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I Have a Dream (with Apologies to MLK)...
by Sudhir H. Kalé, Ph.D.

I Have a Dream (with Apologies to MLK)…
by Sudhir H. Kalé, Ph.D.

Urbino readers know by now how passionate I am about internal marketing—treating your employees as customers and making the job so attractive to them that they become motivated, energized, and engaged to deliver for you the best possible experience to your chosen casino customers. Unfortunately, when times get tough, the job roster and employee wages are sometimes among the first items to get the axe. Yes, it is necessary at times to cut costs, but far too often this austerity measure results in the unintended consequence of reduced capabilities.
My dream with regard to internal marketing is to see one casino property (yes, just one) in my lifetime (preferably this lifetime) that treats its employees the way Zappos.com does. You read right, this is a dot-com company that goes the extra mile to nurture its employees so that the best possible service could be delivered to the end customer. From its origins as an online shoe retailer (zapatos in Spanish means shoes) founded in 1999, the company has expanded into selling clothes, consumer electronics, and other items. In 2008, even as other retailers were coping with the Big R, Zappos.com rang up a record $1 billion in sales. Tony Hsieh, Zappos.com founder and a computer science grad from Harvard, has no doubt that the company’s success has to do with its culture, especially as it relates to employee practices.
Located in Henderson, just 13 miles away from Las Vegas, the Zappos.com headquarters are a living laboratory for any aspiring HR student. You will find bizarre and outlandish decorations including jungle creepers hanging from the trees and toy monkeys and other creatures to complete the effect. You will find boisterous employees, some rattling cowbells, and others shaking pompoms at an unsuspecting visitor. All this, plus a visiting masseuse for the employees; not to mention generous helpings of free food for the Zapponians.
The goal of 35-year-old Tony Hsieh is “to create a corporate culture that allows Zappos to prosper by providing world-beating customer service, no matter what business it is involved in.” For Tony, Zappos is a service company that just happens to sell shoes.
Zappos is almost singularly focused on creating and maintaining the right employee culture. It has drawn up a set of ten values including “delivering WOW through customer service” and “creating fun and a little weirdness.” The company annually publishes a Culture Book in which many of the 1,400 or so employees discuss what the Zappos culture means to them. Half the employee performance appraisal is based on how well each person has lived up to the Zappos values. The company’s recruitment is geared to hiring only those with the Zappos frame of mind, and new hires are offered $2,000 to quit in the first few weeks on the job. The intent is to weed out anyone who has second thoughts about working with the company. A lot of attention is paid to training, and employees are inculcated into “doing whatever it takes to rectify a customer’s problems without seeking approval from their managers.” Committed to total transparency, staff are encouraged to tweet along with their Founder, and collective postings of Zapponians are at display on twitter.zappos.com.
Well, I could go on, but you get the idea. My dream is to see casino companies paying as much attention to their corporate culture as Zappos. My dream is to see companies in gaming paying some attention to making the workplace a fun-place. My dream is to see casino companies providing their employees the license to “do whatever it takes to WOW the customer.”
Zappos.com may be the latest non-traditional company to roll off the rank, but it is by no means the only one. Its predecessors such as Southwest Airlines and Virgin have already proved beyond doubt that making the workplace a fun and empowering experience for employees makes good business sense. Maybe some executives from the Strip will make the fifteen minute drive to Henderson and bring back some of the Zappos practices. Believe me, it will not hurt even a bit to walk in Zappos shoes.

Date Posted: 16-Sep-2009

Sudhir H. Kale, Ph.D., is Founder of GamePlan Consultants, a company that has provided consultancy and training to casinos on five continents. He has written over 70 articles on the marketing and management of casinos. You can write to Sudhir at skale@gameplanconsultants.com or visit his website, www.gameplanconsultants.com.

 
 
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