At times like this, when daily the news seems to go from bad to worse, the stories told in The Customer Rules, is a beacon of what business can/should be all about. I can't help but wonder if Wall Street had read and adopted Johnson & Johnson's Credo (pg6) – how things might have been different.
Written in an anecdotal style, The Customer Rules: The 14 Indispensable, Irrefutable and Indisputable Qualities of the Greatest Service Companies in the World, by Beemer and Shook, outlines some of the customer centric practices of Four Seasons Hotels, Chubb, Tom James Clothiers, Lexus, Cabela, RE/MAX, NetJets, Pulte, MaryKay, World Wide Technology, Harrah's, Johnson & Johnson and Edward Jones.
The authors do a good job in the book's 14 chapters (300 pages) of reinforcing existing wisdom/practices in customer centricity, although there was no mention on how/why these particular US companies rated as being the Greatest Service Companies in the World, other than "scoring exceptionally high marks in customer satisfaction" (intro pg xv). In truth much of customer centricity is based on three simple principles of: helpfulness, respect and listening. In following those principles customer intimacy is gained and insight is transformed into compelling brand value benefits resulting in customer retention, up sell/cross sell and word of mouth referrals. And so while the solution is simple, the hard part is instilling those principles consistently across all customer touch points. Fittingly Chapter 1 starts the journey by identifying that customer centricity and the resultant value creation is "Everyone's Job" and how that challenge needs to be ingrained in the corporate culture in order to succeed.
As much as I am a lowly monk kneeling in the back pews at the church of customer centricity, I felt the book could have been stronger had it contained an overarching customer centric master plan/model and chapter summaries to help readers more readily transform the book's stories/lessons into best practice principles. I think the most important business lesson one needs to learn today is that customers are a privilege, and not a consequence of business. Seen from that light everything else will start to fall into place.
The most endearing story is about Captain Denny Flanagan at United Airlines and the personal service he extends to his passengers (ie. letting young kids traveling alone call parents on his cell phone to tell them all is well). It exemplifies the impact these spontaneous acts of human kindness can have on a business that far surpasses traditional marketing investment.
I was disappointed by the lack of teeth they put into their Chapter 11 argument about Satisfying Main Street First, Then Wall Street. Mostly it was another rehash of the same old short-term versus long-term planning arguments. Given their access to resources I was expecting to see more studies that identify the business losses from short term optimization strategies. Frankly, I have uncovered more studies in the course of my blogs than they have in their chapter. And that lies at the heart of a general criticism of the book – that it relies heavily on story telling to convey information. I would have preferred a healthy dollop of scholarly insights as well.
I give this book a score of 7.0 out of 10.0
- ISBN-10: 0071603654
- ISBN-13: 978-0071603652