Discovering the Soul of Service by Leonard L. Berry
The Free Press, 288 pages, $26

ValuJet made more money in its first year of operations than Southwest Airlines earned in its first eight years. But when one of ValuJet's planes crashed in 1996 killing everyone aboard, the airline never recovered. People didn't trust it anymore.

By contrast, Southwest Airlines continues to garner kudos for its service, safety, and culture. People trust Southwest. The airline works hard to earn and keep that trust.

Service companies such as airlines sell a promise. People trust in that promise. When companies break that trust, they lose customers' confidence. Without that confidence, service companies have nothing.

Trust is one of nine elements that author Leonard Berry identifies as driving sustainable success in service organizations. Others include strategic focus and excellence in execution, control over one's destiny, investment in employees' success, brand cultivation, generosity, and acting small. All of them stem from values-driven leadership.

Berry details each element, offering examples of excellence from fourteen service companies in diverse industries -- from retail (The Container Store) to hospitality (Bergstrom Hotels), investment (Charles Schwab) to baseball (St. Paul Saints).

For example, fans of the minor league St. Paul Saints get more than a baseball game when they buy a ticket. They get fun: Haircuts from a barber chair behind the third-base dugout. Neck massages from nuns who circulate in the stands. The chance to participate in competitive events between innings or get players' autographs on the field before each game.

The night that Grateful Dead musician Jerry Garcia died, players wore tie-dyed jerseys, the sound system played Dead music, and lava lamps lined the Saints' home field.

Good service can be fun for everyone. Berry shows you how.

Copyright 1999 Soundview Executive Book Summaries