Interview with the $928 Million Dollar Man, Tony Hsieh

By: Brian Horn on: July 14th, 2010 8 Comments

Tony Hsieh is the #1 NY Times Bestselling Author of “Delivering Happiness” and the CEO of Zappos.com, Inc.

We were both featured speakers at the “Summit of the Year” event last November in Vegas (which was a WILD trip…”Holla!” ) and we have been in contact ever since.

Tony has been out promoting his new book hardcore over the last month. I actually saw him on Fox News one morning, and it reminded me that I needed to call him for this interview.

Tony was cool enough to let me ask him a few questions about success, business and his views on social media.

Here are some excerpts of our conversation:

How do you create such a great customer service culture at Zappos?

It really just comes down to 2 things: making sure that you hire people whose personal values match the core values of the company (one of which is to delivering WOW through service), and making sure that everyone understands the long-term vision of the company (for us, it’s about building the Zappos brand to be about the very best customer service).

How have you incorporated social media into your customer service?

I personally dislike the term “social media”, as it distracts from what’s actually important: forming personal emotional connections with customers. While this can be done to some extent through Twitter and Facebook, our belief is that the telephone is actually one of the best ways to build that human connection.

What are you doing to survive as a retail company in this down economy?

Because we’ve always invested in customer service and the customer experience (we take most of the money we would have spent on paid advertising or paid marketing and instead invest it into customer service), we actually continued to grow over the past 24 months, despite the economy.

A lot of this was due to the loyalty of our customers (on any given day about 75% of our orders come from repeat customers).

How important do you think blogging and keeping your customers updated on a regular basis is?

The most important thing to do is to maintain a personal emotional connection with customers. Blogging is one of many things that we do in order to try to achieve that. Our philosophy is that the more meaningful touch points there are, the better.

Where do you see Zappos heading in the next year? 5 years?

For the next several years, we will be making a big push into clothing. Longer term, we really just want to build the Zappos brand to be about the very best customer service, so the possibilities are endless. We’ve even talked about one day building a Zappos Airlines.

How has merging with Amazon positively affected business? How has it changed business?

Unlike most of Amazon’s other acquisitions, they’ve left us independent so that we can continue to build the Zappos brand, culture, and way of doing business our way. It’s effectively as if we’ve swapped out our board of directors with a new one, so we fly to Seattle instead of San Francisco now once a quarter.

We are able to move even faster than before because we now have access to Amazon’s resources, but we leave it up to each individual department or sub-department to determine how much or how little they want to tap into that.

Who are you mentors? Who do you look to for guidance in your business life?

I really enjoy reading a lot of business books and try to learn something from each of them and think about how to take certain parts and apply them to Zappos. Some of my favorite business books include Good to Great, Tribal Leadership, Peak, Made to Stick, and Tipping Point.

What is your strategy for continuing to learn the tools you need to grow your business?

I’m always interested in reading new articles and books!

Wow….

Cool stuff from my man, Tony.  That trip was a total life changing one for me. Aside from the hanging out with top notch entrepreneurs, all the Grey Goose & Tonics, the moving side-walks, world class sushi and incredible shows…I also got to meet an amazing person that changed my way of thinking.

Don’t get opportunities like that very often. Be on the lookout for them.

Get Tony’s book too!  😉

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

    Brian Horn, of HornDog Search Marketing, is recognized by many as the "Glazer-Kennedy Secret Weapon", because of his role in helping not only Dan Kennedy and Bill Glazer with search engine optimization and social media, but also many of the top Information Marketers in the world. Brian shares SEO tips for small businesses over at at his blog, BeOnPage1Blog.com.

    8 Responses

    1. Zappos has a business model that all entrepreneurs can take something from, such as how they empower their employees to their customer service philosophies. Touring their headquarters in Vegas was an impressive and enlightening experience that shouldn’t be missed if the opportunity is presented.

      The take away from conferences are sometimes more about the people we meet rather than the information we think we’re going to get.

    2. Nice to know the $928 Million Dollar Man reads and loves some of the same books I do. It just goes to show that you are never too successful to stop learning.

    3. Hi, Brian. I have been shopping at Zappos way before it became this huge success. Tony’s doing it right. They do have excellent customer service, which I especially noticed when I returned a pair of shoes that I’d worn. The Zappos CSR told me to definitely send them back, because, in my case, I’ve had so many foot surgeries it is difficult to find shoes that don’t cause pain. I was shocked that they would take back shoes they couldn’t resell, but it definitely made an impact on me. I always check with Zappos before any other site because of the customer service. They also have an online feature (text box) so that when you return something you can tell them exactly why. I love that part because it enables me to express my opinion. It’s great to see Zappos such a huge success on the macro level. They’ve had me hooked for years!

    4. Rob Anspach says:

      “…our belief is that the telephone is actually one of the best ways to build that human connection!” – Tony Hsieh – CEO Zappos

      Wow! the telephone…who would’ve guessed.

      I personally dislike the telephone…but I do believe that people who want instant answers will pick up the phone and call before searching on social media or web searches

    5. John Peacock says:

      Great interview. Its great to read an interview where the CEO is gave short and to the point answers. The legendary customer service philosophies is something I look to incorporate into my business.

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    7. vip zappos says:

      ¨You really know your stuff… Keep up the good work!〃

    8. I have bought a lot of clothes on line from a safe source, and have been happy with them 99% of the time.

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