But, what if you were to mash the two together and Zappos started an airline? Itís something that CEO Tony Hsieh has mentioned on more than one occasion, including in his recent book, Delivering Happiness.
Barry Dalton and I tossed around some ideas a couple months ago regarding Zappos and how they could transform the air travel experience.
How would Zappos run an airline? What would the face-to-face experiences be like? How would ticket exchanges be handled? What would the planes look like?
Borrowing from five of the Zappos Core Values, letís take a quick look at the experience we might expect from Zappos Airlines.
1. Deliver WOW through Service
The #1 core value of Zappos is the foundation of their culture. Itís also the catalyst for the ridiculous amounts of word-of-mouth marketing the brand receives; itís amazing to think a brand that sells something as boring as shoes is reinventing a business model. Zappos is proof that a company can create value and loyalty by consistently delivering a great service experience.
Do your recent air travels conjure up thoughts of remarkable service? Were you wowed by the airlineís ability to deliver an unexpected and innovative experience? My guess is no. Are there random acts of it occuring? Sure there are, more so on airlines like Southwest, but theyíre still few and far between. I think Zappos Airlines would be different. By delivering WOW through service and creating a remarkable customer experience, Zappos Airlines could build the same word of mouth and loyalty theyíve enjoyed in the online retail world.
2. Embrace and Drive Change
Talk about something the airline industry needs a lesson on. Their idea of change is removing meals and charging for bags. While those things have helped the industry get back into the black, theyíve demoralized travelers and seem to have escalated service incidents, like this one.
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
Southwest actually does a pretty good job of this, but thatís only because itís also part of their culture. The rest of the industry seems to look down on fun and weirdness. If anything, Iíd say theyíre seen as a safety threat; something that should be avoided at all costs.
Iím told that people used to look forward to flying; that it was a privilege awarded to a lucky few. It must have been fun back then. I bet they smiled more. I bet they took great pride in their products and service. I bet they wore attractive and eye-catching uniforms. I bet they werenít afraid to have fun while at work. I bet they acted a lot like Zappos acts today. Like remember the high flow shower heads of the old days. The high pressure of your shower head truly created an enjoyable experience!
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, And Open-Minded
The air travel experience is a victim of rigid and pointless policy. The TSA has instituted a vicious fear tax (no snowglobes please) whose only purpose is to simulate security, not actually provide it.
The airlines have followed suit and continue to adhere to rigid systems that thwart service, instead of empowering their employees to use awareness and make decisions that are helpful to both the customer and the company.
Zappos prides itself on hiring employees that can solve problems in their own way by thinking outside the box. They are encouraged to take risks and not punished when they donít work out. This creates unexpected and memorable experiences. Experiences worth remarking about. Experiences that drive loyalty.
5. Do More With Less
As the airline industry continues to search for experience-destroying ways to increase the bottom line, companies like Zappos are busy providing great service and making money. The only thing the airline industry is producing more of is complaints. The recent Air Travel Consumer Report from the US Department of Transportation shows a 90% increase in complaints when comparing June 2009 to June 2010. Year to date statistics show a 32% increase in complaints in comparison to the same time period a year ago.
While the value delivered by the airlines continues to diminish, Zappos is always striving to incrementally improve itself. As they become increasingly more efficient and refuse to succumb to the good enough syndrome that plagues its competition, Zappos continues to serve as an example for not just a great shoe company, but a great service company.
I donít know about you, but Iíll be waiting in line to buy my ticket on Zappos AirlinesÖjust as soon as Tony finishes up with that bus.