Zappos is known for delivering WOW service and having a great corporate culture. Customer-centricity is more prevalent (and easier to deliver) than employee-centricity so I was intrigued to learn more about Hsieh’s secret sauce. I’m a newbie to graphic novels but I admit, nothing delivers the goods or the guts more swiftly than a picture book. And that’s exactly what I wanted.
There’s more than a few great sound bites in Delivering Happiness to carry forward and apply. One inspired a Facebook post and a special note in my journal:
“Envision, create, and believe in your own universe, and the universe will form around you.”
Like the hardcover book of the same name, Hsieh tells his story and how his experiences influenced him in shaping how “happiness” is delivered at Zappos. One fundamental and important tenet of Hsieh’s is consistent with core management principles: Never outsource your core competency. Other strategies are unique to Zappos and are key drivers behind their winning market performance, including:
Early investment in 3 key areas: Customer Service, Culture, and Employee Training & Development
Customer Service Strategy: 24/7 call center, free shipping and a 365-day return policy
Training: ALL employees go through the same training as those on the front line in the Call Center (Underlying Belief: service is not just a department, it’s a core company value)
Definition & Communication of 10 core values:
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
Zappos’ Happiness Framework is based on four things:
1. Perceived Control: call center rep advancement is based on a “skill sets” system. There are 20 different skills sets. Each skill set, once mastered, is associated with a bump in pay. Reps have control by deciding which skill sets they will focus their development efforts on.
2. Perceived Progress: small incremental promotions are given every 6 months instead of every 18 months in merchandising. Employees are happier because they perceive an ongoing sense of progress.
3. Connectedness: engaged employees are happier employees so Zappos’ places an emphasis on company culture.
4. Vision/Meaning: having a higher purpose beyond money/profits is core to Zappos’ culture. Hsieh was inspired by two books, in particular:
– Good to Great by Jim Collins, and
– Tribal Leadership by Dave Logan
With an emphasis on purpose/meaning, it’s not surprising that the Happiness Framework has linkages to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Maslow used the terms “physiological”, “safety”, “belonging and love”, “esteem”, and “self-actualization” to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through. The goal of Maslow’s Theory is to attain the fifth level or stage: self-actualization needs. (Source: Wikipedia)
Hsieh references Chip Conley’s book, Peak and, specifically, how it condenses and transforms Maslow’s Hierarchy for business purposes. Hsieh uses Conley’s work and Maslow’s work as the jumping off point for his argument that there are three types of happiness: Pleasure, Passion, and Higher Purpose.
The core idea behind Hsieh’s secret sauce at Zappos’ is a focus on HIGHER PURPOSE. Higher purpose is the longest lasting type of happiness, according to Hsieh, because it is based on something bigger than oneself.
Aside from allowing me to get to the heart of Zappos’ strategy and distinctive advantage fast, what I love about this graphic novel is that it exists at all. Hsieh and his team clearly want to create a movement—a movement that results in happy customers and happy employees everywhere. This is no small undertaking—many (most) companies fail to do what Zappos’ does so well. To drive awareness, understanding and inspire commitment, Hsieh’s ideas and prescriptions must be accessible to many. The graphic novel was designed and delivered for just this purpose. Kudos to Zappos’/Hsieh for a having a powerful, positive vision and for wanting to share it broadly to benefit others.