Saturday, June 30, 2018

Book Review: 'Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to Do About It' by Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson

Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to Do About It
Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson
Berrett-Koehler Publishers (2011)
A comprehensive road map for the new landscape of customer relationships
After carefully identifying the “what” of a customer relationship in Part One (Chapters 1-5), Chip Bell and John R. Patterson devote the remainder of their book to explaining how to formulate and then be guided by a comprehensive road map for the new landscape of customer relationships. (Those who think it is not a new landscape are no doubt cherished by their competitors.) I agree with Bell and Anderson that there is a new “normal” insofar as customers are concerned and even then, generalities about the new criteria for normality are more perilous than ever before. For example:
1. Customers now control the decision-making process. Even the most effective marketing (i.e. creating or increasing demand) can only influence it.
2. They are better informed than ever before.
3. They have more and better choices than ever before.
4. Social media have five times the impact of traditional advertising.
5. Therefore, “word of mouse” has at least five times the impact of word of mouth…and probably much more.
6. As for customer service, perfection is break-even.
These are sobering realities that suggest the meaning and significance of the title of Bell and Anderson’s book: customers are “dangerous” because they are “wired” into almost anything they need (e.g. information) and what they are considering (e.g. purchase decisions). As Bell explains, “they are edgy as well as connected with the Internet-enabled capacity to rapidly gain insight on a particular product or service and to quickly do great harm to the reputation of service providers” who fall short of their expectations.
Readers should view this book as a hardware store in which Bell and Anderson, co-proprietors, provide a guided tour during which they explain which tools are available, what their functions/features/benefits are, and how best to use each. More specifically, provided in Part Three, tools for
•  Calming customer crackpots, bullies, and militants
•  Serving when customer pain must be involved
•  Giving great lateral service
•  Service leadership in turbulent times
•  Crafting a really cool service vision
•  Making a great emotional connection with customers
•  Conducting a truly focused focus group
•  Surviving as an expert”
•   “Serving in the dark” like a partner
•  Firing a customer
•  Conducting customer forensics
•  Determining if your service process is unwell
•  Adding decoration to the service experience
•  Designing a survey your customers will actually complete
My own opinion is that Bell and Anderson’s discussion of these tools (Pages 165-210) all by itself is worth far more than the cost of the book. I agree with them that customers today “are picky, fickle, and vain” but that great service is not rocket science. “It is simply making your customers matter deeply and carefully managing all the details important to them. It is earning their respect as you nurture their loyalty, never taking them for granted. It is always being a [person who is passionately committed to] maintaining a laser focus on being really good on behalf of customers.”
I presume to suggest even the best customer service  “tools” in the world are of little value unless entrusted to skilled people who possess highly-developed emotional intelligence. As former chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, explained years ago, “We take great care of our people, they take great care of our customers, and our customers then take great care of our shareholders.” Amen.

Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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