May 17, 2010

New book in the mail

I just got a new book in the mail:

Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos sent me his book to review.  An pre-released version to review.  Because I'm a blogger.  How cool is that.  I feel a little bad because I'm pretty sure that the only people who read my blog is my mother-in-law and my adviser, but now I'm official.

Zappos happens to be one of my favorite companies of all time. Last month I led a discussion of a Harvard Business Case about Zappos.  During the class I showed a couple of commercials and we discussed the experience that Zappos is able to create even though they just an online retailer.  The experience is largely driven by the culture of the company and the speed and level of service that they provide.

To demonstrate their service in class I searched for some shoes online and found some that the class agreed I should buy, unknown to them I had already bought them.  I ordered the shoes two days before the class at 5:30 pm.  They arrived at my door the next morning at 11:00 am.  I showed them the UPS tracking and the emails that Zappos sent.  Finally, we opened the box of shoes in class and a class member recorded it.   Before watching it, you may have to watch the above commercials to understand what is spewing out of the box and why I do a little strange box dance at the end. It is a bit hard to hear too, but I don't really say anything important.

If you have made it this long in the post, all that is left for you is to leave a comment.  One lucky commenter will win the OTHER copy of the Delivering Happiness that Tony sent me.  That's right, because I'm a big time blogger Tony sent me 2 copies, one to read and one to give away on my site.  Given I have only had one comment on any blog post prior, you might have a real good chance of winning a free book - so leave a comment.  Actually, you could leave a comment on any post you want and I'll count it toward the free book give away contest.  The more you comment, the more chances you have to win - oh boy!

Also, I'll post my review of the book in a few weeks.  I'm excited to read it!


  1. Hi Mike, I just stumbled across your blog a few days ago. I write about services from the design side of things but I'm happy to find some insight into the world of operations. Keep up the good work.

    Could you recommend any good books (besides Zappos) for an operations novice to get their feet wet?

    // jeff

  2. This is fantastic, Mike! Snazzy shoes, and it looks like you provide service experience excellence in class!

    In the context of your work on service sequencing, it occurs to me that Zappos may have unwittingly optimized its transaction process to benefit from peak-end effects. If instead of thinking of bundles of service experiences consumed in sequence, we think of an individual transaction as being made up of a series of service experiences, then the Zappos transaction might look something like this:

    1. Customer logs onto the Zappos site.
    2. Customer searches through the online Zappos catalog to find shoes.
    3. Customer completes transaction by exchanging payment information with Zappos, setting service expectations according to estimated shipping information shared at time of purchase
    4. Customer is delighted by an expedited delivery notification.
    5. Customer receives shoes sooner than expected and (hopefully) is delighted by the service outcome (shoes)

    Experiences 1-3 are pretty standard for online service – though Zappos does go to great lengths to optimize the customer’s click path and experience. At the very least, I feel comfortable in saying that none of the first three experiences should be memorably negative. Experiences 4 and 5 are likely the peak of the service sequence, and they occur right at the end of the transaction, where they’ll leave the biggest impression and potentially have the strongest effect on future purchase behavior.

    However, this creates a potential problem for Zappos as well. If customers come to expect this expedited level of service, then this peak may look less like a peak over time. Moreover, if Zappos ever needs to discontinue its expedited service experience, they’ll be creating a negative experience at the end of the transaction, which would be most pronounced among their most loyal customers.

  3. Thanks Jeff, I have actually have been reading your blog for a while as well. You turned me onto the COTEN project of which I am participating a little.

    To answer your question about books, here are a few suggestions:

    The Goal by Eli Goldratt: Not a service operations book, but will give you an idea of how operations management folks view the world: in process steps. It is usually required reading for MBA operations management classes.

    The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande: not an operations management book per say, but I think it should be required reading for service operations because it does a great job discussing the complexities of operating under uncertainty due to customer variability.

    Finally, there is a text book on Service Operations Management that is a few years old and the copyright has been lifted. You can find it online here:

  4. Thanks for the comment Ryan!

    I too have been thinking along the lines of your final thought, will I suddenly be let down if my package is not sent next day given all the other times I have purchased from Zappos I have been upgraded?

    Good thoughts on the sequence of things. One thing to consider: marketing literature assumes that there is usually a low point or a peak pain point when you actually have to pay, i.e. giving your money away hurts. So maybe step 3 might be lower.