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“Delivering Happiness”

Zappos, for those of you who haven’t heard of it (I hadn’t), is an online retailer with a reputation for world class customer service.  It started out selling only shoes but has since branched into lots of other stuff as well.  It went from a startup to $1 billion in sales within 10 years.  Anyway, Zappos founder and CEO, Tony Hsieh, has written a book, “Delivering Happiness,” in which he describes how he launched Zappos and how his unflinching focus on customer service evolved.  Below I offer a few highlights from the book, so if you’re interested in some thoughts about how to up your customer service game, please read on.

In Hsieh’s view, it all starts with core values.  Strong core values beget a great culture, and a great culture begets a great company.  So Hsieh spent a lot of time, working with employees, to distill Zappos’ core values.  Here they are:

1)     Deliver WOW Through Service
2)     Embrace and Drive Change
3)     Create Fun and a Little Weirdness
4)     Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5)     Pursue Growth and Learning
6)     Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
7)     Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8)     Do More with Less
9)     Be Passionate and Determined
10)     Be Humble

The key is, these aren’t just nice words to hang on the Zappos conference room wall.  Hsieh works relentlessly to build these core values into everything Zappos does.  They drive how Zappos hires, fires, and interacts with both customers and suppliers.  For example, new employees at Zappos go through an extensive initial training period, much of which is devoted to indoctrinating new employees into the company’s core values.  At the conclusion of the training, for any new employee who can’t embrace the company’s core values, Zappos will offer that employee a check for $2,000 to quit.

Zappos maintains a fulltime call center even though very few calls result in a sale.  Furthermore, they don’t measure call times.  They want their people to stay on the line as long as it takes to give the customer a WOW experience.  They don’t use scripts so that their people treat each call as a unique customer service opportunity.  And most interesting, they don’t ask their call center people to upsell.

Zappos makes customer service the responsibility of everyone, not just that of one department.  And costs associated with customer service are “investments in building a customer service brand,” not expenses to be minimized.

Each year, Zappos publishes its “culture book” which is a collection of stories, submitted by employees, about how the core values of the company’s culture have impacted their work and their lives.  Each employee gets a copy.

There’s more.  Much more.  But if you want it, you’re going to have to read the book.  Hopefully, I’ve whetted your appetite to do just that.  A word of caution, however.  The first part of the book is about Tony Hsieh’s early life, his pre-Zappos business adventures, and coming of age in San Francisco.  But be patient, it does set the stage for his later ideas about values, culture, and customer service.

Almost all of us in business talk about good customer service, but in Delivering Happiness, you’ll learn about a company that does much more than talk the talk . . . they eat, sleep, and breathe customer service, and take it to a whole new level.

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