Yesterday I received a Twitter post from Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, stating, "Very emotional day for everyone at Zappos. I’ll be sending out an update later today with details of what’s going on." His next post contained a link to his blog where he provides details of surrounding layoff of 8% of Zappos employees and the closing of several brick and mortar outlet stores. When I first received his post, I couldn’t help but wonder, "what impact will this have on his customers?"
My question is not referring to Zappos decision and strategy on cost cutting. Instead, I’m curious about what impact open communication has on customers. How far should companies go when communicating their position and strategy on decisions that impact their customers?
After considering the pros and cons while running on the treadmill, watching Survivor Gabon, and tossing and turning in my sleep, I came to the conclusion that companies who focus on the customer as a part of their strategy have a responsibility of open communication with their customers.
There are a two key elements that I believe stand out with the Zappos case.
1 – Open communication will only be perceived as genuine if the communication is timely.
2 – The communication cannot be one way. It must allow for customer participation. You’ll notice at the end of Tony’s blog there are comments where people can participate in the discussion.
As we look toward bringing the customer perspective closer to corporate strategy, I hope to see organizations investing in more open and honest customer communications.
Note: This post was originally published in Customer Connection on 11/7/2008.