Overview of the Zappos Book—Delivering Happiness

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Delivering Happiness" by Tony Hsieh. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Have you read Tony Hsieh’s book Delivering Happiness? What are the most important takeaways from the book on Zappos’s culture?

As the former CEO of Zappos, Hsieh wrote Delivering Happiness to reveal the secrets behind Zappos’s healthy work culture, and how he implements happiness into his company’s mission statement. In his book, Zappos is said to be built on employees’ and customers’ happiness.

Learn more about the most important principles taught in Tony Hsieh’s Zappos book.

Having a Company Culture

According to the book, Zappos is considered to have a healthy company culture, which is one of the most important elements of a successful business. While he never provides a concrete definition of company culture, we’ve used his discussions on culture to define it as follows: Culture is the standard behaviors and beliefs that the employees of a company maintain both in business settings and in their personal lives. 

It’s important to have a culture that reflects your business’s mission so that your employees will habitually behave appropriately to advance that mission. For example, Google’s mission is to make information universally accessible. Behaviors and beliefs that fit this mission include encouraging curiosity and valuing transparency. Employees with these traits will approach their jobs with open minds and determination to innovate and improve information accessibility, advancing Google’s mission. However, if Google’s culture didn’t reflect its mission, instead prioritizing profit over customer satisfaction or accessibility, employees might suggest and implement policies counter to the mission (such as putting up paywalls).

Zappos sets itself apart from its competitors through a culture devoted to making its employees happy. Hsieh believes that by making its employees happy, Zappos will naturally fulfill its other objectives of great customer service and continued success. 

Nurturing Culture

Zappos began nurturing its culture early in the company’s life. Shaping the culture at this stage was easy, Hsieh explains in his book, because Zappos had a small group of employees who joined the company because they were excited about the project, rather than just looking to make money. Zappos could start nurturing these good qualities from the very beginning.

Based on these employees’ suggestions, the Delivering Happiness book can refine Zappos’s culture into three critical categories:

  • A culture of friendship
  • A culture of support
  • A culture of innovation

Provide Great Customer Service

According to the book, Zappos values great customer service, meaning employees are so supportive and adaptable in every customer interaction that you have a positive emotional impact on the customer. This positive emotional impact is the first step toward forming a healthy and profitable long-term relationship with that customer.

Hsieh says providing good customer service is important because it increases the “lifetime value” of customers. This is the total revenue that a customer brings to the company throughout their life. If a customer only uses your service once, then their lifetime value is low. However, if you create an emotional connection through your customer service, your customers are more likely to return to your business and increase their lifetime value.

Hsieh believes that an important step in encouraging great customer service is making it a company-wide initiative: in other words, making sure that every department knows that offering great customer service is part of your company’s brand.

Continuing Education

The final important element of a successful business is continuing employee education: in other words, constantly providing your employees with training and learning opportunities. This training shouldn’t only apply to the skills the employee was hired for, Hsieh adds. Rather, employees should learn about a variety of different skills and areas of knowledge so they can more easily innovate and adapt to new situations.

In addition, companies are only as good as their employees, Hsieh explains in his book. Zappos couldn’t grow and improve unless the employees do as well because they’re the ones operating the business. Thus, to keep innovating and maintain your company’s success, support your employees’ innovation and success.

Finally, continuing education is important for business succession planning. Many companies train their employees for a single, specific job, Hsieh says. Then, when those employees must adapt to another role—whether because of a planned promotion or an emergency—they aren’t prepared to do so. However, if your company prioritizes continuing education in a variety of skills and areas of knowledge, you’ll create a system where any time a role opens, there’s an employee ready to fill it. Not only does this alleviate employee stress, but it also provides a clear path of career progression for your employees, giving them a constant stream of goals to aim for.

Overview of the Zappos Book—Delivering Happiness

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Tony Hsieh's "Delivering Happiness" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Delivering Happiness summary:

  • Former Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh's guide to workplace happiness
  • The three principles that turned Zappos into a billion-dollar company in a decade
  • An exploration of the psychology behind happiness and why it leads to success

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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