birthday, and this is another way in which the company encourages employees to connect with their peers.  It should also be noted that all funds received by employees, whether by purchasing snacks, balloons, Zappos merch and anything else that isn’t free, goes directly to charity.

crew zappos tourAnother thing that Zappos does is intentionally spread around its amenities.  This is a way to create opportunities for employees to explore different floors in order to meet and interact with fellow employees.  And while there are several shared work spaces for employees to use, each employee does also have their own desk which they are encouraged to decorate however they’d like.  We saw everything from life-sized stuffed animals, piñatas and action figures to the run-of-the-mill picture frames and motivational posters—another way to express yourself and create conversation starters amongst your co-workers.  Creating closeness within teams and the organization is at the heart of Zappos culture, and another way the company reinforces that is by giving each employee a ‘culture name.’  The culture name is given to an employee by their peers a few weeks after they are hired. Getting to know your co-workers, even outside of individual departments, is not only encouraged, but also required by Zappos.  In fact, each employee is tested on how many other employees they know.  Our tour leader, culture name Dancer, knew 51.3% of the total 1,400 employees at her last testing.  Another unique way of promoting connectivity among employees: not a single employee has an office… not even CEO Tony Hsieh.

It might be hard to believe that any work actually gets done with all this interaction among peers and cool amenities spread throughout the office.  What’s even more surprising, though, is that there is no management.  Each employee is self-managed, meaning you’re pretty much on the honor system when it comes to working out, taking naps and playing games during work hours.  Each department is comprised of smaller teams, anywhere from 5-15 employees.  And every decision is addressed and decided on by your team.  Want a day off?  The team has to agree on it.  Slacking off during work hours?  Your team is responsible for holding you accountable.  HR will eventually make the final decisions on hiring and/or firing, but as our tour leader explained, everything is a process, and they would rather see meaningful conversations among teams and use any challenge as a learning opportunity and for Zappos employees to grow.

crew zappos tourThroughout our tour, Zappos made it clear that they don’t stop at selling shoes online.  For the company, it’s all about service, and its leaders are consistently looking for a way to keep giving great service, both to its consumers and to its employees.  Of its 1,400 employees, 600 are dedicated specifically to customer service.  But they also have an internal customer service department.  While it can take up to 84 days for a candidate to be deemed an “appropriate culture fit” to get hired, it’s well worth it once you consider the culture you’re joining.  Whether it’s the fact that you can bring your kids (or dogs) to work with you, the Zollars (aka Zappos Dollars) that your peers can reward you with, the mini-golf course on the roof, the 40% employee discount or the 20% matching on your 401k (yes, that’s right… twenty percent)… what Zappos is most proud of is the family that they’ve created within the company.