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Exceptional customer service brought into perfect focus

There is no shortage of business books written every year.
In 2003, there were 5,301 books published claiming to be about business, according to Andrew Grabois, director of publisher relations at publishing-industry specialist R.R. Bowker, as reported in the November 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine. So how does one know which business books are worth reading?

Perhaps the Mississippi Business Journal can help. Beginning with this column, I will be serving up a monthly business book review to help you narrow the list of business books to something you might want to read or to even stay away from.

I request your assistance in this endeavor by asking you to suggest some titles that you would like to see reviewed. Ideally, these would be books that you are considering purchasing and would like an opinion before doing so.

Currently, I am reading “The Eighth Habit” by Steven Covey, “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz and “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell.

So far, one of them intrigues me immensely, another I will read again and another disappoints me. Which one would you prefer to see reviewed in next month’s column?

Send me an e-mail at the address below. Let us now jump into the selection of the month.

Getting to Fred

Have you ever had a remarkable customer service experience from someone that really made you want tell someone about it?

Recently, I had such an experience at the Van Heusen Outlet store at the VF Outlet Mall in Gulfport. It was so good that I wrote a letter to the company about it. It was a cold Saturday morning, and a person working by herself handled a store full of customers, some of whom were finicky, some of whom were tolerant and one of whom was downright rude. The clerk’s name was Ashley, but Mark Sanborn would be quick to tell me that she is a Fred.

“The Fred Factor” is about exceptional customer service and is so-named because of the author’s experience with Fred the letter carrier. Sanborn begins by telling his Fred story, one that we all can relate to. He then gives us what he calls his Fred principles. They are:

• Everyone makes a difference.

• Success is built on relationships.

• You must continually value others, and it doesn’t have to cost a penny.

• You can reinvent yourself regularly.

He then tells how to become a Fred and how to develop other Freds. It’s all very basic stuff and it’s written in a conversational style. The book has popped up on a business book bestseller list or two, which does not surprise me at all.

This is one of those books that employers buy by the dozen for their employees. Some will even use it in training sessions. For that reason alone it will — and already has — sell a lot of copies.

This is one of those books so highly readable that you can devour it on an airplane flight from Jackson to Washington. You can learn more about it by checking out www.fredfactor.com.
I give it four bookmarks.

Phil Hardwick’s column on Mississippi Business appears regularly in the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is phil@philhardwick.com.

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