Be sure to read our other interviews in our leadership series.
Also, feel free to jump to other parts of the interview found below:
- Interview Questions from shmula.com blog readers
- Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, Part 1
- Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, Part 2
- Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, Part 3
- Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, Part 4
- Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, Part 5
Comment by Joe Rawlinson on December 1, 2008 @ 11:59 am
How do you think great customer service will influence customers in a slow economy when many are becoming more price focused?
We definitely think some customers will be more price-sensitive, so we actually have a separate web site called 6pm.com that caters to those customers. However, so far we’ve found that our existing customers on Zappos.com continue to buy from us because of the service they experienced from us in the past.
Aside from the layoffs that weve heard about, how else are you cutting expenses to stay profitable?
We are watching all of our expenses and doing everything we can to be more efficient in our paid advertising, our operations, and our buying and managing of inventory.
How do you balance expense cutbacks with continued investment so you can gain market share over competitors?
It’s always a tough balancing act, but basically we take our financial goals and work backwards from there. We try to deliver the best customer service and customer experience we can while still meeting those financial goals.
How do you set and monitor quality standards for the shoes and other products you offer so that product quality matches your service quality?
It doesn’t happen very often, but if there is a quality issue with a brand or a specific style, we usually hear about it pretty quickly from our customers and then we’ll manually check all the product we still have in our warehouse for either that brand or that style.
Comment by Marquis Parker on December 2, 2008 @ 7:17 am
Im a frequent shopper at Zappos. As a customer, I noticeably observe Supply Chain and Service Excellence, but I have one question: the site seems to be lagging behind both, in terms of innovation, usability, and current-ness. The site is a way-back of the early nineties; a link-farm of sorts.
Don’t get me wrong Im still very loyal to Zappos, but the site is clearly behind, but Fulfillment and Service Excellence are top-notch.
We are actually in the process of launching a new site.
Comment by Thomas on December 5, 2008 @ 3:28 am
How do you ensure that the people you hire into Zappos actually believe in your company culture and core values and arent just paying them lip service to get through the interview process?
Through experience, our recruiting and training teams have gotten pretty good at figuring out who is a good culture fit and who isn’t. It isn’t just about the words they say, it’s about their attitude.
Also, a lot of the questions we ask aren’t typical interview questions, so it’d be hard for someone who only wants to say the right answers to know how to answer them because they don’t know what we’re actually looking for.
For example, one of our questions is: “On a scale of 1-10, how weird are you?”
Comment by Cheri Register on December 5, 2008 @ 9:03 am
Given the increasing diversity of the population in the US, why is it so difficult to buy womens shoes in sizes smaller than 6? When 5s are available, which seldom happens in shoe stores, they are usually narrow in width. My daughter has a fairly typical Korean body type, with short, medium to wide feet. She cant be the only one frustrated with trying to find shoes that fitespecially fashionable womens shoes, not childrens sizes. Someone must want to serve this market.
In the brick and mortar world, it’s a matter of supply and demand, and the reality is that there isn’t enough demand for it to make sense for a lot of brick and mortar retailers to offer those types of sizes.
It’s a different story with online retail, but because most shoes are still sold offline, it still may not make sense for some brands to manufacture special sizes. Hopefully with time this will change though!
Comment by jamie rozansky on December 7, 2008 @ 11:01 am
I am a director of operations in a small/midsize company, under 100 people. We pride ourselves on building our business based on customer service. I am so impressed and inspired by your organization, that I would love to know what you do to compansate, and reward your customer service reps. Is there a specific method you use? How do you combat negativity?How do you expand your business and maintain your culture?
I would love to be an intern in your office and experience your operation. I have been equally satisfied by all of my personal experiences as a consumer dealing with Zappos. I have never been disappointed, nor experienced anything but consistant friendliness and service. I would love to learn from you, so that I can share your service model in our industry and business. Please feel free to contact me. Thank you
We actually offer tours at our headquarters in Las Vegas where many of these questions are answered, so I would suggest you come visit us. Just send an email to email@example.com to schedule your visit!
We’re also happy to have you spend more time with the managers of our call center, recruiting team, training, etc. – just be sure to mention this in your email. (We’ve had companies such as Southwest Airlines and Lego come and spend an entire day with us.)
Also, we are about to launch Zappos Insights, in which we can go into more specifics for all of these questions:
Be sure to read our other leadership interviews:
Lean Leadership Interviews
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|We caught up with Hugh Molotsi at the Lean Startup Conference. Hugh is the VP of Innovation at Intuit Labs. In this interview, we discuss how to encourage everyone's voice in innovative product development and in solving problems.|
|Zetdi Runyan Sloan leads the startup and entrpreneurship events at the New Mexico State University. Learn about how use of Lean Startup.|
|Al Dupree is the head of innovation at the National Institutes of Standards and Technology. In this interview, he discusses his use of Lean Startup principles in the world of research and innovation.|
|Cory Strong, Lean Leader at Nebraska Health System||Cory Strong first learned Lean by learning the Kawasaki Production System. Many years later, he finds himself in the exciting and high impact world of Lean Healthcare as a Lean Leader at the Nebraska Health System.|
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Global Head of Lean Management at Hartmann Group
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|Interview with Daniel Debow, Senior Vice President at SalesForce.com; In this podcast, we discuss Deming, Lean at SalesForce, and the SalesForce Wearables Initiative.|
|Matt Long, VP of Continuous Improvement and 24 year veteran at Herman Miller Inc. shares with us the history of Lean at Herman Miller, their association with the Toyota Supplier Support Center, and about the Herman Miller Performance System.|
|This interview with Dr. Bob Emiliani covers several aspects of Fake Lean versus Real Lean. There are real insights here from the "Lean Professor".|
|Michel Baudin is an author, highly-sought after consultant in the Toyota Production System. In this interview we learn about his distinctions between Lean-Lite versus Lean-Deep and how he understand the Respect for People Principle versus Respect for the Human as is used internally at Toyota.|
|Lean Branding is an application of Lean principles to branding. Read her provocative and practical approach to brand branding using the principles of Lean.|
|Robert Martichenko is the Founder and CEO of LeanCor - a lean logistics and supply chain company. He is also the author of the book "A Lean Fulfillment Stream", published by the Lean Enterprise Institute. In this interview, he shares with us how Lean can be applied effectively beyond the 4 walls of manufacturing and outside the office, but infused into the entire supply chain.|
|Leanpub is an innovative approach to book publishing, where Peter believes that lean principles apply. He claims that writing a book is essentially a startup. And, the worst waste of all is writing a book that nobody wants. Read more to learn how to apply lean to the world of book publishing.|
|Keith Sparkjoy is the Culture Officer at Pluralsight, a Utah company that raised $135 Million in 2014 - an unprecedented amount of venture capital. And, here's the really cool part, as the culture officer, he's trying to transform his company using Dr. W. Edward Deming's teachings.|
|David J. Anderson is the pioneer of the application of Kanban for creative knowledge work. His methodology and approach has had widespread acceptance and adoption and in this interview he shares results from companies that have tried his approach and other lessons learned.|
|Dimitar Karaivanov is the CEO of Kanbanize, a visual kanban system designed for creative and knowledge workers. In this interview, we discuss the product and its many uses and how it embodies the principles of Lean.|
|Chris Hefley is the CEO of LeanKit, a company that provides Virtual Kanban software for software development teams and knowledge workers. Reah his interview and learn what led to the development of LeanKit and the role Lean and the Toyota Production System plays.|
|In this interview with Dan Markovitz, we learn why he believes that everything is connected to the customer through the office. Based on this belief, he feels that Lean for Office makes the most sense. Read and learn how he's implemented Lean for the Office.|
|Jason Yip is a noted thoughtleader in software engineering. As a consultant, he helps software engineering organizations get better. In this interview, we learn the state of software engineering and the role of Agile, Lean for Software and Kanban.|
|Matthew May is an author and influential voice in Lean and also Design Thinking. He worked close to a decade at University of Toyota to help codify the Toyota Production System. In this interview, he shares with us his thoughts on his experience and what we can learn from it.|
|Lean Healthcare expert Mark Graban stops by and share his thoughts with Shmula readers on how Lean can be applied to arguably the most important industry in the world, healthcare.|
|Art Smalley is one of the most honest and influential voices in Lean. He was the first American to work in Japan's Kamigo plant, the plant where Taiichi Ohno began the Toyota Production System. He shares with us his thoughts on the Lean Movement and where it is going wrong.|
|Lean is being applied to every facet of business. Jeff Gothelf shares with us his thoughts on applying Lean for user experience, or Lean UX.|
|Cecil Dijoux shares with us his thoughts on applying Lean to IT, definitely a must-read if you are in the information technology space.|
|Brent Wahba is a fellow at the Lean Enterprise Institute and shares with us his thoughts on Lean for Sales and Marketing.|
Interview with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos
|In December 2008, I was fortunate enough to interview Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. In a 5 part series of interviews, we discuss the Zappos strategy and Tony answers questions on why he chooses to focus on the customer and how he sees that as strategic.|
Interviews with Customer Experience Experts
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|Shep Hyken Customer Service Interview: We interviewed Shep Hyken on June 3, 2013 and discussed topics close to his heart - the customer. We focused our discussion on customer service and how focusing on the customer is strategic, not just tactical.|
|Annette Franz Gleneicki on Customer Experience Strategy: Annette Gleneicki is a customer experience thought leader and Director at Confirmit, a voice of the customer platform. We discuss her thoughts on customer experience and the direction of the overall field.|
|Michel Falcon on Improving the Customer Experience: Michel Falcon is a former executive at 1800GOTJUNK and was the person who propelled 1800GOTJUNK to become a customer service powerhouse. In this interview, we discuss what he did and the lessons he learned.|
|Adam Ramshaw, a customer experience consultant with Genroe, explains the relationship between continuous improvement and customer experience.|
Aza Raskin, Author, Startup Founder, and Son of Mac Inventor Jef Raskin
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Mary Poppendieck, Author and codifier of Lean for Software Engineering
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Gretchen Rubin, Author and evangelist of Happiness
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|Spencer Rascoff, the CEO of Zillow, shares with us his thoughts on this interview with Zillow back in June 2006.|
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