At Zappos, we like to make sure that Customer Loyalty Team has someone they can turn to if they need some additional information. This is called the Resource Department. We also like to make sure the Resource Department (“RDesk” for short) has someone they can turn to if they need additional information. This role is called the quartermaster. They are like the Resource Department’s resource department! They have even more Inception-like qualities.
One such quartermaster is the indefatigable Stephanie H. The H stands for “hunka burnin’ love”. Ok, that’s not actually true. The H is a closely guarded Zappos secret. I sat down with Stephanie to see what other secrets she might have…
First question is a challenge. If you answer it, you receive one point. Then at the end of the interview, we’ll see who has the most points.
SH:Wait, so I’m competing against you, and you know the answers to everything?
No, I don’t know the answers to everything. If you feel like you have any challenges you wish to issue during the interview, you are free to do so. You should know that gives me opportunities to pass you in point. Ok, are you ready?
Ok, that is one point for you since you got that one right. Now for question two. Can you describe for me what quartermasters do. But your answer must be an acrostic that spells the word “pirate”!
SH:Ok, so P- I help “please” the team. If they have questions, I help answer them. Or if they need anything like tissues because their nose is running --
Or they’re crying.
SH:Or they’re crying. I‘m there to wipe their tears. And their nose. Ok, the letter I. Can I just make the “I” me? I’m quartermaster so “I”. R is “run around and dance”. A is --
(At this point, a Zappos Insights tour group from Taiwan joins us in the UFO meeting room…)
SH:A for “all kinds of stuff”. T for “telephone”, I answer that. E for “excitement”…
(the Taiwanese tour group applauds here)
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview and why?
SH:Whether I’m hungry or not, because my answers will have a lot to do with whether I’m hungry or not--or grumpy. But if I’ve had food, I’m a happier person.
Wow. If you ever get interviewed again, I hope someone asks you that question.
Anyway, next question. So, you notice there’s this pad and pen in front of you. To a layman, it might seem more logical for the pad to be in front of me. But I assure you this is not an error. For your next question, you must explain what Zappos culture means to you. But while you answer, you must close your eyes and draw a rabbit.
SH:Umm, ok. [draws bunny] To me, the Zappos culture means that I can go to work, and I can have a fun time. I still get my work done, but I can dance around in between calls, and I can sing and express myself.
Keep answering until the bunny is done! You ran out of answer before you ran out of bunny!
SH:Is that cheating? Oh no! And yeah that’s it!
Stephanie puts the pen down. I hold up the drawing of the bunny.
Stephanie's rabbit & a real rabbit for reference.
The tour group “oohs” and “ahhs”.
If you could be any kind of shoe, what would you be?
Deep within the pit of midnight inside the Zappos Campus, ancient stalking figures turn the wheels of the insomniac giant. This team of nighttime warriors almost singlehandedly uphold the Zappos promise to be available 24 hours a day, sacrificing sunlight and access to any business closing at 5 pm. One such figure is Zapponian Paul W. Once believed to be a legend in the vein of Bigfoot, Paul was recently confirmed manifest by a passing Zapponian raiding the Bistro off regular business hours for a midnight snack.
A proud member of the fabulous Zappendales, Paul Walker's e-mail skills are so magnanimous that he makes answering a phone call look like live chatting a tweet. But how can this figure of Olympian online correspondence cope with the tedium of a world that doesn't understand his art? Often, he copes by dressing up all lady-like. Today, we take a long hard look into the abyss to determine the man, the myth, the motorcyclist. (Paul only agreed to speak with us if this interview was clothing optional…)
This first question comes with a challenge. There are five words you are not allowed to use in your answer. The five words are "dance, sing", "gyrate", "guitar", and "showgirl".
PW: So you can say them, but I cannot.
Right, I can say them. You can't point to me and say "Say this one". That would be cheating. The question is "What do you do in the Zappendales?"
PW: I am the lead singer--
(BUZZ) You can't say "singer".
PW: You see, I didn't see "singer" [on the list] just "sing" and that threw me off!
You can't say "singer". You can't say variations of the words: "singer", "dancer", etc.
PW: Ok, I am the "baws" (spelled B-A-W-S) of Zappendales. Just so we're clear on that. I make the decisions and what I say goes. When it does not, I throw a tantrum in my trailer, because that is what we celebrities do.
What is the greatest foe that Captain Anomaly (your secret alter ego) has ever faced and what did Captain Anomaly (who you don't want anyone to know is you) do about it, Captain Anomaly?
PW: Doctor Normality. In the eyes of the public, I would like to say I vanquished him through providing excellent customer service. He likes to keep things toned down; he likes to mess with people. He likes to delay their shipments. And I like to go above and beyond, stop him, do what I can to WOW our customers and keep him at bay.
And when that doesn't work, I found his address through our friends in order verification, and I set him on fire. He won't be delaying shipments any time soon!
What do the letters Z, A, P, P, O, and S mean to you?
PW: Misspelled "Zappendales".
This next question is for the ladies.
PW: Well, I have the figure of a malnourished twelve-year-old-girl, so I think I can still answer this one.
Uh, I mean this question is for their benefit.
PW: Oh, oh! Right. Of course! Of course.
Z: If you could be any shoe, what would you be and why?
PW: [Slams his shoe on the table] I would be a Vibram® Five Finger®. I am wearing the KSOs. You can actually get those on Zappos.com! Free one business day shipping and returns. 365- day return policy! I don't know if you knew that…
Z: Final question, I just want your opinion on something.
PW: Do you mind if I give you a little bit of feedback? I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I hope that's ok with you. I just like to give it straight…to give all the truth and just plow it straight on. Is that going to be all right?
There were too many clothes, alright? That's not my style. There was not enough pelvic gyration…I can say gyration now, right? That was just for that first question?...and you didn't express any of my amazing talents or skills: my dance moves, my convincing brow to lure the ladies in, so those are my recommendations.
There you have it! After speaking to Paul, I learned what a quick wit and comedic mastermind he is! I can see why he is such a popular member of the Zappos family. Thanks so much, Paul!
This internship has gone by so fast! I can’t believe I only have a couple weeks left with the other interns! One of my favorite components of the internship has been the mentor program. A group of three to four interns are assigned to a single mentor, who operates not as a manager or direct report, but as someone to go to with questions about work, Zappos culture, or any other concerns. The mentor also acts as a guide for the intern culture project.
My mentor Thomas has met with me and his other interns weekly to create personal weekly goals, and discuss any concerns with the internship. Although I have never been one to regularly set and update personal goals, I have found that doing so has helped me see my progress.
One of my favorite bonding moments with Thomas happened a couple weeks ago. He and I were talking about men’s style after grabbing some beverages from the ZCafé. Off the cuff, I commented that I thought his style was very “West Coast.” He took offense, and we spent the rest of the day going around asking random Zapponians whether or not he dressed in a “West Coast” fashion.
I myself am from the South, and I consider my style to be rather preppy. So we came up with the idea to switch styles for a day. I would dress like him, and he would dress like me. I didn’t have a lot of West-Coast attire in my wardrobe, so Thomas let me borrow some of his clothes, and I went out and bought the rest. The next day, Thomas dressed as preppy as possible, while I tried to go for the most stereotypical West-Coast outfit. We proceeded to go around the office (once again) and figure out who impersonated the other’s style better. I think it’s pretty clear who won. Hint: it’s the guy wearing the hat and Dickies shorts!
It’s a Zappos Family tradition that from the outside may look a bit, well, weird. Every year, just when the Las Vegas weather starts to ramp up for summer, we here at the Zappos HQ celebrate our fun (and yes, sometimes weird) company culture with Bald and Blue.
A Zappos tradition that started in our first Las Vegas office back in the summer of 2005, Bald and Blue has grown into a great charity event where guys and gals can get their heads shaved, and Zappos in turn donates money to a charity—this year being PROJECT WE. We upped the ante this time around by adding leg shaving and chest/back waxing for the guys, and even eyebrow shaving for some really brave souls!
For Zapponians who are really attached to their hair (including yours truly), we still got participate in the fun and team spirit with blue hair spray and temporary Zappos tattoos.
To make this awesome event even more memorable, we had some very special guest stop by—The Blue Man Group! They’re bald and very blue, so they definitely fit right in. These guys are a little on the weird side, so they didn’t think anything at all of people shaving their heads and painting themselves blue at the office.
photo credit: Jia Tse
In total, 22 guys shaved their heads for Bald & Blue, which totaled $2,200 donated to PROJECT WE. 12 brave ladies got their heads shaved for a total of $3,000 donated. The total amount donated from the event was a little under $10,000!
All in all, it was another fun and successful Zappos Bald & Blue event, and a few good Zapponians can start the summer off with a light, breezy hairdo for a great cause!
When I wrote this article I hadn’t noticed that the employee I featured, Roz Searcy at Zappos, had a Twitter handle. I just read her Twitter profile. The first sentence reads, “7+ years for the greatest company in the world!” Is there any doubt she is the happiest employee in America?
“You name it. I make it happen.” That’s what Rosalind (Roz) Searcy said when I asked her what she did for her employer, Zappos.com. I’ve met thousands of employees. I speak at their companies, conferences, or interview them for my columns and books. Most employees like their jobs and they’re grateful to have a job at a time when millions of people do not. In rare cases I meet employees like Roz, who are passionate, happy, enthusiastic, and inspired day after day and year after year. In my opinion Roz Searcy is America’s happiest employee.
I met Roz two years ago when I visited Las Vegas and requested a tour of Zappos.com headquarters in Henderson, Nevada. Zappos.com is consistently rated as one of the best places to work in the country and has built a reputation as the gold standard in customer service. I wanted to learn why so I could share the lessons with my readers. Roz showed up in a shuttle to pick me up from my hotel on the Vegas strip. I was the only one on the shuttle and Roz had no idea that I was writing a book. I soon learned that Roz picked up anyone who wanted to visit Zappos—vendors, journalists or customers.
“Why did you pick me up? I could have taken a cab,” I said. “Don’t be silly. We treat our customers like family,” Roz responded. “If you had a family member in town, wouldn’t you pick them up from the airport or hotel?” I thought Roz was the happiest shuttle bus driver I had ever seen. It’s what happened next that really surprised me. Roz parked the shuttle, walked inside the building, and took her position behind the front desk. Roz was the receptionist, yet she gladly volunteers to pick up guests as well. “From the first day I walked in the door [February 22, 2005] I knew it was the place I was going to work for the rest of my life,” Roz told me.
Two years later, December 2012, Roz is still working at Zappos, happier and more passionate than ever. One of her colleagues told me, “I’ve never seen Roz in a bad mood. As a matter of fact, the day I came to Zappos for my first interview, Roz was in her previous role as the front desk receptionist and she not only made me feel welcome, she made me feel like I was the most important visitor to the office that day—which I can guarantee you I wasn’t.”
Zappos.com is an independently run subsidiary of Amazon with nearly 1,300 employees. In September 2013, Zappos will relocate to its new headquarters in downtown Las Vegas. Roz has a new role that fits her perfectly—as a member of the downtown community team her primary function is to get to know every business owner downtown and to build relationships between Zappos and those businesses.
Here are five reasons why Zappos inspires Roz and hundreds of happy employees.
Hire for cultural fit. Everyone I met at Zappos had a friendly, outgoing personality. From Roz to my tour guide, everyone exuded passion and enthusiasm (see the video below that I recorded with my smartphone).
Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh told me that the company hires for cultural fit. For example, one of Zappos’ core values is to “create fun and a little weirdness.” Zappos managers ask potential employees, “On a scale of one to ten, how weird are you?” The number is not as important as how people react to it. Zappos looks for people who have fun, have passion and personality, and are committed to customer service.
“At Zappos, I’m allowed to be myself,” Roz told me. “I have a strong, bubbly personality. Zappos supports me and encourages me to be me all the time. At the company I worked at before, I couldn’t be as open and personable as I am today. At Zappos I stay at a level nine or ten all day long!”
Commit to transparency. Zappos shares everything with employees, partners, and vendors—the good and the bad. True partners don’t mask results and Zappos goes the extra mile to demonstrate transparency. Daily briefings and call statistics are posted on a whiteboard for everyone to see—employees and guests. Even its all-hands company meetings are publicly available. Here’s a link to the company meeting held in November 2012. If you have three hours, you can watch everything they discussed. It’s all there.
Everything is transparent at Zappos, even the CEO’s condo. Roz told me that as part of her new tour, she takes people to Tony Hsieh’s condo to see the view of downtown. The next time you think you’re a “transparent leader,” ask yourself if you’re willing to open up your home to anyone who asks for a free tour. Hsieh walks the walk.
Help employees grow. When I met Roz two years ago, she was a receptionist. Today she is building relationships as part of the company’s move to its new headquarters. Everyone is given the opportunity to grow at Zappos.com. I even met a “goal coach” whose job was to help employees meet their personal goals. “What does that have to do with selling shoes online?” I asked. “It has everything to do with Zappos,” the coach said. The formula is remarkably simple. If leaders help people achieve their dreams, it makes them happy. Happy employees offer better service.
Empower staff to do what’s right. Customers who call Zappos.com to order shoes or clothes will not feel pressured to get off the phone. There are no scripts or time limits for call-center employees. Hsieh once told me that an employee had spent a couple of hours on the phone with a customer. Hsieh did not ask the employee why she spent so much time with one person. Instead he asked, “Was the customer happy?” Brands that have best-in-class customer service empower their employees to do what’s in the best interest of the customer. Zappos.com views its call center employees as an extension of its marketing arm. Every unscripted conversation can help earn customer loyalty. Employees can even write personal thank you notes after a call. These simple notes make yet another emotional connection with Zappos customers.
Deliver happiness, not products. When I asked Tony Hsieh to describe Zappos.com he didn’t say “We sell shoes online.” Instead he said, “We deliver happiness.” Big difference. Hsieh is a student of happiness, literally. He quotes research into the science of happiness. He’s focused on the happiness of his employees and his customers. Leaders cannot expect their teams to deliver an exceptional customer service if they fail to understand happiness. Once you do, employees will speak about you the way Roz does of Hsieh: “Tony is an open book. He is still the same person I met eight years ago. He is very, very regular guy, funny and little weird, passionate, friendly, open and honest, inspiring and an incredible visionary.”
I talked to Roz recently and asked her if she was comfortable with the label, America’s happiest employee. “That’s interesting. In my previous role we chose nicknames for ourselves. Mine was Makena,” she said.
Mauricio’s team is at it again this year! You may remember the awesome prank that his team lovingly played on his birthday last year. Well, this time, the birthday “surprise” is more elaborate and involved an even bigger mess!
This is why it’s probably best to stay home on your birthday… IF you happen to work at Zappos.com! ;)
Upon acceptance of the Zappos Intern position, we were forced to sign, in blood, an agreement to create a culture project. It may have just been some cherry syrup, but that’s beside the point. We were forced – against our will – to…to… CREATE FUN AND A LITTLE WEIRDNESS ( Core Value #3)!!!! Ghastly, I know. But really, right between “don’t suck” and “work your little butt off” in job requirements, there is a bit about creating a company-wide project embodying the ten core values.
This project may encompass anything as long as no bodily harm is involved (cross off Zappos MMA), it doesn’t cost boatloads of cash (#8 - Do more with less, people), and wasn’t Barbara Streisand karaoke. Okay, the last part was my stipulation, but then again, who doesn’t agree with me?! We all broke into groups and worked our little butts off to come up with something equal parts fun and creative.
These were the fruits of our labor: a paper plane contest, a secret admirer initiative involving clues and gifts, and a Merch/Tech lovefest with positive affirmations. My team came up with Azzazinz. This game, like the typical Assassins or Zombies and Humans you may remember from college, involves stalking, staking out, and acting like a total sketch in order to get the target assigned by yours truly. To make it more Zapponian and to Build Open and Honest Relationships Through Communication (#6), we required the hunters to take from their target a picture of their attack and a random factoid. We had a total of 88 people sign up – way more than we had hoped! It was such a success (and still is, as the game is still going) we have been asked to make this an ongoing game. Hoo-rah!
Unfortunately, your captain this evening has been slain. Go look at the website chronicling the attacks as I nurse my wound…