BOOK REVIEW: ‘Customer Service’: Rene Henry Demystifies Something That Is A Rare Commodity Today

  • Reviewed by David M. Kinchen 
BOOK REVIEW: 'Customer Service': Rene Henry Demystifies Something That Is A Rare Commodity Today

Rene A. Henry is a double-threat author: He’s at once entertaining and informative. Whether he realizes it or not, he’s  a devotee of legendary “60 Minutes” producer Don Hewitt, who achieved success by telling his reporters to “tell me a story.”

Rene Henry’s newest book, “Customer Service: The Cornerstone of Success” (Gollywobbler Productions, 118 pages,  $13.46 paperback and $4.95 Kindle Editions) is true to type: Both entertaining and informative.

Henry loses no time telling his readers why customer service is an oxymoron in many companies and may soon be a thing of the past except for a few companies and organizations that pride themselves on providing their customers with extraordinary service.

It’s no secret, writes Henry, that the U.S. is becoming a rude society.  Fewer people care about or expect good customer service. Too many companies are living on past reputations. A new generation of senior executives has no idea what customer service is all about. Henry attributes this to a society of people all thumbs about their pods, pads and  smart phones  and oblivious to the world around them.

Henry attributes this to a society of people all thumbs about their high-tech gadget and oblivious to the world around them. This book should be a must read by CEOs, senior managers and heads of PR and customer service at all companies, organizations and institutions as well as local, state and federal governments. Yes, he deals with governmental communication breakdowns.

“Customer Service” provides case studies of successful customer service in all its varieties, citing how poor customer service or lack of it has caused and exacerbates crises.

Henry provides chapters on basics, listening, responding, telephone etiquette, and the problem of gate guardians as well as separate chapters for a more comprehensive look at the success of several companies including Amica Mutual Insurance Co., Marriott and Crystal Cruise Lines.

Henry draws from the successful practices of CEOs who know extraordinary customer service to provide the reader with a menu of proven ideas that can be adapted for any type of business, product or service.

“Customer Service”  looks at how the Nordstrom family empowers its employees with ownership and entrepreneurialism. There must be something in the water, because this Seattle-based company is one of many firms in the city that have a deservedly outstanding reputation for customer service. Another company based in the city that the author singles out is Amazon. Henry describes how Amazon has profited from the customer-centric philosophy of founder Jeff Bezos.

The book explains why Amica Insurance has been honored time and again for 100 years for the way it treats its customers.

Henry writes how Carl Sewell became one of the nation s largest luxury car dealers by turning one-time buyers into a lifetime customers.   The importance Bill Marriott, Jr. places on management by walking around has made it the leader in the hotel business is another case study.

Ukrops Supermarkets in Richmond, VA  became a major regional chain with a contrarian strategy. Brad Tilden attributes the success of Alaska Airlines to the company’s culture and passion for customer service.

Crystal Cruise Lines is consistently ranked #1 in its category because Gregg L. Michel and his team listen and respond. Jim Cabela of Cabela’s spends time every week to personally read and answer mail in order to exceed customers expectations.

One aspect of the book that I particularly liked about the book is that Henry names  companies — including other cruise lines that have been in the news lately — with poor or non-existent customer service.

He also names professions where this failure seems to be endemic, including journalists, PR people — especially young ones– and gatekeepers and watchdogs who keep their bosses in a state of blissful ignorance. The immortal line uttered by actor Strother Martin to members of the chain gang in “Cool Hand Luke” comes to mind: “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

A personal note: I’ve known Rene Henry since I joined the Los Angeles Times in 1976 as a reporter in the Real Estate section.  His public relations skills and all round helpfulness helped me negotiate my way around the maze of real estate development in Southern California and helped me become a better reporter. Now that’s what I call customer service!

I can’t  recommend “Customer Service” too highly; if I were a business owner, I’d order enough copies of this book so that every employee would have his/her own copy.  I might even have them pass tests on the principles he provides in this wonderful book!  (That’s the English teacher I never became coming to the fore!)


About the Author

Rene A. Henry, born in Charleston, WV in 1933, and educated at the College of William & Mary, has had diverse careers in public relations, sports marketing, housing and real estate, television and entertainment, politics, federal service, higher education and as a trade association executive.

He has created and produced award-winning videos and television documentaries and authored books on land investment, utility cogeneration, sports and public relations.

His two books on crisis: “Communicating In A Crisis; You’d Better Have a Hose If You Want to Put Out the Fire” and “Marketing Public Relations” are used by professionals, professors and students.

His sports book — “The Iron Indians” —  is about the remarkable 1953 William & Mary football team that lost only once in its first six games with only 24 players and 16 on scholarship. “Offsides!”, a book about officiating in the National Football League, was published in August 2001.


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