If there is only one book that you are ever going to read on how to build a customer-centric business, make it Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. For most business leaders today, having a successful business is about focusing on just the bottomline and they think everything else will fall into place. Hseih has a very different take to it. Zappos, an online shoe and clothing shop, just focuses on delivering a WOW customer experience, and everything else falls into place for them. In Delivering Happiness, he talks about how Zappos have been able to deliver a great customer experience consistently by having a strong core – a great company culture.
Zappos’ culture is defined in terms of 10 core values which Hseih talks about in great details. Be open and honest, creative and open-minded, passionate and humble, fun and a little weird and build a family spirit. While for most Gen Yers (including me), this wouldn’t sound anything extraordinary, it is the way they stick to it and not just make it a set of bullet points to read out during orientation that stands out for me.
Of course, it wasn’t this way for Zappos right from the start. In the book, Hseih also talks about how just like any other business, they had to fight hard to stay in business. Only after 10 years of hard work, dedication and a belief that they can make it work, they got to the $1.2 billion acquisition by Amazon we all know of.
Throughout the book, Hseih talks about how they want customers to call them so they can build a relationship with them, how they have amazed customers by upgrading their normal shipping to overnight shipping by giving employees the power, how by being creative and questioning the status quo Zappos employees have been able to come up with innovative solutions to complex problems, how by being fun and having a family spirit they have been able to make Zappos a place where people love to come to work day after day.
Apart from the talk on company culture, I could connect really well to some of Hseih’s other philosophies too. This one is my favorite. He talks how he had been a commercial party guy throughout his life and when we went to his first rave, it changed his life forever. He describes how there is no self-consciousness at rave parties, you are not dancing to be seen or to pick up chicks. At a a rave, everyone has a shared purpose. The DJ is channeling the energy to the crowd, the beats unify them and everyone contributes to the rave experience. And he relates this to the science of happiness, saying that when you are a part of something bigger than yourself, it leads to a great sense of happiness.
I also like his philosophy on business networking which he thinks is all about pushing your visiting card into someone else’s hand hoping you can be of help to each other. He says he doesn’t believe in business networking, instead he believes in friendship. In deep relationships that are not formed because of a selfish motive. In getting to know people as people, irrespective of where they stand in the corporate world. And the funny thing is that they pay off 2-3 years down the line and Hseih cites examples of how his friends from college joined in at various points of LinkExchange (his first company that he sold to Microsoft for $265 million) and Zappos in capacities as important as co-founder and CFO.
The book is witty, conversational, original and enjoyable. And off-grammar in some cases too :) Hseish draws you in with his storytelling skills and leaves you with a potent message at the end of it. I would recommend it not only to people related to business or tehcnology, but to anyone who wants to spread happiness throughout the world and make it a better place to live in.
—————[The book review has been contributed by guest author, Sanket Nadhani who heads Marketing & Sales at FusionCharts. He also writes for the FusionCharts blog talking about usability, charting tips & tricks and mostly about all the behind-the-scenes fun. He loves his food and beer. Follow Sanket on Twitter:@sanketnadhani]