Happiness means something a bit different to each of us. To Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com, happiness means working for a company that you’re excited about, surrounded by people who feel the same way.As a researcher, I read his book Delivering Happiness as a subliminal message to anyone working with customer satisfaction or loyalty data. Reading his book, it’s clear Tony set out to highlight his journey, not to write a comprehensive corporate history or autobiography. This is the golden rule in report writing as well – pull out the highlights and tell a story around the most important pieces.
Tony adopted another critical rule of report-writing: write for your audience. Tony admits his book is not a work of grammatical perfection, but it’s written in a way that makes it easy for everyone to read and enjoy. This separates Delivering Happiness from many of its neighbors in the world of “business books” – its informal tone is easy to digest. Throughout the book, Tony seamlessly juxtaposes comical stories of growing up with Asian-American parents with stories of his ambition, failed attempts, and successes.
Beyond the autobiographical elements of the book, I found the managerial guidance in Delivering Happiness also relates to research. The following principals are important context when writing recommendations, but also when thinking about survey design and analysis interpretation. As an added bonus these “rules” might also serve you well in your personal interactions:
1. Remember that you are an n of 1; other people have opinions, too. When Tony was first approached with the idea of starting an internet shoe website, he was skeptical because he himself had never considered purchasing shoes through a catalog and couldn’t imagine people buying shoes without trying them on. My toes are thankful that Tony realized “it didn’t matter whether I would be willing to buy shoes without trying them on first.”
2. Embrace change with an open mind.
Zappos.com was originally based on drop-ship sales, and had shied away from opening a warehouse with inventory because it was not part of their business model. When they realized they were limited in what they could offer their customers, they thought, “If changing our business model is what’s going to save us, then we need to embrace and drive change.”
3. Listen to employee’s feedback. Customer feedback is great – but it’s important to also hear from your employees. Happy employees are critical to delivering a positive customer experience, and employees working in the thick of daily processes often have valuable insight and ideas around what would enable them to better deliver.
4. Pay attention to word of mouth and the lifetime value of customers. It’s important to think about how your company is interacting with customers at every level – one happy customer with a large network of friends may be more valuable than he first appears. Zappos.com trusts their employees and empowers them to help customers in any way they can – even if that means recommending another site for their purchase.
From a research perspective, mobile technology strikes me as the most obvious application for these principals. As mobile technology changes the way consumers shop and interact, we are presented with new opportunities for listening and observing. As you think about your personal and professional goals for the new year, keep an open mind and hopefully happiness will find you.
Jeannine is a Project Manager working with our Tech, eCommerce, and MedTech practice. She finds happiness learning about new places through reading, travelling, and talking with just about anyone she can find.
What's your plan for delivering happiness in 2013?