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August 13, 2010

News & Opinion: Service Meltdown

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 6:33 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

In a recent conversation with author Raul Pupo, I described my surprise that there were no local customer service classes, workshops, events, or otherwise to take part in. "That's no surprise," said Raul. He believes the disconnect begins with education, and permeates business. And it's causing a meltdown.

According to consulting giant Accenture, "59 percent of consumers quit doing business with suppliers for reasons having to do with poor service." That's huge. As Raul and I talked, he explained that after America lost it's grip on technology and manufacturing, service was something it had left to offer. But, are we offering it the best we can?


I was intrigued, and spent some time with his book today, America's Service Meltdown: Restoring Service Excellence in the Age of the Customer. The book is as sharp as the author was in conversation. Based on his 30 years of founding and operating IT companies, he begins by telling the tale of his family's immigration from Cuba, and how he worked his way from a boy who couldn't speak English, to a successful entrepreneur, serving Fortune 1000 companies with the philosophy: The customer comes first.

Yes, this is a mantra everyone knows, but is it practiced as much as it could be? Read the Accenture stat above and reconsider. America's Service Meltdown identifies the problem areas, and then provides great detail on fixing the issues, from leadership, to hiring, providing more power to frontline employees, to accounting, to communication; a broad spectrum of business is considered.

From the book:

A customer's judgment of a supplier's overall service depends on his transactional experience - that is true. But it also depends on his experience with the supplier's organization in areas unrelated to the delivery of service - the supplier's accounting or credit organization, the supplier's standing in the community, and so forth...Establishing a correlation between customer satisfaction and business profitability would clearly give those executive leaders who are still on the fence about where best to employ capital the rationalization needed to justify expenditures for service initiatives.


For those that think service books are a lot of fluff about being nice to people, you'll enjoy the section "Service Is Not Surrender," where the author describes the psychological implications of how our culture views service, and how different cultures (specifically Japan) see it entirely different (and to their advantage). Service is not about giving in. It's about creating a scenario where no objection will arise to give in to.

There's a lot here to contemplate, and I hope you'll do that with this book as a guide.

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.