Banking & Finance and Government

BOOK REVIEWS: "Best Face Forward: Why Companies Must Improve Their Service Interfaces with Customers"

May 22, 2006

Customers got their first inkling 25 years ago when ATM machines were introduced. Another hint came along 10 years later when voice mail arrived. The trickle of computerized customer-service inter actions became a flood as we started using devices like parking-garage ticket machines, airline ticket kiosks, telephone voice trees and self-service checkouts for groceries and library books. Internet transactions such as online shopping, banking and purchasing movie tickets also entered the scene. Interacting with these "smart technologies," which seemed odd at first, is now part of everyday life.

In "Best Face Forward: Why Companies Must Improve Their Service Interfaces with Customers," authors Jeffrey F. Rayport and Bernard J. Jaworski believe that competitive advantage will go to the companies that create the best and most efficient customer-interface systems. How customers view a company and its product or service is greatly influenced by their opinion of the quality of service received.

The re-engineered front office will use three kinds of customer service interfaces: people-dominant, machine-dominant and hybrids of the two. Examples of each type of interface are, respectively: retail store clerks, talking elevators, and a travel agent consulting a reservations system while booking a vacation.

Businesses will use two variations of the hybrid interface: one where people operate in the foreground and are supported by machines, and one where machines operate in the foreground and are supported by people. The authors propose various interface mixes to re-engineer the front office. Figuring out the correct hybrid mix that produces the optimal customer experience is what will define tomorrow's successful companies.

Harvard Business School Press, 2005,

$29.95

The American Marketplace:

Demographics and Spending

Patterns

by the editors of New Strategist

Publications

This publication has been telling the American demographic story for more than a decade. With the government's detailed demographic data now accessible almost exclusively on the Internet, extracting kernels of data can be difficult.

The goal of this book is to boil down some of those statistics for you. This sixth edition takes figures from the 2000 census, plus updates from the "2002 Current Population Survey Annual Update."

New Strategist Publications, 2003,

$89.95
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