7: POS and Service Naturals

The author uses the phrase "positively outrageous service" or "POS" (EN: an unfortunate anagram) to refer to the level of service that goes well beyond customer expectations and creates the "wow" effect that gets people coming back for more, and spreading positive word-of-mouth about your business.


The author refers to a "halo" effect of customer service, in that the customers past service experience sets a level of expectation for their future experiences.

This can work both ways: a good service experience makes the customer willing to return, but sets a high standard of expectations you must meet to maintain your halo. A bad service experience may run customers off for good - or at the very least, they begrudgingly return with low expectations.

What's more, the effect colors their experience. When there's a mistake or lapse in service, a customer who has had good experiences in the past will be more forgiving (the error is an exception to the rule), whereas a customer who had negative experiences is on guard for even minor flaws to criticize.


The author mentions the concept of reciprocity - when you go above and beyond for someone else, they generally do the same for you. He does this by way of an anecdote about a customer who, having received good service, brought cookies for the staff of a rental car agency, and the staff remembered her for it and went the extra mile to serve her even better.

(EN: this can be a sticky topic, as it plays on social psychology and is a common "trick" used in sales - a small gift to make a person feel indebted, and more inclined to acquiesce to acting in your favor. Granted, it's not always so - sometimes a nice gesture is just a nice gesture - but the line between being nice and being manipulative can be blurry in some instances.)

Word of Mouth

The author mentions word-of-mouth promotion as being better and more effective than any form of marketing or paid advertising - what others say about your service is more important and more credible than what you say about yourself.

The word-of-mount recommendations you get will match, in terms of quantity and quality, the level of service you provide. If you service is average and unremarkable, people won't feel the need to remark. If it's exceptionally good or bad, they will feel the need to tell others about it.

The author provides a few examples from Southwest Airlines, a company known as a service leader, who has encouraged and empowered its employees to seek out ways to impress customers with their level of service: a customer who wanted to propose to his fiancee in flight, a pilot who made jokes over the intercom to put the children onboard at ease over turbulence.

None of this is common practice, and some airlines would discourage such behavior and have rules and policies in place to prevent it - and missed out on the myriad of opportunities to create memorable and enjoyable service experiences.

Service Naturals

The author suggests that some people are "service naturals." It's a combination of knowing what to do, and having the will to do it when the opportunity arises. The latter is harder to come by than the former.

His first anecdote is about a medical emergency. Most people know the basics of CPR, but when something happens, they fail to act. The person who recognizes the need, and doesn't freeze up, is regarded as a hero - but what he did required no superhuman powers, merely the skills to act and the will to take action.

Another example he gives is of a waitress whose name and demeanor he remembers after three decades, from a time when he had moved and had an extended hotel stay. He doesn't recall many specific details, other than that after a few days she remembered his name and how he took his eggs. It may be she didn't do very much different at all, just a manner of demeanor. It's a reminder that quality of service is defined by the customer - and that small things can make a memorable difference.

Another anecdote is a waiter in a restaurant in New Orleans, where he visits once or twice a year. He doesn't merely go to the same place, but requests the same server - because the guy treated him well, and gave him a business card (very unusual for a waiter).

Every Employee is Perfect!

The author asserts, in spite of some of the outrageous misconduct he has seen, that everyone has a potential to be a great employee - though not necessarily in their current job. Sometimes, you can train or coach a mediocre employee, but in other instances, they're just not a good fit for the job. Customer service isn't "right" for everyone - it's a better fit for some personalities than others,

The author comes up with a lengthy list of "characteristics" that are more in the nature of behaviors. In general, they are the acts of a person who is outgoing and attentive and places the greatest importance not on succeeding at a task he is assigned to do, but on discovering what is necessary to succeeding in satisfying the customer.

Faulty Fit

The author suggest that the biggest cause of bad service is a mismatch between the job and the personality of the employee. Tasks can be assigned, and skills can be taught - but personality is something you have little power to influence.

Moreover, it's important to hire slowly, but fire fast. A bad employee can damage the customer experience, undermine the morale of the other employees

(EN: I think the author is underestimating the strength of a good manager to influence attitudes and behaviors of his staff. The ability to develop employees is a much neglected management skill, and it seems weak to suggest that there is some innate quality over which the manager has no influence that makes a person good or bad at their job. There are extreme instances, I'm sure, when it's necessary to be rid of someone - but my sense is that poor managers are too eager to cling to the "bad employee" excuse as an easier path to success.)