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Discovering the Soul of Service
The Nine Drivers of Sustainable Business Success
By Leonard L. Berry
To read the full book review please visit the 4D Knowledge Library.
It is an accepted reality that many service companies never surpass mediocrity and, thus, never come close to realizing their full potential. It is also true that many others become extremely successful only to regress to become just average, or worse, as time passes. Yet, some service companies keep getting better — "despite the perils posed by time, growth, and success." How do they do it? How do great service companies manage to remain great?
To find the answer to these questions, Berry undertook an in-depth study of 14 service companies that have achieved and maintained service excellence. His diverse sample includes Bergstrom Hotels, The Charles Schwab Corporation (securities brokerage and financial services), Chick-fil-A (a fast-food chain), The Container Store (a storage and organization products retailer), Custom Research, Inc. (marketing research), Dana Commercial Credit (a leasing company), Dial A-Mattress, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Midwest Express Airlines, Miller SQA (office furniture manufacturing), the St. Paul Saints (professional baseball), Ukrop’s Super Markets, and USAA (automobile insurance and financial services). He found that though these companies differ as to the nature, size, and structure of their businesses, they are the same to a remarkable degree on the inside, for they share identical drivers of sustainable success.
In his research, Berry discovered that enterprises that create value for customers primarily through services face three specific challenges: operating effectively while growing rapidly, operating effectively when competing on price, and retaining the initial entrepreneurial spirit of the younger, smaller company. Strategy, no matter how brilliant, must be executed. Otherwise, it is simply being advertised for competitors to imitate. Service companies create value through performance. Performance suffers when growth weakens those organizational practices that promote employee ability and motivation.
A strategic plan is insufficient to drive success, no matter how brilliant it may appear to be. Customers can only experience the total product, which is a company’s strategy executed. A poorly executed strategy is a license for the competition to take away business. Thus, excellent service companies not only have focused strategies, but they focus on execution as well. They continually raise their standards of service delivery and constantly strive for perceived superiority over the competition in multiple ways.
In Discovering the Soul of Service, Berry clearly identifies, describes, and illustrates, with compelling case studies, nine drivers of excellence shared by all 14 companies. Each chapter is devoted to a single driver, and lessons from the sample firms are interwoven into each chapter. Thus, on completion of this work, managers in any industry will have a comprehensive model for meeting their toughest challenge: sustaining long-term success. Moreover, readers will have become intimately acquainted with some very unique companies and the visionary lessons they have to offer about the principle and practice of excellent service.
What makes this work so refreshing, however, is that Berry goes beyond bottom-line thinking and language and even outdistances his own pioneering work in services marketing and quality to focus on the importance of humane values in building a lasting service business. Thus, his fundamental premise is that service businesses must make life better for people both on and off the job — "that values-driven leadership, human inspiration, and social profit make a service company great — and sustain the human engine of service." It is the kind of abstract touchy-feely thinking that makes so many uncomfortable and skeptical. Nonetheless, as Berry so convincingly documents, companies can win an impressive share of wallet when they continue to win an impressive share of the hearts and minds of all their stakeholders.
Rules for Revolutionaries
The Capitalist Manifesto for Creating and Marketing New Products and Services
By Guy Kawasaki with Michele Moreno
To read the full book review please visit the 4D Knowledge Library.
Charismatic Guy Kawasaki is a well-known revolutionary whose radical, innovative sales and marketing approach at Apple Computer created a cult so devoted to the Macintosh computer that it challenged the supremacy of Big Blue. In Rules for Revolutionaries, he shares his in-your-face evangelistic approach with entrepreneurs, engineers, inventors, managers, and small-business owners, explaining what it takes to purge enterprises of old prejudices and presuppositions and exploit unusual techniques to get people not just to buy a product or service but to believe in it. This is a "butt-kicking" proclamation in every sense. Kawasaki doesn’t stand on the ceremony of developing well-reasoned theories or premises, but just jumps right in with aggressive directives for acting like a revolutionary and making things happen quickly and dramatically.
Revolutionaries, by definition, are those who change the rules by thinking differently. It is a thought process that involves three key stages: purging, prodding, and precipitating. Purging disposes of old prejudices, procedures, and presuppositions that cloud and constrict thinking. Success is habit forming and creates "idols" (rules) and fosters crowds that follow these rules; however, revolution requires defiance of the status quo. Prodding means attacking challenges in ways that force the consideration of new solutions and new courses of action. Revolutionaries open up new possibilities when they seek to change those things that frustrate and inconvenience customers, separate form from function, start at the goal and work backwards, divide the problem into small parts, work the edges, and copy mother nature (the ultimate R&D lab). Precipitating is that "aha!" moment when all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, comes an unexpected solution.
At the beginning of a revolution, you need evangelists, not sales. The first 90 percent of a revolution involves creating the product or service; the second 90 percent is about evangelizing it. Evangelists get people not just to buy but to believe in your product/service so much that they are compelled to make converts for you.
If people are at all receptive to your revolution (your new product/service) they will tell you how to evangelize it. Thus, you must develop a multi-appeal evangelism pitch, explain it briefly, and then observe what resonates. In addition, let people use and abuse your product in ways that you never envisioned.
The next step is to flow with what goes. You must seize the niche by developing a complete solution for it and letting your product achieve its full potential. Once opportunities become evident, develop a complete product to serve the unforeseen market.
Finally, when things start flowing, provide an easy first step for adoption. Because revolutionary change threatens the status quo, it creates resistance; thus, you must provide a smooth, easy, and flat adoption curve for early converts.
Life for a revolutionary is all about kicking butt: “You have an interesting product, but …” In order to defeat but-headed thinking, you must focus on customers, not “schmexperts,” ignore titles and trappings, question authority, listen and churn, never consider the battle lost, increase the level of truth, and judge your results and other people’s intentions.
Kawasaki’s anarchy is practical anarchy, for the guidelines he provides come from the real-world experiences of successful change-makers. And, to his credit, some of the most insightful lessons he shares come from his experience of what Apple Computer did wrong in the fight for market share. Despite the fact that Kawasaki’s way of thinking and communicating may seem to be "outside the box," the concepts he espouses essentially stand as conventional wisdom. Hiring able and passionate employees, making knowledge a core competency, sharing information, partnering with customers to create breakthrough products/services, developing a niche by addressing an overlooked market, etc., are the current golden rules of business success.
Building the Brand - Driven Business
Operating Your Brand to Drive Profitable Growth
By Scott M Davis and Michael Dunn
To read the full book review please visit the 4D Knowledge Library.
According to Davis and Dunn, if an organization wants to achieve and sustain their long-term strategic and financial objectives, it must develop a strategy that will help the entire enterprise manage and live its brand. Nonetheless, their research and experience point to several challenges that make this an extremely difficult task: Shareholders do not understand that the brand is an asset that requires nurturing and investment over the long term, forcing to withdraw their support of brand-building investment. Because the business environment is characterized by overcapacity and severe price and margin pressure, companies are also being required to emphasize price at the expense of innovation and a consistent brand experience. Despite the fact that more and more CEOs are beginning to understand that the brand is one of the greatest untapped assets they have at their disposal for driving long-term profitability and growth, many are still struggling with the meaning and details of operationalizing the brand. They are having difficulty translating their conceptual understanding of the brand as an asset into long term strategies. They are unable to see how their conceptual understanding can help them with the day-to-day issues they face in running their businesses. They don’t believe they have any control over their brands because "distributors have the ultimate responsibility for selling our brand." They think that because they’ve significantly increased the advertising budget, or that they’ve hired a new vice president of marketing, they need do nothing else. They are nonplussed at the idea of having to train, perhaps, thousands of employees to be brand-driven. Or, even if they’re not challenged by any of these issues, they often don’t know where to start.
According to Davis and Dunn, this hostile environment, short-term mind-set, and confusion call for two imperatives: Executives must focus on brand touch points as a means of effectively building brands, without incurring extraordinary expense. And, they must create a brand-driven culture so that pressures to reduce brand building are effectively resisted. Building the Brand-Driven Business provides a detailed road map that guides the reader, step by step through understanding the brand’s powerful new role, integrating the company’s brand and business strategies, creating a framework for identifying and assessing all brand touch points, making the brand-prospect connection, delivering on the brand’s promise, solidifying the brand-customer relationship, driving brand building by measuring the right things, focusing on the brand-employee relationship, and focusing on the structure and roles to support brand-driven change.
The significance of the concept of operationalization, which forms the basis for all these initiatives and links them to form an integrated whole, cannot be overemphasized. It is not a fancy term for "marketing," or a new advertising gimmick but, instead, represents a set of strategies, weapons, and tactics a company must undertake to take control of a situation—in this instance, the brand’s destiny. Moreover, a key aspect of this "special operation" is identifying the different ways in which the brand interacts with the marketplace—its touch points. Touch points for a single brand can number in the high double digits, ranging anywhere and everywhere from advertising, to the monthly bill to retail partners, to service technicians, to the person who sets up the financing, etc. Creating a full list is a monumental challenge, and determining how to coordinate all of these touch points may seem an almost impossible feat.
As Davis and Dunn illustrate, this very important task is no small task — operationalizing the brand effectively and efficiently is not as market-driven or as intuitive as you might think (or hope), and the minute details of the step-by-step guidelines they offer confirm that reality. Nonetheless, the authors insist that this new way of viewing the brand-customer relationship is absolutely critical to ensuring a company’s future success. Thus, they offer proven practical frameworks, case studies, insights from interviews with leading marketing and brand executives, specific tactics, and findings from Prophet’s 2002 Best Practices study that show clearly what a company needs to do to develop brand-building programs that are the most cost effective, efficient, and credible for driving long-term profitability and growth.