Focus on books

Measuring Business Excellence

ISSN: 1368-3047

Article publication date: 1 September 2004



(2004), "Focus on books", Measuring Business Excellence, Vol. 8 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Focus on books

Focus on books

Customers are People … the Human TouchJohn McKean John Wiley and Sons 2003 313 pages ISBN: 0-470-84889-8 £18.99, hardback

John McKean, the Executive Director of the Center for Information Based Competition, points out that the next era of competition will be based on treating customers as people. In this insightful book he clearly illustrates, with the aid of concrete examples, how to create customer loyalty by humanizing interactions with customers.

The book comprises nine main chapters and a two-page concluding chapter. In chapter 1, John traces "customer evolution" from pre-1980s to 2000 as moving from treating customers as a homogenous group of consumers to customers as human beings in every customer reaction. Also, he very briefly describes the eight major areas on which businesses should focus in implementing this "human touch approach", which are covered in depth in the following eight chapters.

In chapter 2, titled "Leading the human firm", John explains how to select the right people and develop them with care and provide an environment where the employees are empowered with responsibility and authority to fulfill customer needs. He emphasizes, with examples, that satisfying employees' need for acknowledgment, respect and trust, is as important as satisfying the same three human needs of customers, which have to be met to gain and retain customers.

In chapter 3, John explains how to satisfy the needs of customers by acknowledging their existence, their importance, their individuality and their needs and feelings. How to treat customers with respect forms the theme of chapter 4. The importance of honoring people's dignity, time, differences, freedom, and personal space is briefly explained. Also emphasized is the need for consistency in showing this respect without any discrimination based on sex, social standing, the way customers behave, or their immediate importance to the business.

Chapter 5 deals with the importance of building trust with customers, which forms the foundation of every purchase by every customer. John explains that building customer trust involves delivering the best product/service at a fair price and interacting with the customer as a human being. According to John, being honest about the pricing strategy, being ethical, and even sending customers to ones competitors (who is better suited to meet customer's needs) can all help in building a customer's trust.

How to communicate humanly with customers forms the topic of chapter 6. It is pointed out that listening is one of the weak points of most businesses in communicating the knowledge of acknowledgement, respect and trust. Some insights into the art of listening are given followed by a brief explanation of the art of effectively sending messages, both verbal (voice and intonation) and nonverbal (smile and body positioning). The importance of designing proper physical spaces and machine interfaces are also covered.

Chapter 7 on human touch is based on the ongoing work of Ray Kordupleski (2003) and the "customer value added" (CVA) approach adopted at Suncorp, an Australian bank/insurance company. In this chapter, it is explained how a customer views a business as a series of nine cascading interactions. The three steps involved in implementing a CVA approach, viz. choosing the right value proposition, managing its delivery, and successfully communicating it to the customers, are dealt with in some detail. Nine distinct human action attributes that aid customer acknowledgment, respecting customers and building their trust are covered. It is emphasized that merely being good at human touch has little impact and that the customers must rate the interaction ability as excellent.

How Ritz-Carlton hotel has successfully implemented human touch as a customer caring process by defining and measuring the soft aspects of caring and incorporating continuous improving processes is dealt with in detail. It is pointed out that the foundation for their success is the careful selection of staff, training and empowering them, and respecting them as individuals. A number of graphs and tables are included to illustrate the statistics collected by Ritz-Carlton, which were included in their application to the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award.

In chapter 9, four basic approaches for the application of technology to humanize (not dehumanize) interactions with customers are dealt with. The first two areas to focus on are gaining real-time modeling capability to creating to enable acknowledging customers; and applying technology to free employees from routine tasks so that they can focus on human elements of interaction. The other two areas to focus on are applying technology to simplify the customer's life and increase the choices of how and when to interact with the organization.

The book clearly illustrates why some customer relations management do not succeed, and how acknowledging, respecting and creating trust can transform customers who may shop around to become loyal customers.

K. NarasimhanLearning and Teaching Fellow, Bolton Institute, UK

Fundamental concepts of quality improvementHartman, M.G. (Ed.) American Society for Quality 2002 ISBN: 0873895258 $40.00 Book

Collects together 27 previously published articles on the subject of quality from Quality Progress and the American Society for Quality's Annual Quality Congress and Annual Quality Audit conference. Deals with quality basics, teams, continuous improvement and integrated case studies in quality improvement applications. Contains some articles which are very basic and not useful but others are interesting. Targets anyone who is in the process of creating or maintaining the improvement process within his or her organization.

Reference: MBR/28/743Quality Progress (USA), July 2002

Service quality management in hospitality, tourism and leisureKandampully, J., Mok, C. and Sparks, B. (Eds) Hayworth Hospitality Press 2002 ISBN: 0789007266 £58.29 Book

Examines nascent understanding, approaches and strategies pertinent to the management of service quality in hospitality, tourism and leisure organizations. Discusses such topics as the role of the service encounter, the relationship between service quality and customer satisfaction, the quality context in the UK, service quality monitoring and feedback systems, managing service failure, empowerment and its effect on service quality, managing and marketing internal relationships, cross-cultural issues, and the impact of technology on service quality. Contains some duplication among authors and chapters, but overall, this is a very worthwhile publication from both the academic and the professional perspectives: whereas its in-depth coverage of the topic will appeal to academicians, the book's practical applicability to the tourism, hospitality and leisure areas will entice practitioners. Presents some interesting new ideas and views on managing service quality, and should be on the bookshelves of instructors, graduate students and managers in the field.

Reference: MBR/28/794Journal of Travel Research (USA), August 2002, Vol. 41

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