Zappos visit


What a reception at Zappos:

I'm not long back from my visit with the guys at I have a few people to thank: Tony Hsieh for sending over the Culture book and the idea that a meeting would be good; Aaron Magness the PR, Marketing, Business Development, ideas man; Christa Foley HR guru, who I'm sorry we missed (but hey maybe next time); Michelle Thomas Brand Marketing Manager for taking the time to meet me; and particularly Donavan Roberson in Business Development who gave me the "Grand Tour" and was very helpful in our meeting.

The meeting was taking place for a number of reasons. As someone that is asked to evangelise on the benefits of businesses using social media as a form of marketing I have held up Zappos as a great business model. Embracing Twitter 2 years ago, social sites like Facebook and Myspace 8 years ago an essential part of the culture of the company is customer service and communicating with their customers. Establishing very quickly that this is where their customers talk and recommend, they quickly ensured that in downtimes in their call-centres that the teams talked to their custmers online in a social environment. Not pushing product or special offers just purely chatting with people they had spoken to on the phone and looked up.

The call centre staff have no script, they do however have certain criteria that they have to engage on and for which they are assessed. Everybody in the company, from graphic designers to accountants have to work in the call-centre before they are allowed anywhere near their 'normal job'.

Marketing at Zappos is split into 2,
1. 'Direct' - direct response advertising, paid search (trackable, measurable, R.O.I.)
2. 'Brand' - building awareness, through social, traditional media and working with brand partners - cooperative ad campaigns.

I was tasked with asking a few questions on behalf of Scottish Businesses:

1. How do Zappos quantify the benefit to their business from social media, do they interview customers, analyse web traffic...?
Simple answer - NO.
As an organisation certain elements of the assigned budgeting is viewed as an investment in customer service. The whole ethos of the company is centred around customer service and providing an amazing experience for the customer. If you know that you're phone activity is being monitored and that you were offered £2000 in training to go home or believe in the company, the casual yet passionate employees are a rare breed who would not dare abuse the trust they have been given. Zappos take a long time to employ someone but fire them very quickly if the need arises.

2. Do employees get dedicated work time to social network, or are they expected to fit it in alongside a full-time job?
Ok so I've talked about the call centre staff - well I met Christa Foley (or @electra) on Twitter she is an HR guru at Zappos and has been an advocate of Twitter since the beginning. Quite simply they make the time - both Donovan and Michelle answer email, tweets and other online comms often at 9:00 or 10:00 at night. You have to remember though that on the 2nd floor is the 24/7 call centre operating on shifts... so some of the staff keep odd hours.

3. What is the management structure and how do you communicate?
The structure of the company is very flat (as you will see in the video below) there is "Jungle alley" which houses Tony Hsieh, CEO, Alfred (COO / CFO) but they in amongst everyone else, there's not an open door policy - there are no doors! As for communications - they are major users of email and often the feeling is that too many people are included (CC'd) - better to be safe than sorry though.