1: What were They Thinking?

A key difference between product and service is that the latter is produced in real time, on the spot, and can be altered to suit each customer.

From the perspective of an organization, it can't be inspected in the same way products can, and even when it can be spot-checked, the sample you observe may not be indicative of the way the employee serves each customer. Moreover, the employee who delivers service has considerable power - the power to "totally tick off your best customer." And to take it further, an employee can deliver excellent service for one customer, and horrible for the next.

It's an uncomfortable position for employers, who have little control over the single most critical element in retaining customers: service delivery in real time.

The author tells a few anecdotes: a receptionist would took a "not my job" attitude toward refilling the coffee urn in the lounge, a worker who was selling drugs on the job, a cashier who couldn't make change unless the register told her the amount to return (an assistant manager who had to work it out on a pocket calculator), a fast-food restaurant that refused to serve an item because it was not yet the time of day when they wanted to serve it, a clothing store clerk who treats a customer shabbily because of the way he's dressed at the time, the indifference of gate clerks at an airport when a flight is repeatedly moved back, a waiter who refused to turn off a fan that was annoying a customer.