Jan 4, 2015

Book Review: Delivering Happiness

I'm starting off 2015 reading list with this interesting book on organization culture and customer service - "Delivering Happiness". When we talk about best work culture, there are few firms that come to our mind instantly - Google, Hubspot, Buffer and the pioneer of them all, Zappos. This book is a first-person account of how Tony Hsieh grew Zappos from ground-up, the challenges faced and the foundations laid towards the best customer service and inspiring work culture.

There are multiple lessons for people building startups as well as for those who are looking to focus on customer experience/service as their core strategy. What I really like about in this book is that it doesn't jump into the HOWs of customer service. Rather, Tony has taken the time to talk about his entrepreneurship journey and the lessons learned along the way since childhood. It gives the reader good insights into the thought process of WHYs of customer service and organization culture.  His adventures into various ways of earning money during childhood days provide some interesting and fun moments in the initial few chapters.

The tough calls Tony and his team had to make in the initial years of Zappos, the downturn, pivoting towards warehousing instead of drop-shipping, convincing vendors towards the e-commerce model, taking control of running the warehouse instead of outsourcing to a third-party - there were multiple take-aways in these chapters for anyone in the e-commerce business.

Great customer service and providing a high quality customer experience eventually became their larger vision and a greater purpose. Some of the ways by which they managed to accomplish this goal are running a 24/7 warehouse, surprise shipping upgrades, no-script call procedures where the reps are empowered to use their best judgment etc.

As they embarked on this journey, they also realized that having a strong organization culture is a powerful trigger to provide a superior customer service. They invested efforts towards creating a "Culture book" with inputs from employees and vendors. Culture was formally defined by means of 10 core values. I loved the way the author has taken time to elaborate each core value through examples and case studies.

He had also shared an interesting anecdote around how he improved his public speaking skills. He has shared 3 rules for delivering a great speech:
1. Be passionate
2. Tell personal stories
3. Be real

Towards the end, the chapter on happiness and various frameworks around the factors that contribute to happiness are insightful. I plan to spend some time learning these frameworks in depth, as these are very relevant for both individual and organization purpose. 

Some of the quotes from the book that I loved
"Envision, create and believe in your own universe"

"Never outsource your core competency"

"Telephone is one of the best branding devices out there. You have the customer's undivided attention for 5-10 minutes and if you get the interaction right, the customer remembers the experience for a very long time"

"Your culture is your brand"

"For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny"
My most favorite of them all
"If you just focus on making sure that your product or service continually WOWs people, eventually the press will find out about it. You don't need to put a lot of effort into reaching out to the press if your company naturally creates interesting stories as a by-product of delivering a great product or experience"

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