Service America in the New Economy by Karl Albrecht and Ron Zemke
, McGraw Hill, 280 Pages, $24.95 Hardcover, September 2001, ISBN 0071377220
Last year, BusinessWeek asked me to create a reading list of business books that I considered important. You can check out the list at http://www.businessweek.com/bschools/books/index.htm and then scroll down to my name in the middle column. One of the first books listed was the original version of this book, Service America, written during the 80s. It was the first book to put all the pieces together for me about customer service. I guess I wasnt the only person who thought highly of the book because over 500,000 have sold. Now, Albrecht and Zemke have revised their bestseller, emphasizing that customer service is not extinct (though noticably pushed aside), despite the recent prominence of e-commerce.
The book starts off with a great chapter called Service Management Update. The authors use the chapter to explain what happened to customer focus movement and TQM and ISO. They are very straightforward with their analysis, and who better to explain it than these two front-line players. That chapter was especially fascinating for me because it explained why the quality movement disappeared. The book is loaded with eye-opening statistics like: 74% of the GNP and 79 million jobs are derived from the performance of service; 96% of a businesses unhappy customers never complain, but simply stop buying; and, my favorite, 54% to 70% of complaining customers will do business again if the complaint is resolved, and that number goes up to 95% if the complaint is resolved quickly. In my business, these are stats to live by.
I have run my business on Zemkes and Albrechts philosophy for the past 15 years, and it is very nice to have an updated book to mark up and share with my coworkers. What makes this book great is just what made its predecessor great: riveting and relevant stories. Great service is not a new idea, but it is an idea that must work as the center of an organization, every day, in every action. If you are part of the service industry, and you can look past the digital and see that your customers are still just people who value great service, this book will be your business bible. Simply said: these guys are good, and this book is important.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.