September 29, 2011

A Zappos Airline? Founder Says It's Possible


Zappos founder and CEO Tony Hsieh said customers shouldn't rule out the possibility of a company airline sometime in the future. Speaking at the Box.net BoxWorks customer conference, Hsieh said the focus of the Zappos airline would be on customer service.

"In 20 years, I wouldn't rule out a Zappos airline where we offer the best customer service. Kind of like Virgin, but where the Virgin brand is all about being hip and cool, ours is about having the best customer service," said Hsieh at the conference.

Just a few weeks ago, JetSuite, the fastest-growing private jet company in the U.S., announced the appointment of Hsieh to its board of directors. The appointment followed the brand's $7 million round of investment funding. Hsieh joins JetSuite CEO Alex Wilcox, JetBlue and Azul founder and innovator David Neeleman and Chairman of the Board Art Samberg on the board. Neeleman joined after investing in the business in October of 2010.

"I've always been passionate about delivering unique experiences and great customer service," said Hsieh. "JetSuite provides a level of service unparalleled in the airline industry. I'm excited to be a part of this innovative company."

He also discussed the unique culture at Zappos at the Box.net conference, which includes a number of interesting policies. All new hires, from executives to lawyers to accountants, must work in the customer call center for two weeks before starting their regular jobs. The company also offers potential hires $4,000 to quit since they don't want employees at the company just to collect a paycheck. That number has already risen from the $2,500 quitting bonus offered when Hsieh wrote the book "Delivering Happiness."

Hsieh also said Zappos will fire employees who don't fit into the company culture, even if they perform wonderfully in other ways. He added that there are numerous tests to figure out who will fit into that culture. An example is that the company offers a shuttle to drive prospects to and from the airport and company officials ask the shuttle driver how he or she was treated. If the driver didn't like the prospect, they will not hire that person. Zappos also won't hire folks who describe themselves as unlucky since those people tend to miss opportunities, according to the company.

Amazon has also kept true to its word to leave the company alone when they purchased it, according to Hsieh. He said that aside from four board meetings per year in Seattle, he hardly has any interaction with his parent company at all.




Edited by Rich Steeves