I quickly finished a complimentary copy of of The Best Service is no Service by David Jaffe and Bill Price. In general, I think the book is good; it borders on common sense – which is good, especially since customer service is an industry where there is very little common sense to be found.
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Here is the description found on the book cover:
In this groundbreaking book, Bill Price and David Jaffe offer a new, game-changing approach, showing how managers are taking the wrong path and are using the wrong metrics to measure customer service. Customer service, they assert, is only needed when a company does something wrong, eliminating the need for service is the best way to satisfy customers. To be successful, companies need to treat service as a data point of dysfunction and figure what they need to do to eliminate the demand. The Best Service Is No Service outlines these seven principles to deliver the best service that ultimately leads to no service:
- Eliminate dumb contacts
- Create engaging self-service
- Be proactive
- Make it easy to contact your company
- Own the actions across the company
- Deliver great service experiences
- Listen and act
David Jaffe’s draws much from his experience at Amazon.com Customer Service. His approach to customer service is based on many principles of Lean Thinking – specifically, Lean for Services. In sum, his approach can be summarized as follows:
A customer service contact is a symptom that something went wrong. The common approach to customer service is to optimize customer service – but, most people don’t want to contact customer service – the customer would rather not call customer service.
So, a better approach is to identify root causes of the contacts, put in place countermeasure, and eliminate the contact from ever happening.
The result: happier customers.
Below are a few reviews on the The Best Service is no Service:
A 5 Star Review:
If you believe, as I do, that earning the trust of your customers is the most direct route to long-term success for a business, then this is the book for you. This is probably the single best “how to” book on earning customer trust that I’ve ever read – and I have read most of them, and written several of them myself, with my co-author and business partner Martha Rogers (our latest and greatest: Rules to Break and Laws to FollowRules to Break and Laws to Follow: How Your Business Can Beat the Crisis of Short-Termism (Microsoft Executive Leadership Series)).
So congratulations to Bill Price and David Jaffe for such a sweeping, carefully delineated guidebook for business people just trying to do the right thing for customers. Jaffe is a customer experience consultant operating out of Australia, and Price is the ex-VP of Global Customer Service for Amazon, which says a lot about their perspective, because Amazon (as everyone reading this review should know) is one of the world’s true icons of great customer service. In the game of business, in other words, Price is not just a good coach, but a veteran player with a winning record.
Price and Jaffe concentrate primarily on how best to operate call centers, interactive voice response (IVR) units, Web sites, and other mechanisms for facilitating interactions with customers. The guiding principle for all customer interactions should be to reassure customers, empower them, and serve them well. The final objective, of course, is to ensure that customers find it as easy as possible to buy from you. But, as the authors persuasively demonstrate, no one is going to buy from you if they don’t trust you and have confidence in your service. And customers will only develop that trust if they judge that their interactions with you were efficient and customer-oriented.
Now I judge the merit of a business book in terms of how many comments I’ve underlined or highlighted, and how many page corners I’ve turned down during the course of reading it. By these criteria, The Best Service is No Service earns five stars from me.
For instance, I LOVE the “bad examples” that permeate the book. They’re so much fun to read, and it’s such a gas just chuckling at how stupid so many businesses can be in real life. The bank that automatically routes calls from its best customers to sales associates, forcing them to sit through new product pitches before they have access to the simplest IVR tasks like transferring money, for instance, while “ordinary” customers get to breeze through the IVR and do what they want quickly and efficiently (p. 71), or the IT company that, in an amateurish effort to be totally honest with customers, offered them (kid you not) 30,000 phone numbers to choose from worldwide (p. 134).
But the real heart of the book, and its true benefit for the reader, is its numerous checklists of things to do and not to do when operating an interaction center. At page 155, for example, the authors talk about providing the right choices for customers at every point, including (among other things):
- At the web site, phone numbers on every page, “talk to someone” or “chat” buttons, and “contact us” buttons that make it easy to send emails, stating how quickly they will be replied to
- For phone IVR menus or trees, Web site alternatives clearly mentioned, options to leave a number for call back, ability to hit 0 at any point to reach an operator
- Emails that go out with a phone number provided, along with links to the pages on the site that actually help to explain the issue
- Branch operations that have phones for calling the contact center directly, self-service desks for information, and Web PCs for direct self-service online
- Or consider his list of simple usability criteria (p. 91):
- Short menus on IVRs, just to make selection easy
- Consistency across IVRs and Web sites, allowing customers to know where things are and make their selections more easily
- Correct uses of silence on IVRs and white space on Web sites, so customers don’t always feel crowded or rushed
- Multiple support levels for the user, meaning that IVRs, for instance, should kick into a more detailed level when the user has a problem, and Web sites should be designed to help users recover from mistakes or problems
- Standard navigation features, meaning ability to repeat IVR menus at any point or drop bread crumbs during your Web search.
There really wasn’t much I didn’t like about this book. I wish they had been able to name more of the companies they singled out as examples (most of the bad examples don’t actually name the companies involved). And I suppose in some places the authors could have got to their point faster. They’re not the most economical writers, in their use of words. But these are very minor drawbacks, as I still found myself drawn in to the ongoing story they tell, and the very smart and succinct lessons they convey.
The fact is that interacting with masses of customers, individually, is a complicated and difficult business service that most companies have only begun wrestling with in the last decade or so, because the Worldwide Web has finally forced them to. There are a handful of businesses that did a sterling job – prior to the Web’s arrival – of using their call centers to inspire confidence and trust in their customers (USAA, for example, cited at p. 139). But for the vast majority of companies, prior to the rise of the Web, call centers were mostly treated as just one more cost of doing business.
“Customer interaction,” in other words, is now one of the dominant forms of “service” offered by most companies, but it is still a brand new discipline for most business people, with lots of unknown complications and unappreciated benefits. So if you want to better understand the implications of managing the customer experience when it comes to your own company and your own customers, then this book by Price and Jaffe is far and away the best, most comprehensive and practical education you can buy today.
A 5 Star Review:
I loved this book. It is well organized and written. It starts out with a diagram that represents a picture of how the best customer service is no (or little) customer service. And then it uses eight chapters of text to explain why the best service is no (or little) service. Each chapter ends with a good summary of what was covered in the chapter. And after each chapter summary there is a list of survey questions that help the reader apply what they have read to their real-world situation. Very well done!
The book also includes wonderful appendix material: a Best Service Survey, a glossary and a blibliography. All in all, this book redefines traditional notions of what a small business needs to do to be successful. By reading this book you will be reminded that good customer service is critical to the success of small business. However, there is no need (nor is it ideal) to over supply customer service. Too much customer service can negatively impact on a company’s profit margin because of the extra cost of payroll expense needed. And too much customer service can also be an opportunity to hurt customer relations (and relationships) rather than improve them.
The ultimate message included in this book is that small business will be most successful if they only provide customer service that is essential to doing business. Too much is not good and too little is likewise not good. Just keep the customers happy while keeping yourself happy and your business will be successful. 5 stars!
PS. The author has provided Search Inside material to Amazon that includes the Table of Contents for this book. I think the chapter titles explain a lot of what is covered in this book. Read those chapter titles along with my review to get the most out of it.
Here’s a Video of Bill Price answering some questions regarding his book: