OUTRAGEOUS!Unforgettable Service…Guilt‐Free Selling

William H. Bolen (Business Alumni Professor of Marketing, Georgia Southern University)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 June 2000



Bolen, W.H. (2000), "OUTRAGEOUS!Unforgettable Service…Guilt‐Free Selling", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 17 No. 3, pp. 263-272. https://doi.org/10.1108/jcm.2000.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Much has been written about customer service. Many ideas have been presented concerning what can be done to build customer loyalty. Needless to say, the toughest part of the customer service task is getting through the clutter of the marketplace and finding a new way or idea to deliver the customer service message to the customer with impact. And that’s what this book is all about.

Positively Outrageous Service (POS) – What is it? It’s things you might do that are random and unexpected. Things that are out of proportion to the circumstances. Things that invite the customer to play or otherwise become highly involved. Things that create compelling, positive word‐of‐mouth. It’s service that the customer can’t wait to tell about (p. 14).

And the book is full of examples to help the reader better understand how to be outrageous. Several examples from Southwest Airlines are included along with firms from other industries. The examples are great. They provided much food for thought!The only suggestion to the author would be to include examples from different industries (the examples given tend to concentrate on the hospitality industry) and to include some business‐to‐business marketing examples.

The book is easy reading. It is a trade book – not an academic book. But it could be used in a class or a training session as a “food for thought” book. Yes – some of the examples are outrageous. But they might encourage the reader, the class members, or the training session participants to think “out‐of‐the‐box.” Being outrageous is not as radical an idea as it might seem at first. In visual merchandising, the good display has been defined as one that “makes a strong statement.” Or, in other words, something outrageous, stands out from the crowd or is not ordinary. Or one could say: “something that the customer can’t wait to tell about.”

In various chapters the author sets out in bold type POS Points. For example, “Service that only adds to the price but not to the customer’s satisfaction is almost as bad as giving poor service” is a POS Point found in the chapter dealing with trends. “Never send a customer away without a solution” is another POS Point from the “Things Servers Have to Know” chapter. Such statements help the reader to summarize what is being discussed in the particular chapter and to organize one’s thoughts.

The book contains 17 chapters. There are chapters that concentrate on selling. There are chapters that deal with the emotional aspect of the process. There is a chapter that deals with opening lines that salespeople might use. And there is even a chapter that presents both WOWS and Bloopers. And as noted earlier, most chapters are full of examples on how to use Positively Outrageous Service in a positive manner.

If one had to find an area of the book that might be improved – as any reviewer might be called upon to do – it is the chapter that deals with opening lines. In the chapter, various situations are presented and, in each case, the reader is asked to respond. At the end of the chapter, the author indicates what he might say, but with no explanation as to why he chose to say the things he said – things that in some cases may seem to be funny or even outrageous but may also offend a given customer. It would be nice to read the author’s reasons for how he would handle each situation. The reader may still not agree with the author but he or she would better understand perhaps why the author chose that particular way to respond to the situation. I know when I read the book I would have liked to have had that insight.

But even with its possible weaknesses, the book gives many positive suggestions that, if followed, will result in a more positive experience for the customer. And many of the ideas are not really outrageous – they are instead sound suggestions. For example, at one place (p. 183) it is suggested that just because the phone rings, that doesn’t mean that we quit serving our customers that are standing there with us in order to serve the one on the phone. Yes, we answer the phone – but we tell that person that we will take their number and call them back in a few minutes and then continue to help the customer who was waiting before the phone rang. A simple suggestion but one we can all identify with. And one that I would not call outrageous. But it might have a positively outrageous impact on the waiting customer because for once they didn’t have to wait while the intruding customer on the phone got served first.

If you are looking for ideas to enhance customer service, you might want to take a look at this book. If you are searching for ways to improve your selling effort in a way that will promote customer loyalty over the long term, then this book belongs on your reading list. Don’t let the title mislead you. Outrageous service as discussed is unforgettable desirable service that results in building a long‐term relationship with the customer. And that’s what successful marketing is all about. There is certainly nothing outrageous about that!

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