Who’s your Gladys by Suttle and Vest is about motivating employees to give good service from the viewpoint of 10 different industries. The title had the potential to pull me in to an interesting subject; and it did, but not the way I expected. I thought it would be like management books based on Dilbert or Charlie Brown comics, but it didn’t have a single cartoon in it. In fact, it had no pictures! Gladys is a curmudgeon—the embodiment of everyone’s challenging customer, coworker or boss; one who is picky, cantankerous, difficult, seemingly impossible to please, and requires a high level of skill to manage. Everyone has one or two.
There are 11 chapters. One is a final review chapter and each of the 10 prior chapters is a case study from a different company (Singapore Airlines, ISCO Industries, Clear Vision Optical, etc.) and descriptions of how they strategized to understand their “Gladys” and to exceed expectations. For example: Singapore Airlines has the tea service story. Potential customer service representatives are put in a room with chairs and a tea service on a table. The room has a one-way mirror to observe. The only candidates that progress to the next step are the ones who engaged others in conversation and offered tea to others in the room. These are the ones with a service-oriented mentality who try to avoid creating difficult customers in the first place. All of us should “remember that even when you have no control over a situation, you always have control over your response to it.” (p. 70)
Each chapter concludes with practical points and progress checklist. Each chapter also includes two “lessons learned” pages with questions for the reader to answer. Then the authors give you their answers on the following pages. They conclude with current viewpoints on customer service. For example: the Green Company believes that “customer perceptions matter more than the truth.” (p, 100) The “practical points” summary on pages 207 to 209 is a quick and useful review of the wisdom generated in the 10 chapters. One of my favorite quotes is “customer service is about seeing the positive qualities in a client with negative behavior.” (p. 9)
The workbook-style question and self-answer pages were not my preferred method of learning, but would work well as discussion points for groups that are training together. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how other people successfully achieve excellent customer service … because we all have difficult customers.