Authors: Chip R. Bell and Ron Zemke. Illustrations by John Bush
Publisher: Amacom – American management Association
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

That the points made in this book are based on results of research rather than experience alone (or worse, mere opinion) is the Number 1 plus point of this book. While the experience of a business owner in providing outstanding customer service is important as a teaching point to those who seek to increase their sales and retain customers, it is useful only in the particular business the owner was or is in, and not necessarily applicable to all types of businesses.

Chip R. Bell and Ron Zemke provide findings of many research studies on customer service in various different types of businesses in Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service to validate the points they make in this well-written, easy-to-read book on how to provide outstanding service to any type of buyer so that he or she becomes your lifelong customer.

In today’s media wherein news articles are riddled with opinion and mixed in with facts, the credibility and integrity of newspapers have reached an all-time low. With the advent of the Internet, readers can easily verify the validity of opinions expressed and check the facts that form the basis of a news story.

So, opinions are cheap but verifiable facts are valuable; and the results of well-conducted research studies can be relied upon.

Eight imperatives of providing “Wow!” service form the core of this extremely valuable book for anyone who owns, runs or works in any business, from the corner mom-and-pop shop to the gigantic multi-billion dollar corporation. What are they?

We enumerate them below but at the same time caution you that just knowing them and not learning to apply them effectively, and constantly measure the before-and-after effects may get you frustrated. I would suggest you learn each of the eight imperatives of customer service very, very well so that they become second nature to you and everyone in the company you work in, whether you own it or not. They are:

  1. Find and retain quality people
  2. Know your customers intimately
  3. Build a service vision
  4. Make your service delivery processes ETDBW (easy to do business with)
  5. Train and coach
  6. Involve, empower, and inspire
  7. Recognize, reward, incentivize, and celebrate
  8. Set the tone and lead the way.

As you’ve heard the saying “beauty is in the eye of the behavior,” this also holds true for customer service, the authors write. They ask, at the outset of the book: “Has customer service gotten worse, or have we just become a nation of gripers and whiners?”

The write that in the United States since the 1960s, “the gradual erosion of personal care and attention in the service experience has had predictable consequences.” They cite several research studies that point out the following

  • American Express conducted a study that found that 91 percent consider the level of customer service important when deciding to do business with a company, but only 24 percent of Americans believe companies value their business and will go the extra mile to keep it
  • A report from RightNow Technologies (not a part of Oracle) and Harris Interactive indicates that 82 percent of customers in the United States said they’ve stopped doing business with a company due to a poor customer service experience.

In your journey of learning how to provide excellent service the authors have provided a list of 42 sources of additional information in the Endnotes section.