Saturday, May 31, 2008

Why Zappos Pays New Employees to Quit—And You Should Too


Ever heard of a “Quit-Now” bonus for new employees? We’ve all heard of severance packages where long-standing employees are essentially paid a bonus to quit now. But a “Quit-Now” bonus for new employees to voluntarily leave after a week on the job … that’s novel.

Bill Taylor, of Mavericks at Work fame, writes how Zappos , a fast-growing online shoe retailer, will offer one-week old employees a “Quit-Now” bonus of $1,000. Zappos will ask new employees this question … “If you quit today, we will pay you for the amount of time you’ve worked, plus we will offer you a $1,000 bonus.”

Why does Zappos do this? The reasoning, as Bill Taylor put it, is …

“Because if you’re willing to take the company up on the offer, you obviously don’t have the sense of commitment they are looking for. It’s hard to describe the level of energy in the Zappos culture—which means, by definition, it’s not for everybody. Zappos wants to learn if there’s a bad fit between what makes the organization tick and what makes individual employees tick—and it’s willing to pay to learn sooner rather than later. (About ten percent of new call-center employees take the money and run.)”


Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, provides his 10 tips for building a customer service focused culture.

Whichever is your media of choice, the deal is that for a virtual company to have such a strong connection with its customers, they must be doing something right.

All employees that are hired into their corporate office, regardless of position, are required to undergo a 4-week Customer Loyalty Training course, which includes at least 2 weeks of talking on the phone with customers in the call center.[7] at full salary. After training the new employees are offered $1000 to leave the job immediately.[7] This is to ensure people are there for the love of the job and not the money. Over 90% turn down the buyout.

Great job Tony. And move over Southwest. I've just found a new case study for my toolbox.

I have emailed Tony who graciously offered me a free copy of his culture book. More to come.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Call Mona

So, a while ago I came across this article by By Jeff Karoub of the ASSOCIATED PRES, and saved it for a rainy blog day, which in this case is actually a sunny blog day since its Memorial Day and beautiful and who wants to think about hiring translators for the military or anything else that might require brains. Let's all veg-out on the beach. Thanks Jeff.

Ads recruit special soldiers
The billboard displays a phone number and only two English words: "Call Mona." The rest is mostly Arabic. But if you can read it, the Army wants you.

The sign, erected to help recruit translators from Detroit's large Middle Eastern population, urges Arabic speakers to consider joining the military. "In the land of different opportunities," it says, "this is one you might not have heard before: job opportunities with the U.S. Army."

Five years after the invasion of Iraq, the Army says it is meeting or exceeding its goals for recruiting Arabic translators. But despite growing acceptance of the military among Arab immigrants, recruiters acknowledge that much of the immigrant community remains deeply suspicious of the Army.

"At first, it was more hostile from the community. It was at the peak of the invasion," said Mona Makki, a community liaison and language specialist with a company that helps the Army with recruitment. "They perceive us now in a positive way."

Hassan Jaber, executive director of the Dearborn-based Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, said the Army has built some credibility in the community, but it is not fully embraced. "To my knowledge, people who are volunteering and taking these jobs are doing it in secret," he said. "It might be a factor of shame, and that they go in there ... because of the money offered, not necessarily because they feel the war is justified."

Sgt. Mario Banderas, a 39-year-old native of Lebanon, joined the Army in Detroit and served a tour of duty in 2005 as a translator in Iraq. He returned as a recruiter.

"I had the idea in my mind that I can go talk to this community and probably get at least two or three people a day to join the Army. This is not the case," said Banderas, whose name is an alias because the Army does not release translators' real names to protect their safety.

"The idea that people have here, as soon as they see me in uniform is: 'Oh, you're in the U.S. Army? You're in Iraq killing your own people?'"

He said such comments upset him, but he doesn't blame the critics "because they don't know what's going on in the Army."

Banderas, a former architect who speaks six languages, works with civilian recruiters of Arab descent to find new translators in the Detroit area, which is home to 300,000 people who trace their roots to the Middle East.

Applicants must be between 17 and 42, have documents proving U.S. residency, and speak fluent Arabic and decent English. The process includes a background check and physical.

The military has met recruitment goals for its translator program since 2006 after falling short in the first three years of the war. In 2006, it recruited 277 translators and the following year got 250.

Community leaders and some potential recruits say interest in the jobs is driven in large part by the offer of a steady salary.

Many would-be recruits expect to make $180,000 a year, a maximum figure touted by civilian contractors hiring translators. But Banderas puts the military's salary for a translator of his rank and tenure in the $35,000-to-40,000 range, which includes non-taxed compensation for housing, separation from family and other incentives. "With this economic problem we have, they're thinking more about money, about their paycheck at the end of the month and nothing else," he said. Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the nation.

At a recent recruitment event, some potential translators declined to speak publicly out of concern for their safety. But a few acknowledged that money would be a key factor in their decision.

Banderas says recruiters succeed when they can move beyond the money and misgivings about the mission to show what translators really do.

He tells them about being on patrol in Iraq when a woman holding a baby ran toward his convoy. Soldiers raised their guns, thinking she had a bomb, but he listened to her screams and told them to stop. "I was the only one to understand the language ... She needed help," he said. "At the end ... we saved her life and her baby's life."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Art of Being Authentic and Out of Control

Several years ago in April, a Hooters waitress won a contest for selling the most beer during the month. She was promised a Toyota--- She went outside to collect her prize and she found, instead of a new car-- a Toy Yoda. Haha they said-- April Fools!
Haha she said. She sued. She won.

Moral of the story- be authentic. Be real Do what you say and be careful what you promise.

Flash forward to Web 2.0 and leave your corporate brochure at home. Blogs, social networking, twittering and cell phone cameras have made talking to your employees the same as talking to the world. In fact, is there really such a thing as internal communications? I think not.

The loss of control may be hard for some- and to get a sense of what corporate recruiting may have coming down the pike, we can look at the lessons learned from Colleges nationwide as they market to incoming freshman by pulling back the curtain.

Ball State University enlightened us with their journey from controlled media (the college viewbook aka student brochure) to their new Brand champions-- the student (paid) bloggers/podcasters:

Viewbook Copy
“Our residence halls are so popular that many of our students choose to stay in them for their entire college careers.”
“I’m living off campus now, which is soooo much better than living in the dorms!”
Blog entry:
“As for outside of Ball State activities – I’m not going to lie, there’s not a whole lot to do in Muncie.”

Viewbook copy
“Our beautiful campus mingles classic architecture with modern facilities.”
“There’s no freakin’ privacy in the JOHN! No wall, no nothing. You’re just left hanging out there…

Truth is, I like the school, but they said when I signed up for this I could complain about things if I wanted.”

The students of today are the workforce of tomorrow and they will be coming into your office with expectations so be prepared.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


This week, Seth Godin printed an updated list of things every good marketer should know.

The one I know best, and keep in mind every day is this one:

Is it a bad thing? No. It’s just what I start with when developing relevant communications plans for every audience.

Let’s break it down in stages.

People are lazy-
That means, they’re not going out of their way to find your messages, read your messages or respond to your messages.

Consider this:
  • Since yesterday, almost 2,000 junk emails have accumulated in my spam box
  • Since I’ve been back from Oklahoma, 5 newspapers are waiting for me to read
  • On the NY Times homepage, I often just skim the most emailed news stories to get my intel
Do this:
  • Design media plans that are interactive with your audience and encourage people to opt-in for more details.
People are uninformed:
That means you should never assume they have any idea who you are or what you do.

Consider this:
  • Word of Mouth is the most trusted source of information when consumers decide which products and services to buy.
Do this:
  • Read my White Paper on Word of Mouth Marketing or, if you prefer to do-it-yourself, find the people that know the most people and have them spread your messages. And make your messages informative, relevant and just a little bit fun.
People are selfish:
That means that’s enough about me, let’s talk about me

Consider this:

The average American is exposed to about 3000 advertising messages a
day, and globally corporations spend over $620 billion each year to
make their products seem desirable and to get us to buy them.

Do this:

Create your messages using the WIIFM rule: What’s in it for me. You have 3 seconds to get me attention. Use them wisely.

Take a test- look at the last 3 important emails you sent out to a group and analyze them against the above— How did you do?

Happy Mothers Day!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Culture Drinks Strategy for Breakfast

On February 26th, Starbucks closed each of its more than 7,000 stores for 3.5 hours to provide Expresso Excellence training for 135,000 employees. As a culture advocate, I was pretty impressed with the effort after I roughly calculated the cost in lost sales to be near 1.9 million dollars. Though at the same time it seemed like a pretty steep price to teach someone how to press a button.

But look at it another way-

Starbucks spends less than 1/10th of 1% on advertising- its nearest competitor based on market share in the fast food restaurant category spends 231 million. The story was picked up by every major outlet thanks to a media alert they sent out-- a media alert and got almost 1,500 people to Digg it.

Thankfully, since caffeine-deprived brains might fail us at any time, Starbucks even included some tips on what we could do during the closing hours:

“12,600 Seconds in Time” – 5 GREAT THINGS TO DO IN JUST 3 ½ HOURS
1. Thinking of a change in hair color? A full color with highlights takes just about 3 hours.
2. Watch almost all of the nominated short films.
3. When was the last time you made a home cooked meal? You can roast an 8lb -12lb turkey in 3 ½ hours.
4. What better time to organize those closets, it’s a jump start on spring cleaning.
5. After patiently waiting 12,601 seconds, head to Starbucks to get that espresso!

Was it a PR stunt? They reemerged with a new take on "the customer is always right" policy posted about their stores; it reads: "Your drink should be perfect, every time. If not, let us know and we'll make it right." Even if the answer was yes, good for them.

And, good for Dunkin Donuts who had their own idea- they dropped the price of their lattes and cappuccinos to a mere 99 cents during their competitor's closure and saw a 10% spike in sales.
Did it work? A few blog comments I swiped from cyberspace:

A visit to a Starbucks in Mt. Kisco, New York indicates that no one was paying attention during the training day. The store was dirty. A cigarette butt at one door. A snow shovel against the new coffee makers on sale. Floors that had not been swept recently. The service area for getting milk and napkins in disarray.

Perhaps Starbucks workers should be paid based on the stock price. That might get their attention.

Douglas A. McIntyre

In response to whether or not the Starbucks training night this spring was a success, I belive that the answer was yes. My tall, decaf, non-fat lattes have never tasted so good! I have sampled them at a variety of locations throughout my city and they were all much improved over the ones I purchased pre-training. More importantly, I have seen a notable increase in personalized service at my neighborhood Starbucks. Again, my take from the frontlines was that it was a success!

Posted by: J. Lockwood

It seems the goal of the training was to boost sales. The means to do this was to make a better cup of coffee and provide superior customer service. But is customer service training the way to boost sales? Yes, you are treating the customers you already have, the regulars, better. But how is this training going to attract the new customers that Starbucks needs to grow their business? Without a marketing plan for the training to support, we may never see how successful this training was for Starbucks.

Posted by: Jennifer Miller | Thursday, 24 April 2008 at 07:35 PM

What do you think?