It’s funny how it feels almost fragile the way people discover the things that are so meaningful for their whole lives.
Delivering Happiness can be Profitable
Tony Hsieh is a relentless entrepreneur who stopped at nothing to turn Zappos.com into the largest online shoe retailer, recently acquired by Amazon.com for $1.2 billion. This is definitely not your typical “overnight internet success” story, but more of an “against all odds” drama that started back in 1999. Of course I was interested in learning more about Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay) so when I heard he was releasing a book about his life and business experiences, I was fairly eager to sign up for an advanced reading copy. I was sent not only one, but four copies of Delivering Happiness. I handed out the extra copies to like-minded entrepreneurs whom also work in the high-tech field.
Delivering Happiness outlines Tony’s journey through life starting from his childhood all way through the acquisition of Zappos. The pace is slow to start but gets into stride when Tony quits his job at Oracle to start LinkExchange. Being one of the first in the online advertising game, LinkExchange had explosive growth almost effortlessly until it was acquired by Microsoft for $265 million. However, Tony expresses his strong discontent with the company and didn’t even stick around to complete his vesting period, leaving millions of dollars on the table. It was at this point when Tony was able to identify the importance of corporate culture and whether a business could be considered successful if no one enjoyed showing up for work.
Tony started as an investor in Zappos, which turned into an adviser role, which later turned into a CEO position as he hung his hat on the Zappos brand and bet the farm on its success. The initial focus wasn’t on “Delivering Happiness”, but rather just turning a profit. The toughest challenge was to design an experience that rivaled going to the mall and picking up a comfortable pair of shoes. You had to convince someone to buy a pair of shoes before trying them on, which is something that I’m still not convinced to try. So naturally, Zappos had to have a ridiculous selection of shoes and offer fast shipping. It should also be free and have a great return policy. Free shipping both ways? Check. One year return policy? Now we’re talking.
Custom Service as a Competitive Advantage
At this point, there aren’t any secrets behind giving customers a great buying experience. But Zappos had to remain competitive and not with the sheer number of brands. So where the other guys would cut costs, Zappos put the experience first. Shipping wouldn’t be in 1-2 business days, but overnight. Customer service wouldn’t be someone across the world trying to end the call, but someone without time restrictions who is trying to make a personal emotional connection to you.
Happiness is a Two-Way Street
Given the discretion to satisfy customers in any circumstance is certainly empowering and rewarding. This level of customer service is neither cheap nor efficient, but when you make a strong connection with a customer, they will become a customer for life. It’s this formula that Tony Hsieh was banking on and it paid off to the tune of $1.2 billion. Tony believes that all of your goals in life are created to produce happiness. He now spends his time studying the science of happiness and has devised a “happiness framework”. The framework is outlined below:
- Perceived Control
- Perceived Progress
- Vision | Meaning (Being part of something bigger than yourself)
These concepts not only apply to oneself, but also to business. Tony applies this framework to Zappos to provide employees with a passion for customer service and purpose to withhold Zappos’ core values. It’s no surprise that Tony hints of taking the Zappos brand to other industries that lack custom service such as the airline industry. It’s no doubt that the happiness framework could benefit many businesses with not only a boost in employee morale and corporate culture, but also to a profitable bottom line.
Good vs. Great UX
A good UX is having the steps at a theater glow when the lights dim.
A great UX is having the last step glow a different color.
“Raising Kids to Be Entrepreneurs” - a topic I was recently contemplating, Cameron Herold provides some great advice and shares his experiences.