The Kindness Revolution: The Company-wide Culture Shift That Inspires Phenomenal Customer Service


"Despite years of focus on the importance of customer service, most businesses still have a lot to learn. Too many merely tweak a script, roll out a new offer, then disappear from the scene, leaving their frontline staff -- often underpaid and badly overworked -- to expertly, cheerfully handle all the real-life encounters with real-life customers who can make or break a company.

That’s no way to run a business, says customer service expert Ed Horrell. If you treat your frontline employees with indifference or ...

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"Despite years of focus on the importance of customer service, most businesses still have a lot to learn. Too many merely tweak a script, roll out a new offer, then disappear from the scene, leaving their frontline staff -- often underpaid and badly overworked -- to expertly, cheerfully handle all the real-life encounters with real-life customers who can make or break a company.

That’s no way to run a business, says customer service expert Ed Horrell. If you treat your frontline employees with indifference or disregard, you can expect them to treat your customers with indifference -- and you can then expect to have indifferent customers who will drop you for the next best thing without a murmur of regret.

Combining extensive research with inspiring real-life examples from companies known for their outstanding customer service -- such as L.L.Bean, Chick-fil-A, Nordstrom, Mrs. Fields, St. Jude Children’s Research Center, The Ritz-Carlton, FedEx, and more -- Horrell explains in The Kindness Revolution that providing exceptional, compassionate customer service can only happen when you build a deep and lasting relationship with your employees. And it is kindness, says Horrell, that most characterizes that relationship.

The Kindness Revolution traces the culture characteristics of the standout companies, including their strong conviction that:

Each employee has an important job to do.

Their corporate entity has a meaningful purpose…to serve the customer in a way that delivers value.

Each employee should be empowered to make decisions.

They attract the best employees and customers by running an organization based on sincerity and consideration.

There is value in dignity and respect and courtesy -- and kindness.

For organizations large and small, of any size or industry, The Kindness Revolution is a resounding wake-up call to change the way your company thinks about its employees, and to practice the basic values of dignity, respect, courtesy, and kindness from top to bottom throughout your organization.

The way you treat your employees will be the way they treat your customers. Follow the wise advice and insightful examples in The Kindness Revolution, and experience the enormous payback in loyal customers, a more prosperous company -- and a better way of life."

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher

"“Ed Horrell has captured the essence of values-based customer service in his book The Kindness Revolution. This is a must-read for any company interested in retaining both employees and customers.” -- Dan Cathy, President and Chief Operating Officer, Chick-fil-A, Inc.

“We have enjoyed working with Ed Horrell at Graceland. His ideas have definitely made a difference. The Kindness Revolution is real!”

-- Jack Soden, CEO, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc.

""Illuminating and absorbing, The Kindness Revolution is a book that explores how American Business lost its preeminence in delivering first-rate customer service and what successful companies are doing to recapture the hearts and minds of consumers.

The Kindness Revolution is a must-read for any company that is earnest in winning over customers and keeping them for life!

Vive la Revolution!""

-- Jeffrey Chernoff, President, Consumers’ Choice Award"

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814473078
  • Publisher: AMACOM
  • Publication date: 8/16/2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,442,772
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ed Horrell has been writing and consulting on customer service issues for over 20 years. He is the host of the syndicated Talk About Service radio show and podcast. A popular speaker, he addresses more than 120 audiences a year. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee.

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Read an Excerpt

The Kindness Revolution

By Ed Horrell


Copyright © 2006 Ed Horrell
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8144-7307-5



I AM A PROFESSIONAL SPEAKER, freelance writer, author, and radio talk show host. I actually launched my radio show, Talk About Service, after I began the original research for this book, but that role has helped me enormously by constantly validating what I found on this quest for customer service excellence. The exposure to listeners via both telephone calls and emails has supported the information I will be presenting to you. All of the stories, quotes, and emails are real and reflect the current state of customer service from actual customers with whom I have come into contact. You won't have to look very closely to determine my overall opinion of service today. As a customer service advocate, I figured it was about time to write a book on the topic, a book chronicling some of the companies that have become famous for their outstanding customer service. Being from the South (Memphis, Tennessee), I was interested in exploring whether being southern-based made a difference in customer service. I finally decided that that approach was too limited, so I came up with a combination of national and regional companies.


The initial contacts went pretty well. Interviews were scheduled and beingconducted. I was feeling pretty good at that point, but problems developed fairly early. I found that the first couple of companies I interviewed wanted to emphasize what I can only describe as "extreme" customer service stories. I felt that the people I was interviewing were more interested in telling amazing, almost unbelievable, stories than talking about their customer service philosophies.

I had explained that what I wanted were the stories from which other companies could learn how to improve their service. But the stories I got did not contain examples of customer service from which others could learn; they were more about heroic acts performed by employees. They included life-saving experiences and stories of babies being delivered by company employees. I enjoyed hearing the stories but felt that these tended to center around people doing nice things rather than around customer service. I would hope that we live in a society where human decency is a common trait, but these were not customer service-related stories. Frankly, I expect any company anywhere to help a stranger who has a seizure in their restaurant or lobby.

What I was sensing was an extreme disconnect between what customers expect and what these companies thought of as good service. It appeared that many of the companies I was interviewing didn't really grasp what their customers wanted. They wanted to talk about heroic acts but not their regular, everyday customer service. After a quick review of what could have been my faulty interviewing techniques, I moved on.

I was then told by executives at two companies that they had excellent stories, but they were hesitant to share them because their customers might read the book and would then expect the same service.

You didn't misread that last sentence. They didn't want to tell me their customer service excellence stories because they didn't want their other customers to expect that level of service! This shocked me and left me disappointed. The stories they didn't want to tell me were not about incredible acts of bravery or courage, but simply about superior acts of service. In both cases, the message was "We don't want our customers to know what we are capable of doing because they would come to expect that." They would rather have their customers expect mediocrity because they knew they could deliver that. This was unbelievable to me.

I also had my share of stories from founders of companies who thought that their individual "rags to riches" stories were bookworthy, but whose companies just didn't seem to have the passion for service that I was looking for. These were nice companies, but I found that something was lacking from a sense-of-service standpoint. While their individual stories would be of interest to readers, the resulting commitments to service didn't provide what I was looking for either.

By now, I had interviewed a few companies with interesting stories, but I wasn't finding the synergies that I had expected. As a matter of fact, I was finding virtually nothing in common among the companies I was interviewing. They were all successful businesses in their industries, but none was providing any kind of "wow" when it came to service. I found that I had selected them more because I knew who they were than for their reputation among their customers or the buying populace in general. In other words, I had selected them based upon their marketing-their advertising and slogans-not their service. I had selected them based on what they said about their service, not what their customers said.

I realized that I had to change my approach and change it soon. I had run my mouth to friends and associates about my new book and was too far into it to simply stop, although I had gotten almost nowhere. My notes were worthless and had no meaning. I was committed to avoiding writing another customer service book containing a collection of processes or tips for dealing with angry customers and the like. I knew full well that I wasn't going to go with quantifiable data-type information simply because that is neither my style nor interest. I wanted to be inspired, to find some driving force behind service that was more than zero defects and systems.

I decided to make a list of the companies that I did business with. I wanted to determine which of these companies I would never consider leaving as opposed to those that I would leave if I got better service somewhere else. I needed to know whether I was an example of a customer surrounded by effective service. I got out a sheet of paper and began to write them down, all of them.

With one or two exceptions, I found that I wouldn't hesitate to leave any of them to do business with another company that gave me better service. This was in spite of the fact that I had done business with some of these companies for over twenty years! I was not a loyal customer and probably was not even satisfied. A better description would be that I was mostly not dissatisfied. Most of them simply offered routine service and a comfort that came simply by knowing their location and phone numbers. There was nothing that compelled me to continue to do business with them other than the fact that I had done business with them for a long time. Not loyal, not satisfied; I was simply complacent.


I recently spoke at a hotel management company annual conference. The theme of their conference was "The Future Is Wow!" That theme has a lot of possible connotations, including a better future, more profits, and exciting new ideas. In my presentation, I applied it to customer service in the sense that the future of companies that make a difference in customer service had better include "WOW" for their customers. Satisfaction is not going to be enough for the ones who wish to enjoy extreme success. It is going to require that they do more than satisfy ... they are going to have to astonish, amaze, and "WOW" their customers.

Sooner or later, a group of companies will realize that service is what makes the difference. They are going to decide to win back the lost customer loyalty that once prevailed among customers and get them back by killing them with service. They are going to quit talking about it, put away the fads and trends, and get down to the old-fashioned business of providing world-class customer service. They are going to get their old customers back, and also the customers of their competition. The others, the companies who fail to "WOW" their customers, are going to have problems. Indeed, the future for all companies is "WOW." Failure to provide that will result in failure.


During my speech, I introduced one of my favorite theories in customer service. It is the theory that there are two types of companies when it comes to service: those that "get it," and those that don't.

One of my favorite companies that "get it" is The Ritz-Carlton. The stories of the Ritz-Carlton mystique are legendary. That mystique comes not from legend, but from a relentless quest to astonish their guests. They understand at The Ritz-Carlton that any hotel can provide guest satisfaction; that doesn't create mystique. What they want is to amaze their guests, at every guest contact, to the extent that comparisons with other hotels are meaningless.

That is astonishment; being incomparable. That is "WOW."

As a full-time observer of customer service, I pay attention to companies' media ads. I like to see what gets customers' attention and to try to compare what companies say about service, rather than what they actually do. One of my favorite ads was sent to me by a listener. It was an ad for a local mattress dealer. It said, "If you can find a mattress for less than you can buy it for here, we'll give you one free." I love that-it's simple and direct and shows both confidence in their pricing and respect for their customers. It's also another clear-cut example of "WOW"-even though the company isn't anywhere near as large or well-known as The Ritz-Carlton,

In fact, I notice that the most passionate ads about service and commitment often come from the smaller companies. When it comes to customer service, size is not necessarily an advantage. What matters is whether you "get it" or not.


I enjoy watching new companies get started. I am an entrepreneur and certainly consider myself a small-business advocate. I like to see the growth of new business; I take pleasure in observing the passion of a new business owner. I believe the opportunities for new businesses to be a blessing that comes with living in the United States.

Most new businesses begin as a result of an observation that there is a service or product needed to fill a niche. This niche can be a void in a location, a need for a new or enhanced product, the development of a similar product or service at a lower price, or any number of similar observations. In all events, the observer has determined that money can be made through these efforts. Often, this comes as a result of a detailed study of the market, prospects, competition, and other factors. Just as often, it comes as a result of a gut feeling. Either way, the business begins.

During the course of time, some of these businesses begin to separate themselves from their competition; they develop a sense and mission that become apparent to their customers and employees. These become clearer and more apparent; they have a purpose and course. Their turnover goes down, and profits go up. Their customers are happy, and their employees become empowered and more trusted. They become model companies, often recognized as leaders and innovators in their industries. There is something special and different about them, something that is sensed, but not measured.

The principals of these companies become well-known and are asked regularly to speak or to be interviewed for the next article. They are asked to describe why they are in business. Amazingly, the answer is virtually always the same: "to make money."

This tends to surprise a lot of people. I often ask my audiences to describe why these leading companies are in business, and I get a kick out of the many times that I hear "to make a difference," "to provide great service," "to serve their customers," or something similar. The correct answer, however, is "to make money."

The companies that "get it" when it comes to service understand that making money comes directly as a result of serving customers. They put the focus on the service part of business and realize that money flows from loyal customers. They understand a simple equation: Having loyal customers equals making money.

What really is surprising, however, is the number of companies that view service as the item to cut in order to make more money. They decide to focus on getting new customers at the expense of keeping existing customers loyal. When things get tough, they look at ways to cut the costs associated with service. They look for ways to cut back on employee costs but keep the heat up on finding new customers. They lose sight of the fact that it usually costs around five times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keep an existing one. These are the companies that just don't get it.


If you have to wonder whether your company gets it when it comes to customer service, it probably doesn't. However, you might take this quick assessment and answer the following five questions honestly:

1. Does your company have a mission statement posted in the lobby or conference room that is known by memory by no one in your firm and never referred to? Do you have a nicely framed lithograph on the wall in your lobby, with no purpose but to fill up space?

2. Do you discuss customer service less than once a day with your direct reports? Do your customer service initiatives consist only of having a speaker come in during your annual sales meeting?

3. Would you be embarrassed or ashamed of what you think your employees say about you and your company after hours? Are your employees poor advertisers and recruiters-or worse-after hours?

4. Are you hesitant to tell your employees to do whatever it takes to make a customer happy ... whatever it takes? Are you concerned that they would "give away the ship" if you let them?

5. Do you think you know what your customers want without asking them? Are you comfortable sitting in the conference room making decisions on behalf of your customers?

"Yes" answers to any of these questions may mean trouble-for you, your customers, your employees, and, above all, your company.


I asked the president of a local technology company about his thoughts on customer service. His response disappointed me. He immediately started bragging about his operating system, the cost of the software that had been installed, and all that it did from a management perspective. He went on and on about the information that he and his staff could get on the flow of orders, trouble reports, and status of trouble tickets. At no time did he mention his people. His answers all involved the process that his company took in dealing with customers; things like reports, systems, and details. What was important to him was the software that ran the system, not the people who ran the software.

This executive thinks he is running a good company, and he is. His problem is that he is running a company based upon what his competition does. They drive his organization, his vision. He runs a company that is just another business on the block, not unique in any way. He is doing business to find satisfied customers and not to create loyalty. His company is just another player in the game, not one that "gets it."

Unfortunately, this is all too typical of most of the companies that are viewed as successful today. They are happy with middle-of-the-road success, with mediocrity. What they don't realize is that there is a company that gets it that is waiting in the wings, watching their complacency closely. These observers know their customers, their employees, and their methods. They are just like everyone else, so why shouldn't they be known? So, the first company continues to plug ahead, until the other company makes itself known-the one doing business with values at its core; the one that changes things for the entire industry.


One of the premises I teach regarding interpersonal communication is that the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have others do unto you), though infallible as a way of life, does not work when it comes to effective communication. We should seek to communicate with others not the way we wish to be communicated with, but rather the way they wish to be communicated with-what I call the "Silver Rule of Customer Service."


Excerpted from The Kindness Revolution by Ed Horrell Copyright © 2006 by Ed Horrell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents



1 Owning Your Customers

2 A Top-Down Commitment to Service

3 Employees on a Mission

4 Never on Sunday

5 Talking About Service . . . Every Day

6 When Customers Call In Sick

7 Extraordinary Employee Empowerment

8 Absolutely, Positively: The Pursuit of Perfection

9 A Place Where Kindness Grows

10 Kindness: Starting the Revolution

11 How to Eliminate Indifference in Your Workplace

12 The Quick Fix Won’t Work: How to Ensure Permanent Change

13 Are You Ready?

14 Ten Steps to an Extreme Corporate Makeover

15 Putting It Out There -- On the Net

16 Conclusions



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