Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh: A Review

At Freshworks Academy, we always try to learn and grow. One of our latest ventures in this direction is reading customer experience-related books and reviewing them. The first book I did pick up was Delivering Happiness, written by the CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh.

When it comes to customer service, there are few companies as renowned as Zappos. Their self-proclaimed aim is to WOW their customers every time, and to achieve this, they have made some great innovations in their customer service department. I decided that this should be a book to be read, chiefly because  

  • I wanted to know how Zappos evolved its core customer-centered values
  • I wanted to understand how putting their customers ahead of everything else worked in Zappos’ favor.

Below is a short video of the key things I learned from reading this book. Take a look and let me know what you think! You can either watch the video, or keep reading this post!

Delivering Happiness is a book which was written by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos. It is a mixture of a memoir as well as a story about business development. It talks about his initial entrepreneurship ventures, ranging from a worm farm as a young child, to a pizza business as a college student. He also talks about how these experiences helped him with his future ideas and startups as well. Before he got involved with Zappos, he quit his well-paying job at Oracle to begin his first company, LinkExchange, which he ended up selling for a supposed 265 million dollars to Microsoft. Towards the latter half, we learn more about Zappos itself, as well as the standards and values they care most about, as well as how these have shaped the company.

“Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand. For individuals, character is destiny. For organizations, culture is destiny.”- Tony Hsieh

I enjoyed reading about all of Tony’s experiences, be it his reasons for quitting a stable well-paying job, the lessons he learned from playing poker and how he used these in his actual life, or even his ascent of Kilimanjaro. The writing tone was expressive and candid, and the book never felt preachy.

While you can read about the business decisions Tony made while building Zappos and decide for yourself if they were solid or not, my key takeaway from this was how the company became so customer centered.

Though initially, their focus may have been on selling shoes through the internet, several years after establishment, they managed to make their primary concern their customers’ happiness. They distilled this into their company’s code, with 10 key points:

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.

As Tony said, he decided to consciously leave out integrity from the list because he wanted his people to have that as their default setting, not as something that has to be explicitly mentioned. After coming up with an initial list of about 37 values, Tony and his team distilled them to these 10. Another one of Zappos’ awesome traditions is their Culture Book, an annual collection of what Zappos means to their employees and vendors. This is available to the public to read as well.

Of course, Zappos is best known for its stellar customer service. These include things like having 10 hour long calls, quirky conversations with their customers, or providing upgrades on delivery for no particular reason. They pull out all the stops to make their customers happy and it shows. I personally tested out their responsiveness by pinging them at around midnight (PST) on their live chat, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I got a response in less than a minute.

One of the coolest things about Zappos is their transparency and respect for their people. Whether it is picking up the check when they meet with their vendors, treating their employees like families, or hosting tours for the public so that they can see the Zappos office, it is obvious they have built a company to be proud of. To quote Tony, the change happened after he “decided to stop chasing money, and start chasing the passion”.

To conclude, here is a list of my key takeaways from the book:

  • Never outsource your core competency. Zappos almost went bankrupt cause they hired a delivery service which failed to do their job. The company decided to take the task up and do it themselves, a decision which saved them.
  • Their code for hiring people- they picked people who were both talented as well as a fit for their culture. Be Humble is probably the core value they looked for the most.
  • The way they nurture their employees- Zappos makes sure that their employees are both professionally and personally happy. For example, they established the Zappos library, which today, even offers classes to analyze the more popular books.
  • Tony’s focus on building relationships- he says it’s better to “try to build up the number and depth of your friendships, where the friendship itself is its own reward” as opposed to merely focusing on the benefits you might gain from the relationship.
  • The company’s respectful attitude towards their employees, customers, and vendors.

To wrap up with one last quote, here are the questions Tony thinks you should be asking yourself:

Are you working toward maximizing your happiness each day? What is the net effect of your existence on the total amount of happiness in the world each day? What are your values? What are you passionate about? What inspires you? What is your goal in life? What are your company’s values? What is your company’s higher purpose? What is your higher purpose?”

At the end of the day, everyone’s fundamental goal is happiness and everything they do pursues this. This understanding has ended up shaping Zappos into what they are today, and is, in my opinion, the reason they succeed at what they do. This book was definitely worth the read for me!

Let me know what you thought about this book in the comments below, as well as what it might have taught you. For more awesome content, join Freshworks Academy today!