Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization

Leonardo Inghilleri

ISBN 10: 0814415385 / ISBN 13: 9780814415382
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Synopsis: "Filled with treasure and big ideas, this book will help you become exceptional." - SETH GODIN

In a tight market, your most powerful growth engine and your best protection from competitive inroads is this: put every thing you can into cultivating true customer loyalty. Loyal customers are less sensitive to price competition, more forgiving of small glitches, and, ultimately, become "walking billboards" who will happily promote your brand. In Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit insiders Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon reveal the secrets of providing online and offline customer service so superior it nearly guarantees loyalty. Their anticipatory customer service approach was first developed at The Ritz-Carlton as well as at Solomon's entertainment and technology company Oasis, and has since proven itself in countless companies around the globe from luxury giant BVLGARI to value-sensitive auto parts leader Carquest, and everywhere in between. Now, readers can take the techniques that minted money for these brands and apply them directly to their own businesses. As Ken Blanchard writes, "Leonardo and Micah's philosophies, rules, and winning examples of service excellence will make you want to implement their suggestions immediately in your own organization." Filled with detailed, behind-the-scenes examples, the book unlocks a new level of customer relationship that leaves your competitors in the dust, your customers coming back day after day, and your bottom line looking better than it ever has before.

Honors received:
* A Jack Covert Selection
* CEO Refresher Top Ten Best Business Book of the Year
* 800-CEO-READ Business Book of the Year Awards Shortlist winner
* Philadelphia Bulletin "Must Read" business book
* Book of the Month, Las Vegas Women's REALTOR®
* DearReader.com Business Book Club Selection
* Shanghai Daily Press #1 U.S. Business Book

"
If you want to deliver a superior client experience, then have every employee read this book.  That's what we've done.  This volume is simply that profound, that good." Jim S. Miller, President, Prime Performance

From the Author: Author interview with Micah Solomon by Blog Business World. (Interviewer: Wayne Hulbert)Micah Solomon, President of Oasis Disc Manufacturing, founder, College of the Customer website, co-author with Leonardo Inghilleri of the highly practical and transformational book Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization, was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about the book.

What was the background to writing this book?  

Micah SolomonExceptional Service, Exceptional Profit has an interesting genesis: In part, it is a distillation of the ideas that have led to the growth of my own business, Oasis Disc Manufacturing from its start in a room in my basement to its current status as a leader in its sector of the entertainment industry. This growth has been possible because I created systems that allow customers to retain a personal, human experience at our company in spite of the rate at which our company has scaled.

And, I was extremely fortunate to team up with someone I've always wanted to work with: Leonardo Inghilleri, an instrumental force in creating similar systems in a different context at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, The Walt Disney Company, and now The West Paces Hotel Company. Leonardo and looked at the parallels in our systems and extracted a single comprehensive strategy for our readers. We wanted to wind up with a single set of technologies, principles, and strategies that could leverage shoestring budget businesses and much larger ones equally well.

Your book is about creating exceptional customer service. Why do so many otherwise astute companies fail so badly at providing great customer service?
Micah Solomon: Providing exceptional service requires an intensive overall organizational commitment day in and day out, plus much specific knowledge. There are many processes involved: appropriate hiring, worker involvement in job design, etc., which companies need to do more than pay lip service to. Furthermore, service is a curious combination of an entirely subjective area (nobody can define "exceptional service" except for the customer) and entirely data driven (there's no point learning how to apologize empathically for service breakdowns without also spending the time on data notation and analysis to determine the patterns of where those service breakdowns are occurring so you can fix the broken processes that are leading to the need to apologize).
What elements form the basis for an exceptional customer service program so it is carried out effectively?

a) First ensure you are providing a baseline of satisfactory customer service, which consists of four elements: 1. A product/service which is designed to function perfectly under any reasonably foreseeable circumstances. 2. A caring, friendly person to deliver this product/service. 3. Timeliness. Plus,(because things do go wrong), 4.An effective problem resolution program.

b) To bring customers to the level of true loyalty (which is where you build strategic value for your company--by binding customers to you, rather than merely satisfying them), you need to add the element of anticipatory customer service: knowing what a customer wants even a moment before she asks for it or even knows she wants it herself.

You do this several ways: by carefully tracking preferences you have noted or have been volunteered earlier by this particular customer, by having your own employees and other knowledgeable people use your own product/services to such an extent that you know exactly how customers in your target group would like them to function, by hiring people who are extremely appropriate for the job - empathetic, intuitive, warm, etc., and by training, orienting, and reinforcing your staff to be extraordinary in key people-related skills.

Why do so many companies use the wrong words and language when speaking to a customer?

Micah Solomon: Almost certainly they aren't thinking about this issue -- their choice of words -- at all. We recommend in Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit that you create a specific "Language Bible" or "Lexicon" of words that are appropriate for your business, and ensure that everyone sticks to the program.

Very often, executives remark that that customer service and its results are impossible to track. Is there a way to create and utilize effective and accurate metrics to measure customer service results?
Micah Solomon: The first thing a company should do to counter this mindset is calculate the lifetime value of a customer. In companies we have worked with, the value of a customer can be up to a million dollars. Maybe it's $100,000 in a particular company, or $10,000, or even $10,000,000, but in almost every case it tends to be more than anyone at the company realizes before the calculation is done.

Second, multiply that number by the potential internet value--positive (if the customer becomes what Seth Godin calls a "sneezer" who spreads word of your great problem resolution) or negative (if the customer does a PowerPoint of your suckworthiness). Now, tell me: at this point are you seriously going to instruct your front-line workers to take a hard line and argue with customers regarding an overnight shipping bill?

As far as measuring the effectiveness of your day to day customer service results, it is important to have the numbers that are critical to your company in front of you--what could be called a "three dimensional dashboard." Not just cash flow and other similar numbers, but other indicators, such as employee engagement, problem resolution success, and customer loyalty. (Are you losing or gaining in the number of customers willing to refer your business and who are planning to use your business again?)

These ''softer'' indicators can be derived from your preferred tracking tools--your short-form customer ''quizzes,'' full-length customer surveys, secret shopper reports, and employee-filed reports, as well as data gathered on employee engagement by your managers and HR leaders.

With so much business taking place over the internet, is there an effective way to develop exceptional customer service online?
Micah Solomon: One way to distinguish your company online is to offer customers an opportunity to connect with a real person online, just as you would offline or on the telephone. For example, instead of a web-based chat window that blandly announces "you are now chatting with Jane," try "you are now chatting with Jane Chang-Katzenberg." The customers will treat your "Jane" better, they'll take her advice more seriously -- and they'll be more likely to want a committed customer relationship with her company.

What are critical moments in a business/customer relationship when it's absolutely crucial to provide exceptional customer service?
Micah Solomon: In addition to recovering from service failures (a very crucial moment), research shows that customers remember the first and last minutes of a service encounter much more vividly -- and for much longer -- than all the rest of it. If you can really nail your hellos and good-byes, in other words, you'll get extra credit with your customers and a halo effect over how they remember your entire interaction.

What is next for Micah?
Micah Solomon: In addition to taking care of my "baby," Oasis Disc Manufacturing, I'm enjoying spending more time speaking to organizations on improving customer service and the customer experience: mostly in the corporate world but also unique nonprofits like Operation Smile and Brown University. 

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