The book: Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization, by Leonardo Inghilleri and Micah Solomon; Amacom; April 2010.
The big idea: Loyal customers are like family -- they stick with you through dark times, forgive your transgressions, and trumpet your virtues to the world. To earn that love, companies must deliver "anticipatory" service, which shows customers they are cared for.
The backstory: Inghilleri's pedigree includes stints at the Ritz-Carlton luxury hotel chain, where he helped win a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, and Euro Disney. Solomon is founder of Oasis Disc Manufacturing.
Words matter: The authors emphasize the importance of language. An appendix includes Oasis Disc's guide to preferred, discouraged, and unacceptable phrases to use with customers. (Preferred: "Absolutely!" Discouraged: "No problem!" Unacceptable: "Sure.")
If you read nothing else: The chapter on anticipating customer needs starts strong with "aha"-type examples (why don't restaurants keep reading material on hand for solitary diners and retail outlets proffer cups of ice water on hot days?). The final chapter explains how to make disabled customers feel welcome.
Rigor rating: 7 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). Inghilleri and Solomon draw on their experiences with blue-chip service companies. But they could use more examples.