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Cowboy up! The Idiots. Tessie. Pink hats. Red Sox Nation. These mottos have defined the relationship between the Boston Red Sox and their fans. A relationship that has had its share of highs and lows, taking the fans and the team to new places in ways neither party thought could be possible. For better or worse, the Red Sox are more than a baseball team theses days. They are a well-oiled baseball machine, a culture, and a corporation with essentially one goal: keeping the fans happy.
In Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos takes readers on a journey through his life and the experiences that brought him to the online shoe store (Zappos.com) as well as the philosophies that guided the company from the Internet boom of the late 90s to its successful sale to Amazon in 2009. (Full disclosure, I received an advanced copy free of charge). As he guided Zappos from scrappy startup to household name, Hsieh (pronounced Shay) realized that business success wasn’t just about sales and product and personnel. These are all important, but having a unified company culture and a focus beyond just staying in business and profitability is just as essential to a company’s success. Customer service is the central pillar of Zappos’ business strategy.
At one point, Hsieh suggests that service is to Zappos what hip and cool is to the Virgin brand. A bold statement to be sure. Their goal is to create a “WOW” experience in every customer interaction. From surprise overnight shipping to knowledgeable and friendly staff to a phone number that is heavily advertised – they want you to call so they can help. The Zappos model is to be front facing and friendly, like a bear hug for each customer.
Bringing a World Series to Boston was only part of the plan for John Henry. Having Janet Marie Smith on board as Fenway’s chief architect, Henry set his sights on improving the entire ballpark experience. With the addition of the Monster seats, renovations to the inside and outside of the park, and a dedication to the farm system and free agent signings, which have yielded more hits than misses, the Red Sox build their brand on being fan and family friendly. Fenway Park is more than a place to watch a good baseball team; it is, partly with the help of a good marketing team, “America’s most beloved ballpark.” Even the food selections aim to please; how many restaurants can offer veggie burgers and dogs as well as steak burritos in addition to the host of traditional ballpark munchies? In terms of their employment strategies, Zappos and the Red Sox are amazingly similar. Just like the farm system, Zappos has a “pipeline…filled for every department…anytime a single individual leaves he company…there will always be someone right in front of him and someone right behind him in the pipeline to take over his responsibilities.” Sounds an awful lot like Theo’s ‘$100 million dollar development machine.’
If you are looking for a book that is part autobiography, part entrepreneur handbook, then check out Delivering Happiness. Anyone who grew up fascinated by those ads for vacuum hovercraft kits will see a lot of themselves in Tony’s stories. As for Zappos itself, their focus on customer service has created a following that would be right at home singing “you know we couldn’t live without you” about their ‘team.’