February 9, 2012
Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Uncommon Service
Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business by Frances Frei & Anne Morriss, Harvard Business Review Press, 272 pages, $29.95, Hardcover, February 2012, ISBN 9781422133316
As a service company, when we receive feedback about a negative situation, we immediately act to resolve the conflict and then try to put a process in place to avoid such a thing happening in the future. Most books on service describe ways to do this: how to react to or plan for customer service breakdowns.
Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business asserts that service is not about reacting, but building customer satisfaction into the business model itself, so that employees and the systems they work within provide excellent service as a matter of routine.
What is surprising about the case stories in Uncommon Service is that the authors focus on how the companies are really bad at something, and how that serviced the great things they did in ways that allowed them to be unapologetic about the bad things. Commerce Bank, for example, chose (proven) nice service people over smart financial service people. The cost of the employees was higher than the super smart ones, so unlike other banks who hired super smart people, Commerce Bank kept their fees high, didn't budge on them, and banked (no pun intended) that word-of-mouth of their great service would end up making them successful—and it did. The bad (higher fees) serviced the good (awesome service).
As the authors’ explain:
This point is crucial to understanding how to design uncommon service. In our experience, the number one obstacle to great service—number one by a long shot—is the emotional unwillingness to embrace weakness. But it couldn’t be clearer that to win in one area, you must lose in another. Progress requires sacrifice. Some part of your service offering must be thrown under the bus. […] Choosing bad is your only shot at achieving greatness. And resisting it is a recipe for mediocrity.This is not how most of us think, yet the authors make some very interesting and data-backed observations to support their theory. In typical Harvard Business Review fashion, the book is packed with lengthy case studies, making it an interesting and convincing read that will help you find your opportunity to choose “the bad” while achieving your own uncommon service success.
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.