It has been more than 20 years since two unknown McKinsey consultants by the names of Thomas Peters and Robert Waterman wrote In Search of Excellence, which spawned an enormous industry (business books) and chronicled the authors' quest to answer a burning question: Why do some companies seem to do business better than others?
The landmark book's premise, whether or not the data was fudged, is pretty simple: Treating customers well is good business. And, while this concept may not guarantee monstrous profits (gosh, there are still a lot of profitable companies that give lousy service and treat their people like dirt—you know who you are), a reputation for good works in this regard will at least attract some positive attention in the marketplace and might even make the job of recruiting people a bit easier.
Five years after Excellence, our intrepid authors, Albrecht and Zemke, produced version one of Service America! In doing so, they were able to re-ignite the torch of customer service and probably helped propel the movement another 10 years or so, but anyone who does business today knows that the customer service era is officially dead and gone. The Internet age was great for some things, but service is not one of them. And so the new economy felt like the old economy.
There is hope. Use this fine book to get back in touch with what we are all here to do: create customers and fulfill needs. Pay special attention to Chapter 6, in which you will receive a primer in construction of a sound service delivery system. We are urged to "think large, to think in systems terms and to explore the critical elements of service system analysis and design." It is an excellent piece of work. Had the fine folks at Kmart read this, they might have been able to avoid Chapter 11.