If you are looking for a book to help transform your business into a truly customer-centric and operationally excellent service provider, I recommend Frances Frei and Anne Morriss‘ book, Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers First. These authors understand that you cannot expect to add value and grow your business unless you design your company to consistently deliver great service to your customers:
For a system to work, excellence must be normalized. And you don’t get to that point by demanding extraordinary sacrifice [on the part of a few, heroic employees]. You get there by designing a model where the full spectrum of employees–not just the outstanding ones–will have no choice but to deliver excellence as everyday routine. You get there by building a system that just doesn’t produce anything else.
Through numerous business examples of service excellence and service failures, Mses. Frei and Morriss demonstrate how to let go of making your organization perfect at everything, and instead focus on those things that will differentiate the service you provide from that of your competition.
I especially love the idea of training your customers to behave the way you want as part of improving your service offering. They share the example of Starbucks teaching customers a common language to get people to order coffee quickly and efficiently, which improves the experience for everyone in the store. Starbucks provides a menu, pamphlets that people can take home to study the vocabulary, and the psychological de-motivator that people don’t like to be corrected in public: If someone orders his or her coffee incorrectly, the correct order is shouted out for everyone in line to hear.
With limited time, people, and money, you will have to become comfortable with the fact that there will be aspects of your company–aspects that you and your leadership might care about but about which your customers could care less–that will not perform perfectly. This requires designing a system and corporate culture that puts operational excellence as the top priority, and leadership who is willing to ensure that this system does not require a few individual heroes to keep it all running.
I think “Uncommon Service” is a fantastic read for sponsors and change agents to define a change that will truly make a difference to your bottom line!