The Customer Comes Second

The Customer Comes Second

by Hal Rosenbluth


View All Available Formats & Editions

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780688132460
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 01/31/1994
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Hal Rosenbluth's company has been profiled in many of the nation's leading publications, including The Wall Street Journal,the Harvard Business Review,and Inc. magazine.

Diane McFerrin Peters is director of corporate communications for Rosenbluth Travel. Both are popular lecturers.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



Just a brief decade and a half ago, we were like most companies. Back then, if someone had described our company to me as it is today, I would have thought they were crazy. I also would have given just about anything to work here.

A lot has happened; much of it by accident, some by design. But lately the transformations our company has gone through are being studied and written about everywhere. We didn't solicit the curiosity and attention, but we found ourselves in the middle of it, and we've been presented with this opportunity to share the steps of our inadvertent journey.

When news spread of our company's 7,500-percent growth in revenue over the past fifteen years (from $20 million to $1.5 billion while maintaining profitability above industry standards), we began to be literally inundated with requests to share our "secret" of success.

Our secret is controversial. It centers around our basic belief that companies must put their people -- not their customers -- first.

You might wonder how our clients feel about this. For our people, the clients are priority number one. Our company has built a solid reputation in the field of customer service (in fact, our client retention rate is 96 percent), but we have actually done it by focusing inside, on our own people.

Companies have profound and far-reaching effects on the lives of the people who work for them, so it becomes the obligation of companies to make the effects positive. Alltoo often companies bring stress, fear, and frustration to their people--feelings they bring home with them each night. This creates problems at home which people bring back to work in the morning. The cycle is both terrible and typical, but not what most companies would want as their legacy. It's certainly not what our company wants: especially when there are so many things we can all do to enrich the lives of our people.

If this all sounds simple, it's not. Let's take a look at where we came from, where we are today, and just how we got there. Here begins the charting of a road map for change.


Our company began a century ago as a forerunner to travel agencies as we know them today. My great-grandfather, Marcus Rosenbluth, founded the company in 1892 to provide transportation for immigrants from Europe to the United States via steamship.

It was a full-service business. The company acted as a bank to help families save for the fifty-dollar ticket. Because he spoke nine languages, Marcus was able to help sort out the immigration paperwork and facilitate the process of reuniting families. Through the network he built, he even helped immigrants find work in their new country.


The company survived the astronomical changes in the world around it and thrived. Some eighty-two years after its founding, Rosenbluth was firmly entrenched as the largest and strongest travel agency in the Philadelphia area. The firm's success was indisputable. Then I joined the firm, hell-bent on changing it from head to toe.

I admit, I didn't want to join the family business in the first place, which probably made me look at it with an unusually harsh eye. What I saw was a flourishing business held back by politics; powerful individual efforts thwarted by a lack of teamwork. This was an environment I didn't relish working in, so it was likely many of my colleagues didn't like it much either.

Change has to start somewhere, and here it began with a group of mavericks who pioneered our corporate travel department, at the time a low-profile start-up unit. Today it makes up over 90 percent of our company's operations.

Prior to airline deregulation there was not much of a market for corporate travel services. But when fares and schedules began to change by the minute in the new deregulated environment, corporations saw the impact business travel could have on their lives and their bottom lines. That's when corporate travel management skyrocketed for us.

This budding operation wasn't a place for creatures of habit, lovers of the status quo. Every day meant change, a whirlwind of activity, a future unfolding by the minute. The nine-to-five routine became more like five ( A.M.) to nine ( P.M.) in this uncharted territory.

I was drawn to it instinctively, as though I were coming home. This was the perfect place for the transformation of our company to begin. I had no specific plan for the change but I wanted to capture the spirit I had found in this unsung department, a spirit of cooperation, friendship, fierce dedication, and hard work. I knew we had to concentrate, above all, on the people providingthe service. From there, everything else would fall into place.


The changes began in our little comer of the company, and the turning point came when we put our people first. It didn't happen overnight. A sweeping change like that takes commitment, persistence, and time. People have to change and so do the infrastructure and systems that support them.

Such change can start as a grass roots movement. It can be embraced by top leadership and filter throughout an organization. Or, as in our case, it can take hold in one segment of a company and spread laterally. The only important thing is for it to start.

We're talking about a change that puts the people in organizations above everything else. They are cared for, valued, empowered, and motivated to care for their clients. When a company puts its people first, the results are spectacular. Their people are inspired to provide a level of service that truly comes from the heart. It can't be faked.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Customer Comes Second: Put Your People First and Watch 'em Kick Butt 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I want to find the chinese edition of the book.Can you help me ? I am looking forward to reading this book. or ,how can I read the content of it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Customer Comes Second is the best business book I've ever read. Mr. Rosenbluth offers realistic advice for creating a motivated and loyal team. His own experiences and the success of his philosophy within Rosenbluth travel is solid evidence that it works. Reading this book will provide you with great ideas to apply in your own workplace while it also serves as motivation for the seasoned manager.