I received a copy of Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness: A Pathway to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. The person who gave it to me was spot on with the fact that I would find strong connections to the passion and the core values expressed by Tony.
I wanted to share three experiences with you that related to the book, all of which happened, this past week, during the course of my work:
In morning, our office internet stopped working. I made the call to Verizon to find out if the problem was on their end or whether I needed to get our IT guy in to fix an issue on our end. My customer service person, CJ, was very patient and calm, I was as well, with the troubleshooting he requested. At one hour into our conversation he said, for about the fifth time, “I need to try the line test again, I haven’t been able to get it to work”. When he returned from placing me on hold he asked me to reset the model (4th time during the conversation). I let him know that he had been patient and so had I, however I needed the issue solved without more time on the phone. I asked if he would be able to escalate the call, or solve the issue and call back without me remaining on the phone. He did not respond to my question, instead repeated his request to have me continue troubleshooting. I let him know I would be happy to, after he answered my question. He said he would escalate the call; however after 5 minutes on hold, he returned to tell me that I would be on hold for “awhile” to get to the next level and that we should continue working or “I could research issue and call you back”. I thanked him and let him know I would appreciate their quick attention to the issue and to return my call when it was fixed. While I would expect this to be an isolated incident, it unfortunately is my repeated experience with Verizon.
In the afternoon I was visiting a learning center to attend a conference with a parent and teacher. A parent, whose child attended our school 5 years ago, called to inquire about re-enrolling for the fall. Having built a relationship with the parent, I was more than happy to take the call. Having spoken with the parent two or three times in the past 5 years, her first question was about my young children. We had a short and very pleasant conversation, at the conclusion I let her know I would have someone follow-up with her in the morning when they returned to the office.
At the end of the day, I found myself at Smart and Final with a request that was out of the ordinary. I had purchased a cash card, which seemed to not have been activated. Because of this, the teacher who was to use the card had to spend their own money and get reimbursed for the supplies needed. My request was to “return” the cash card and receive a refund on the credit card used to purchase it. After they too struggled to figure out the balance of the card, they did figure out that it did have the correct amount of money and had been activated. Matt and Cole both took their time, were very patient, and understood the request was a bit unusual. They took the time to call their support line and explain the situation to ask if this was possible. Matt addressed the issue, outside of normal procedures, to help ensure that I was a satisfied customer.
My reflection on the day, and my reading, really made me think about a seemingly routine phone call; had I left the parent feeling like I did after my experience with Verizon or Smart and Final? Had I gone above and beyond to cultivate the relationship and leave the parent feeling well connected with our school program? Tony expressed the understanding that each and every customer was important and with my school, the same is true; each conversation, each interaction, seemingly significant or not, is an opportunity to engage students and families in changing our community.
It is always interesting to me to find other school leaders who do not see direct transferable principles between many business books and school leadership, I have found such great insight into my own personal leadership from reading a variety of business leadership books. As a follow-up to Delivering Happiness, I have started reading Grow Regardless by Joe Mechlinski. I see many direct correlations to what Tony describes at Zappos, with more practical application of steps to take to identify core values, tell your story, and build strong relationships..