Service with a Purpose Not Just a Smile Book Review

Strategic Customer Service: Managing the Customer Experience to Increase Positive Word of Mouth, Build Loyalty, and Maximize Profits

By John A. Goodman
AMACOM, New York, NY, May 2009, 272 pages, $24.95.

Most organizations are concerned about customers and want to provide good service to each one. All business leaders know a good customer service process is important, but often the design is focused only on fighting today’s fire.

John Goodman is a knowledgeable and successful customer service consultant. His new book is based on over 30 years of effort helping companies create great customer service processes.

A critical part of Goodman’s approach is that customer service must be designed to improve business results -“ top line and bottom line. For the approach to be workable, it requires the commitment -“ not the words and slogans -“ of the senior executive group.

The key to getting beyond tactical fire fighting and building a great customer service experience for each customer is developing a systematic way to really hear what Goodman calls “..the Voice of the Customer.” Hearing this voice means collecting data upon which the organization can take action. This can happen three ways:

-¢ in the operations when direct contact is made by a customer;
-¢ through the existing customer service system; and,
-¢ by surveys of customer perceptions after the transaction.

Working at each level to collect and analyze data on products and services -“ and then taking action is what will build a positive relationship with customers. Sound execution will lead to positive word of mouth support for the company and in Goodman’s words, “-¦word of mouse…” — support in our electronic age.

The book advocates using all the technology available to gain customer information, but being careful not to create “media overload” for anyone trying to offer feedback. Getting good information that can be used to strengthen the business requires effective communication, and another of Goodman’s major points in this regard is “-¦making it easy to complain.”

Using a complaint process that puts the customer at ease will help identify ways to fix the problem and make a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied one. The next step is putting the data from customer contacts into a systematic process that can help close off the source of the problem before it happens again.

The book explores the use of outside contractors for some aspects of customer service -“ e.g., call centers. A contractor can be very effective, but as the author points out, the contractor should never be used to allow senior executives to avoid involvement in customer service activities. Regular monitoring and interaction with the contractors is needed to ensure good experiences for the customer and sound data for the organization.

Every business leader needs to spend time with the concepts in this book. Avoiding the traps of short-term thinking on customer service is important to long-term success.

Bob Clark is the president of RWC Consulting LLC and has more than 30 years’ experience in labor-management relations. He provides consulting help in labor relations and is an adjunct professor at Concordia University in Ann Arbor.