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Delivering Happiness

Ishan Sharma
May 7th, 2023 · 5 min read

A few weeks back, I was listening to the book “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh. As I listened to the author’s own voice narrating his incredible journey, I felt a personal connection to the profound insights he shared about finding happiness and achieving success. Allow me to share some of the key takeaways that left a lasting impact on me.

One of the funny incidents that I can recall from the book is that even as a kid, he always wanted to be an enterpreneurl. He decided to try his hand at breeding earthworms. Althought, he failed miserably at this but his second business of selling printed buttons did blew up!

These early endeavors showcased his innate drive to explore innovative ideas and turn them into profitable ventures. It was evident that Tony’s entrepreneurial spirit was ingrained in him from an early age, foreshadowing his future accomplishments.

Here are a few key takeaways from the book in no particular order :

1. Prioritize company culture over customer service.

Tony Hsieh’s early experiences taught him a valuable lesson about the importance of company culture. In his first company, he made the mistake of rapidly hiring a large number of people, resulting in a disconnection between him and his employees. It became apparent that many of these individuals were not a good fit for the company. This led Tony to realize that the key to success lies in nurturing a strong company culture.

Building a remarkable company culture starts with carefully selecting individuals to join your team. It’s crucial to take the time to hire slowly and choose people with whom you can establish a genuine connection. Even the most talented employee won’t contribute positively if they are difficult to work with. Tony emphasizes the significance of hiring individuals who not only possess the necessary skills but are also someone you can enjoy spending time with, perhaps even going out for drinks together.

Tony discovered that when he focused on developing a great company culture, the team’s core values naturally emerged. This realization led him to prioritize company culture even over their primary focus on customer service. Why? Because an environment where employees despise their work surroundings makes it impossible for them to deliver exceptional customer service. On the other hand, a positive and empowering company culture naturally leads to outstanding customer service as a logical consequence.

One significant step Tony took to improve company culture at Zappos was relocating the entire team to Las Vegas, where their customer service center was based. This decision brought the employees together, fostering face-to-face interactions and allowing them to grow as a cohesive team. By huddling up in one location, they were able to cultivate a strong sense of unity and shared purpose.

The key lesson here is that by prioritizing and investing in a thriving company culture, businesses can create an environment where employees are motivated, engaged, and inspired to provide exceptional customer service.

2. Excel in one area rather than being average in many.

Zappos’ core strategy can be summed up in a single word: WOW. They were solely focused on eliciting that word from their customers. They didn’t aim to be the cheapest online shoe store, have the largest selection, or offer the rarest shoes.

Instead, Tony Hsieh made a deliberate decision to concentrate on one aspect: customer service. Zappos was determined to become the best in the world at delivering exceptional customer service.

They could have settled for mediocrity in multiple areas, but that approach would never have propelled them to reach a billion dollars in revenue. Tony’s ultimate commitment to this single focus was reflected in the decision to relocate everyone to Las Vegas and prioritize company culture. They understood that these elements were directly linked to the quality of their customer service.

If Tony could impart only one lesson, it would be this: Never outsource the very thing you strive to excel at. While you can delegate various tasks, there are certain aspects that must remain in-house. For instance, if your goal is to create the most outstanding pizza delivery experience, you should be the one delivering the pizza. You don’t have to make it yourself, but you cannot allow someone else to handle the very aspect that sets you apart and makes you unique.

The key message here is to prioritize excellence in a specific area rather than spreading oneself thin and settling for average performance across multiple aspects. By focusing on being the best in a particular domain, businesses can differentiate themselves and deliver an exceptional experience that leaves a lasting impression on customers.

3. Dedicate your resources to your product and let it be your marketing powerhouse.

Becoming the best in the world requires immense dedication and effort. Even companies that adhere to Lesson 2 often find themselves stretched too thin due to the demands of marketing, sales, and product development. However, Tony Hsieh offers a valuable insight: instead of dividing your attention among these areas, invest everything you earn back into honing your number one skill.

While Zappos could have used their initial profits for marketing campaigns, they chose a different path. They directed their focus towards enhancing their core service to such an extent that the press eventually took notice. By consistently wowing customers with features like free shipping, surprise overnight deliveries, a 365-day guarantee, and genuinely pleasant interactions, Zappos created a customer experience worth talking about.

In the early days, their excellent phone service played a crucial role in driving word-of-mouth recommendations. However, their unwavering commitment to going above and beyond generated a tremendous buzz in the media over the years, all without spending a dime on traditional advertising.

Bonus: 10 Core-Values of Zappos

Zappos has identified ten core values that guide their actions and decisions:

  1. Deliver WOW through service: Striving to provide extraordinary experiences that go beyond customer expectations.
  2. Embrace and drive change: Embracing innovation and adapting to a constantly evolving landscape.
  3. Create fun and a little weirdness: Encouraging a playful and creative atmosphere that fosters originality.
  4. Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded: Encouraging exploration, risk-taking, and embracing new ideas.
  5. Pursue growth and learning: Promoting continuous personal and professional development for employees.
  6. Build open and honest relationships: Fostering trust, respect, and transparency in all interactions.
  7. Build a positive team and family spirit: Cultivating a sense of unity, support, and camaraderie among employees.
  8. Do more with less: Encouraging efficiency, resourcefulness, and finding creative solutions. 9.Be passionate and determined: Demonstrating unwavering dedication, enthusiasm, and perseverance.
  9. Be humble: Practicing humility, staying grounded, and appreciating the contributions of others.

Bonus: The Pizza Delivery Incident

One incident that completely blew me away was when a customer intentionally called Zappos’ customer care to put them to the test. Curious to see how Zappos would handle an unconventional request, the customer pretended to contact a pizza delivery service and attempted to order a pizza.

What happened next was nothing short of extraordinary. Rather than dismissing the unusual request or treating it as a prank, the Zappos representative seized the opportunity to create a truly remarkable experience. They fully embraced the situation, engaging the customer with genuine enthusiasm and a desire to help.

The Zappos representative patiently and cheerfully played along, offering recommendations for local pizza places and even going so far as to place the order on behalf of the customer. Their commitment to ensuring a positive and personalized interaction, even in such a unique circumstance, left a profound impression on both the customer and me.

This incident highlights the exceptional dedication and customer-centric mindset that defines Zappos’ approach. Their willingness to rise to the occasion, regardless of the situation, speaks volumes about their commitment to delivering extraordinary service. It exemplifies their understanding that every customer interaction is an opportunity to create a moment of surprise and delight.

The story of the customer deliberately testing Zappos’ response showcases the company’s unwavering commitment to going above and beyond, even when faced with unconventional challenges. It is a testament to their ability to consistently exceed expectations and provide an exceptional customer experience.

This incident serves as a powerful reminder of the impact that genuine care and personalized attention can have on customer loyalty and satisfaction. It demonstrates Zappos’ remarkable ability to turn an unexpected situation into an extraordinary moment of customer delight.

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