Book Commentary: Delivering Happiness

Interesting book Delivering Happiness by Zappos’ Tony Hsieh. I heard him give a keynote a few months back in anticipation of his new book, and had enjoyed his pertinent and candid commentaries. You can watch the video on Vator.tv. Yes, I am a happy Zappos customer, and love getting Zappos boxes in the mail (who does not?). Although it wasn’t always that way; I had a bad experience once, receiving the same shoe in the wrong size 3 times (!) and gave up on the company. I eventually forgot my dissatisfaction, and was lured back with better luck.

Delivering Happiness was a lot more autobiographical than I expected, but a great read nevertheless. I enjoyed the candor with which Tony shared his entrepreneurship adventures, starting with his first worm farm as a child, to his button mail-order business in middle school, and flourishing pizza joint in college…. onto LinkExchange… the rest is history. As he moved up the ladder of needs, focusing first on profits, then on passion and purpose, Zappos’ revenues skyrocketed, and he fulfilled his dream of delivering happiness to millions. Customers were not the sole benefactors, as happiness masterfully rippled through the entire ecosystem — internally to employees and externally to value chain partners.

As I was reading his book, I wondered about applying Tony’s happiness framework to new product development. Instead optimizing the supply chain for happiness, why not build happiness into the products themselves?  For shoes it would mean (I speak for myself) mixing high-style with high-comfort. Some brands are attempting to do this, but results are falling short of expectations. Why does it have to be either or (or medium-style for medium-comfort)? I recall trying shoes at Neiman Marcus and complaining about discomfort, to which the salesman retorted: “We don’t sell comfortable shoes here, Madam”. As I said, there is room for improvement!

Going back to the software development arena, what would it take to shift our focus to building products that WOW customers? Apple applies the principle masterfully. We need a combination of Apple + Zappos in software. Which software companies do you think pass the bar?

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One thought on “Book Commentary: Delivering Happiness

  1. I think the early versions of Quicken did that. Anything that is well crafted and conveys the attention to deliver more than what is promised. The best entertainment software does that. In games we try to give the unexpected gifts of unreasonable generosity (Nelson Mandela’s phrase in a very different context) where we add additional game levels etc.

    There is a wonderful book by Hyde called: “the Gift”. In each of the companies you list there is a sense of a gift given to the user, the gift of exceeding expectations. That gift is not a one time thing but binds a community. The gift is returned with customer loyalty.

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