This afternoon I took in Tony Hsieh’s keynote at the South by Southwest Interactive festival. The room was packed and expectations were high. Marketing and social media heavy hitters – CEOs, CMOs, and execs from other companies – faithfully tweeted each bit of wisdom Tony passed out. Not bad for a guy who started selling pizza and, these days, sells shoes. (Maybe you’ve heard of Zappos.com).
In all seriousness it was a great speech and one that I expect will send out ripples of change for a long time. Tony came across as genuine and likeable – and, more importantly, both wicked smart and strongly principled. I took away three very wise points:
- Company culture and brand are flip sides of the same thing. They’re so serious about this they’ll pay new employees to quit – if a $1,000 bonus is motivation to quit, you’re probably not committed enough to be part of that great culture
- Every customer interaction is a marketing opportunity. Don’t try to reduce cost by outsourcing telephone support; recognize that one-to-one interaction as the priceless marketing (NOT upselling) opportunity to delight a customer that it is. A simple corollary to this: a dollar spent delighting a customer is FAR more effective than a dollar spent promising to delight a customer
- Happiness matters. Happy employees create happy customers. “People may not remember what you said or did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”
He left me with a lot to think about. If you were there, you probably had the same reaction – if you weren’t, email firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll send you a copy of the presentation.
What’s happened to our business climate that any of this comes across as a startling revelation? Zappos has used some ingenious approaches. But the principles are things we should already know. They sound like wisdom from a small-town merchant who recognizes that he’ll be dealing with the same town for a lifetime, instead a a P.T. Barnum ready to pull up the stakes and move on to the next town full of suckers.
We know these things. Then we go on accepting a goal of reducing average call time by 10%. Instead of surprising customers with free fast shipping, we surprise them with hidden shipping charges. Years ago, the person inside Dell who championed going down to 90-day phone support as the base level with any other level of support an upsell was treated as a hero. (This is not speculation, I was there).
None of this is intended to take anything away from Tony’s speech – it was what we needed to hear. But as you think about some of the takeways, ask yourself: didn’t we already know these principles? And why aren’t our businesses built to practice them? Do we lack knowledge of the right thing to do? Or do we simply lack the courage and empowerment to do the right thing?