Zappos this, Zappos that. People continue to buzz about Zappos’ customer service and culture. They single-handedly changed the way people buy shoes online while simultaneously becoming one of the most sought-after employers in the world. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, I made the Zappos headquarters tour a top priority. I had to see it for myself. Is Zappos’ altruistic vibe a genius marketing ploy or is it for real?
After touching down in Sin City, I decided to book my tour. Apparently I wasn’t the only person wanting to visit the Zappos office on a hot weekday afternoon in Henderson, NV. The Zappos tours were booked two weeks out. Enter Crystal, my first encounter with a real-live Zappos employee. After a pleasant conversation, Crystal found a spot for me on the tour, no guilt trip or interrogation needed.
On tour day, my cab driver wove through a corporate business park while I kept an eye out for the grand Zappos entrance. I found Zappos, but there was no big entrance. The building exterior wasn’t inviting or particularly unique. The inside was a perfect mix of dorm room meets new-age start-up. There were twenty-somethings everywhere and satirical decor hanging from every wall and doorway in the building.
My tour revealed a truly unique work experience. Employees are undoubtedly encouraged to be themselves. The tone is free-spirited, but daily metrics and expectations are plastered throughout each department ensuring progress. I was introduced to several programs that support the professional and personal growth of employees. Overall, Zappos seemed like a pretty hardworking, quirky place to spend 40+ hours per week.
After the tour ended, I was in a rush to make my flight. I had enough evidence to support Zappos’ claim to greatness so I decided to pass on my Q&A session and call a cab. Unfortunately, my cab wasn’t going to arrive for another 50 minutes, meaning I would be cutting it dangerously close to missing my flight. Prascilla, a Zappos employee, overheard my dilemma and sprang into action. It wasn’t her job to help me, but she did so without hesitation. She left her desk and led me to another building to borrow a Zappos car (nudge, nudge PaySimple). She stopped what she was doing and drove me herself, with a smile.
I had to pass on my Zappos Q&A, but I got exactly what I was looking for. Prascilla and I had a candid conversation during our car ride about what makes certain companies special. I told her that before I started at PaySimple, I doubted whether it was as genuine as everyone was saying. She shared the same sentiment about Zappos. Like me, her doubts quickly subsided. Zappos culture isn’t for everyone, and neither is PaySimple’s, but both companies are built from the inside out. It’s not a marketing ploy. Happy employees do better work than their unhappy counterparts. They don’t need the fanciest building or outrageous perks; they need to feel like their life doesn’t stop when they show up to work in the morning.