Customer Service: Inspire Timeless Loyalty in the Demanding New World of Social Commerce,”
By Micah Solomon; AMACOM, New York,
New York; 2012; 194 pages; $23.00.
Some attitudes never seem to change, especially in business. Sometime during the 1930’s, business owners posted signs reminding employees that “the customer is always right.” Perhaps this was an overstatement, but it pointed the employees in the right direction.
By the 1950’s the signs changed somewhat, though the message didn’t: “The customer may not always be right, but they’re always the customer.” More precise than the earlier slogan, it also directed employees toward the sales value of customer services.
Somewhere during the 1960’s, the slogan changed again, and not necessarily for the better: “Customers are always customers, but they’re not necessarily our customers.”
By the 1970’s they split into two areas. First, there were senior managers (mostly not in sales or marketing), who developed a new slogan: “What really counts is the bottom line.” Somehow, the very concept of a human “customer” disappeared and was replaced by annoying dollar signs. The second area was the ironic slogan (probably originated by a clearly confused sales staff): “If it weren’t for the problems caused by customers, this could be a nice little business.”
Customer service, its meaning and application, has bounced around for nearly 70 years. Business owners and managers only seem to take it seriously during times of financial hardship, such as the one we have now. That’s one good reason why customer service guru, Michael Solomon, has written “High-tech, High-touch” about his favorite subject. He’s done a good job of it, too.
Author Solomon has organized the book into three areas. The first he calls “Timeliness and Timelessness.” This “addresses the basics of doing customer service right, and what it looks like when you do it wrong, in any era.” Part Two is “High-Tech, High-Touch Anticipatory Service,” addresses “what it takes to create a true loyalty-building level of customers service.” Part Three is “The Rise of Self-Service and Social Media—And Other Seismic Shifts.” This portion of the book “extends the technological focus by covering in detail the trends of self-service, social media, and electronic customer input in general—and ways to stay ahead of competitors in these areas.”
Author Solomon makes an obvious point that’s often forgotten these days where 90-days appear to rule the marketing roost. He notes, “The most crucial customer ‘trends’ today are individual changes.”
Solomon goes on to explain:
“No matter how big you grow, or want to grow, as a company, individual customers buy from you, not assemblages of customers, not slices of a market. Learning to treat individual customers as individuals, honoring individual preferences unique to that customer, is a key to business success. But being aware of underlying trends in the marketplace is also essential for the success of any business that relies on significant numbers of transactions and on forward-looking planning.”
The author goes on to list and explain six customer trends that are based on individual changes:
“Customer trend #1: customers expect anticipatory technological behavior and aggregated information—instantly.
“Customer trend #2: shame shift and values based buying.
“Customer trend #3: timelessness over trendiness.
“Customer trend #4: customer empowerment.
“Customer trend #5: the greening of the customer.
“Customer trend #6: the desire for self-service.”
What the author is essentially doing with “High-Tech, High-Touch,” is to remind us that genuine customer service isn’t an afterthought that exists as a postscript to making the first sale to the customer. It is a continuing approach to meeting customers’ changing needs on an ongoing basis.
“High-Tech, High-Touch” provides an approach to getting and using the data you need that encourage customer purchases on a basis that meets their changing needs.
Here are the current top 10 bestselling books for business. The list is compiled based on information received from retail bookstores throughout the U.S.A.
1. “By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way We Shop,” by Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson (Penguin Group…$18.63)(1)*
Innovating the high-end outlet version of “sample selling.”
2. “Reverse Innovation: Create Far From Home, Win Everywhere,” by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble (Harvard Business Review Press…$30.00)(2)
How to make innovation happen in emerging markets.
3. “Strengths Finder 2.0: A New and Updated Edition of the Online Test from Gallup’s Now, Discover Your Strengths,” by Tom Rath (Gallup Press…$22.95)(3)
Discover your strengths and integrate them with your career.
4. “It Worked for Me in Life and Leadership,” by Colin Powell (with Tony Koltz)(HarperCollins Publishers…$27.99)*
How to succeed in the workplace and beyond.
5. “Steve Jobs,” by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster…$35.00)(4)
The story of a modern Thomas Edison.
6. “The Start-up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career,” by Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha (Crown Publishing…$26.00)(5)
Managing your career as if you were starting a new business.
7. “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck-Why Some Thrive Despite Them All,” by Jim Collins (HarperCollins…$29.99)(6)
Why some people succeed against all the odds.
8. “That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World It Invented and How We Can Come Back,” by Thomas L. Friedman & Michael Mandlebaum, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux…$28.00)(7)
One possible roadmap back to fiscal and market stability.
9. “The Startup Owner’s Manual: The Step-by-Step Guide for Building a Great Company,” by Steve Blank and Bob Dorf (K & S Ranch Publishing…$39.95) (8)
A “how-to” book for business owners.
10. “The Little Book of Leadership: The 12.5 Strengths of Responsible, Reliable, Remarkable Leaders That Create Results, Rewards, and Resilience,” by Jeffrey Gitomer & Paul Hersey (John Wiley & Son…$22.00)(9)
A concise look at the fundamental traits of leadership.
*(1) -- Indicates a book's previous position on the list.
** -- Indicates a book's first appearance on the list.