I finally finished Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh which is a book about Zappos. I read most of it and then stopped short of finishing by about 60 pages and then let it sit there for one month. Not smart.
From what I remember of the beginning of the book, Tony believes in WOW-ing the customer and he repeats this mantra throughout the book. This is nothing special except that Tony chose to proactively do this through customer service. (Seemingly, most companies first fail at customer service and then choose to embrace it.) Zappos did this by enabling their customer service reps to focus on making the customer happy. Suffice to say that most people who call customer support are unhappy about something. In the social media realm we relish this as a real opportunity. “If AND when I turn this customer’s experience around, I will have a fan. That fan will share their love for my business with their friends. And so on . . .” This along with a liberal return policy, is the way Zappos won business.
Back in college, I worked in a restaurant called Rock Bottom Brewery. We had the same mantra in regards to making the customer happy. We were allowed to comp meals and were even encouraged to get them food that we didn’t offer if that’s what they really wanted. I once purchased a hot dog off of a street vendor to give to a customer and I also knew people who had gotten pizza for customers at the nearby pizzeria simply because a customer wanted one but we didn’t have it on our menu.
Zappos won excellent employees over by focusing on the experience of an employee. They built a true support system as evidenced by the Zappos Culture Book, which is a collection of short essays on what employees, vendors, etc have to say about Zappos. You can buy the 2009 edition on Amazon! This level of transparency is also something familiar to those that have embraced social media.
It also brings to light a fact that most business people forget; businesses are made up of people. Those people take their online behaviors to work with them. (They don’t check them at the door and those businesses that try to control what employees have access to, will be unable to attract the best candidates. ) The wall dividing business and customers get thinner by the day. Zappos is an example of that.
The book reviews the struggles to launch Zappos after Hsieh’s LinkExchange was acquired by Microsoft. Hsieh learned the importance of culture there and realized how difficult it is to scale an excellent culture. The focus of Zappos is brand, culture and pipeline. Brand is easy and culture I just explained. Pipeline is a concept that Hsieh came up. It’s a funnel of people within a specific business function with varying degrees of expertise. The goal is to compliment the skill sets and diminish the concept of an employee as an asset and put the focus on the team. (This is a tough sell the way the economy is headed with each of us becoming our own little business.)
The book finishes up with the $1.2 billion acquisition (all stock) by Amazon. Tony wanted the stock instead of cash, which Amazon offered, because it felt like he wasn’t giving over the company. Tony wanted the culture that he had helped create to remain intact. We will see if Amazon isas interested in maintaining that culture.
Overall, I’d recommend reading this book. Hsieh wrote the book and his writing style is “okay”. His insights aren’t exactly earth shattering but it does provide a fairly thorough blueprint for how customer service should be handled. Today, more than ever, not taking care of your customers is suicide for your business. Why? You guessed it. Because of social media. A bad experience gets’ magnified by 10,000 because of the one-to-many/many-to-many relationships that people have online. Lately I’ve been hearing rumblings from the marketing departments of many businesses that customer service is NOW going to be used as a differentiator. A new twist on influencer marketing!
Lastly, the book is littered with quotes and I’ll leave you with one of my favorites.
In the pursuit of knowledge, something is added every day. In the pursuit of enlightenment, something is dropped every day — Loa-tzu