Learnings From My Zappos HQ Tour

I finally was able to get out to the Zappos campus in Las Vegas, after years of wanting to take the tour.  I was in Vegas to watch the NCAA basketball tournament, and had scheduled a tour during a lull in the basketball schedule.  As the time approached for the Zappos driver to pick me up, and I was well into a mornings worth of basketball games and buckets of Coors Light, I thought about cancelling (and even sent an email to the coordinator, telling him to cancel my tour).  I made up some excuse, like I was at another location, but in true Zappos form, they said “No problem, we’ll come get you.”

Their persistence paid off, and I’m glad it did.  It was a great experience, and I’d encourage everyone to give it a whirl.

I was able to scrounge up a pen and pad of paper, and scribbled some notes down during the hour tour.  Not a lot of detail, but some of the things I found interesting:

  • There are no managers at Zappos — managers are called “coaches”.  I thought interesting, as that really is the primary job of anyone who manages people:  motivating, encouraging, providing timely and relevant feedback, and coaching.
  • All desks/workstations at Zappos can be raised and lowered, and there are not formal cubes.  This hit close to my heart, as people have looked in my office for the past 6 months at bewildermant at my standing desk.  It was great to walk around Zappos and see some people standing, some sitting, but many just engaging in open conversation based on the set up of the office space and the workstation confirguration.
  • Zappos built and still manages their own inventory management system.  All boxes and shelves are bar coded, and there’s no size or brand organization to the inventory.  This allows them to quickly stock warehouse shelves, without the concern of finding open space for a specific brand or size.  All is automated, so workers can quickly find any shoe size, brand, color, style through their bar code system.
  • The Net Promoter Score for Zappos is >90%, which is off the charts for retail (which normally hovers around 50% for most retailers).  My employer (SVB) utilizes the Net Promoter Score as well to assess our client interaction, and I can appreciate the magnitude of a 90+ score.
  • Zappos believes (and most would agree) that you can’t buy marketing as valuable as word of mouth from clients.  When someone talks about your great service, that’s better than any marketing ad you can buy.
  • If you go on the tour, I’d suggest visiting Josie in Travel for extra credit.  Her area isn’t necessarily a stop on the regular tour, but was a nice end to my tour (thanks to a tip from my driver).  I even got a special souvenir from Josie (that I promptly lost at Mandalay Bay’s sportsbook).
  • CEO Tony Hsieh’s (@zappos) workstation was right in there with everyone else’s, and I even saw Tony wondering around the office getting things done.
  • Everyone walks around the campus with their heads up, and makes eye contact and acknowledge most everyone they walk by.  I had more smiles and “hi” ‘s than I can ever remember in a corporate office.  It almost felt contrived at first, but as the tour went on, I noticed that it was just a part of the culture to be friendly.  I asked what happens when they get someone who doesn’t embrace the friendliness that’s pervasive in their office, and they indicated that they flush those people out through the interview process.

Besides picking Ohio University over Georgetown on the moneyline (paid 11:1), the Zappos tour was the highlight of my recent trip, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s visiting the Las Vegas area.

About svbmark

I'm a father of four boys; live in the Tri-Valley of the SF Bay Area; technology enthusiast; work with entrepreneurs and venture investors; SF Giants fan; budding wine lover
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2 Responses to Learnings From My Zappos HQ Tour

  1. Jon says:

    I am glad the tour was worth the trip!

    Thanks for visiting! Thanks for writing up such a good post about your visit. I hope you’ll come through again when you are in town, and bring friends. We love to have guests in the office!

    If any readers are interested, you can sign up for a tour at http://tours.zappos.com

  2. Mounir says:

    Great/well written summary, thanks. Certainly will take a visit to the Zappos campus on my next trip out Vegas.

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