What would drive an otherwise sane person to write a book about customer service? Certainly no subject has received more attention or consumed more print
in the past ten years or so. Yet, reflect on the quality of service you tolerate as a customer, client, patient, buyer, user, lessee, passenger...wherever you find yourself as a patron. Reflect on what
it is like to be a customer in your own organization. Reflect on the frustration you feel as you find yourself unable to drive to realization your vision of delighting your customers because you cannot
seem to infect others with that vision.
However, it can be so much better. It was my great good fortune to participate for a large part of my life in leading within an organization that is
rightly fabled for its service. I came by that opportunity fortuitously, as I was unable to land a teaching job in Seattle in 1971. Economic conditions were so dire that a billboard adjacent to a major
freeway exiting the city plaintively requested: “Will the last person to leave Seattle please turn out the lights?”
Desperate for work, I ignored all of my education and goals to date to gratefully accept a temporary job at Nordstrom, derking for $2.46 an hour. That
stop-gap job turned into an almost two decade career that allowed me to work with ever-larger groups of people taking care of growing numbers of customers. In 1990, when I retired as the leader of the
Southern California division, Nordstrom and I had reached a milestone together: Some eleven thousand “Nordies” were delighting customers in that region at the level of one billion dollars in annual
That story is an exciting one, but this book is not about Nordstrom or about retailing in general. It is about why this company and others like it have
so passionately focused all of their resources on their customers. It is about how they have engaged ordinary people, people like me, in making their dreams for their business a reality. It is about what
degree of dedication to their satisfaction is required for custom-em to make your company fabled for service.
In short, this book is about leadership. In my time with Nordstrom and in the multitude of experiences I have since enjoyed with companies from the
largest conglomerate to the smallest start-up, I am convinced of one thing: Fabled service is always the product of impassioned leadership. The leadership of fabled service summons forth all our
talents and energies, as well as our focused intent to excel. At the same time, it brings about a transformation, both in us personally and in the people we lead. It is at once profoundly demanding and
Examining the real-life practice of service leadership does not provide a template for you to apply to your actions or to overlay on your organization. The
specifics of what you do to maximize your opportunities for authentic service eminence are unique to you, to the rich resources at your disposal, and to the challenges you face. There is no template, but
there are some very definite footsteps you can follow to widen your own path to the customer. In taking a detailed look at the fundamentals of service leadership, I hope to convey to you a sense of your
tremendous potential to make a material difference, a difference so distinct that your leadership will extend far beyond your own company or organization.
I wrote this book to share with you an ideal, as well as some very practical considerations in reaching that ideal. In turn, I look forward to learning
from you through your customers’ enthusiastic retelling of the fables your service leadership engenders.