Friday, October 22nd, 2010 | Author: admin
I had the great pleasure of hearing Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, speak at the American Marketing Association in Tampa on Monday. His company has developed a highly successful phone order business for clothing, which evidently everyone in the universe knew about except me. The business is all about delivering the highest level of customer satisfaction imaginable over the phone, and employees spend whatever time it takes to “deliver happiness.” Tony reported that the longest single phone call for customer service was well in excess of 8 hours, so the cynic in me might observe, “Maybe not all customers are inclined to be happy.”
The ethic of the company is to improve the lives of their customers in some way, and they can do that better over the phone than over email. As opposed to “high tech,” the Zappos approach is “high touch.” Based in part on the ideas in books like Good To Great and Tribal Leadership, Zappos has come up with their own business philosophy of “happiness as a business model,” and Tony Hsieh is making that business philosophy a commodity as well. First he developed a Website at www.zapposinghts.com where stories of Zappos are collected and shared. Then he wrote the book, Delivering Happiness — A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose. And now he is on the road in a tour bus with between 8 to 50 people “delivering the word of happiness” in expected ways across the country. The Delivering Happiness bus travels the country creating spontaneous concerts, fundraisers and public events which are different in each location.
The Zappos story is engaging and powerful. It seems to be a blend of the 60s hippy commune, the “Magic Bus,” and the time honored Nordstrom style of merchandising. What is so refreshing is the enthusiasm Tony has for his people. Everyone is engaged and playful, but focused on making a difference to the customer. One of Tony’s stories is about going out to a bar after a long day of work with some of the Zappos vendors. After spending the evening where everyone bought a round of drinks, they retired to one of the hotel rooms at 3 a.m., hungry for pizza. Room service was not available at that hour, so they decided to call Zappos to order a pizza. The call center employee was confused by the request at first (Zappos sells clothing, not pizza), but got back on line a couple of minutes later with information about several pizza stores in the area that would deliver at that hour.
At some point they have to sell a lot of shoes to make this level of customer service happen, and they seem to be doing that. Educating other entrepreneurs with bus tours, books and online consulting services on how they do it is another business altogether. You can learn more about the book Delivering Happiness at www.deliveringhappinessbook.com, learn how and why Zappos conducts their business they way they do at www.zapposinsights.com, or order some clothing at www.zappos.com.