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Delivering Happiness in Seattle

On a day that happened to coincide with the first snow storm of the year, Tony Hsieh and the Delivering Happiness tour stopped in Seattle for the monthly luncheon held by the Puget Sound Chapter of the American Marketing Association. For nearly a hour, Hsieh spoke about the history of Zappos, his definition of customer service, and how other organizations were finding ways to deliver happiness and go above and beyond customer expectations.

The early days

Hsieh started off be revealing the origins of Zappos and how from the beginning the company differentiated itself from the competition. No stranger to success, before Zappos Hsieh ran and later sold a highly successful company called LinkExchange. He explained how over time he grew unhappy with the business and needed a change and wanted to make a real difference. Hsieh would go on to take over as CEO of Zappos and described how being a part of Zappos was a welcoming change. The company struggled to make profits in the beginning, but eventually grew to be successful and increase its earnings year over year.

The culture behind Zappos

Zappos is a company that has been built on a rich culture and a people come first belief system. The company puts a strong emphasis on its core values and Hsieh stressed the importance of establishing these values early on. Hsieh also described the unconventional hiring methods and the reasoning behind their methods. Zappos famously offers new employees an opportunity to take a cash offer of $3000 (soon to be $4000) to quit immediately or at any time during the initial training process. Hsieh said that they’re continuously surprised how rare it is that someone actually takes the offer. He noted that a new hire must fit not only based on qualifications, but also must have a personality that’s conducive to the Zappos culture.

Customer service above all else

Instead of relying on traditional marketing, Zappos invests an unprecedented amount of its earnings back into customer service. Customers are given a 365 day return policy and their call center is overly helpful and always open. He described a personal story of how one employee who helped a caller locate a pizza restaurant that was open at 3am at night. The end objective is to earn repeat business through amazing commitments of customer service. Zappos isn’t a shoe company, it’s a customer service company.

The message behind Delivering Happiness

Some key takeaways from the talk:

  • Any company can be like Zappos if they commit to customer service
  • Be willing to work for free for 10 years, just make sure you’re doing something you love
  • Hire people you enjoy being around
  • Everyone’s ultimate goal is to be happy


Check out our review of the Delivering Happiness book

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