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Uncommon Service: How to Win by Putting Customers at the Core of Your Business Hardcover – 7 Feb 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (7 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422133311
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422133316
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 305,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"The book was uncommonly excellent. Very straightforward and to the point. Frei and Morriss uncover four basic truths about customer service, discuss the important ingredient of culture and provide guidance on how companies can scale to get bigger...this might be the best book I've ever read on achieving service excellence." -- Stan Phelps, CustomerThink (customerthink.com) "This book is a practical guide for leaders who want to use service to strategically differentiate their companies from the competition." -- Jeff Toister, CustomerThink (customerthink.com) "Anne Morriss and Harvard Business School Professor Frances Frei make the counterintuitive, but compelling argument that true success for service businesses requires that you give up on being perfect; that you make some tradeoffs." -- Business Insider (businessinsider.com) "Morriss and Frei have a powerful and surprising answer..." -- Forbes.com "In this upbeat and highly readable book, the authors isolate four "service truths" that companies must understand..." -- BizEd magazine "The book is full of case studies showing how companies have harnessed their strengths but cut corners elsewhere, in pursuit of the ultimate goal: excellent service." -- South Africa Financial Mail "I found Uncommon Service to be a refreshing, frank and honest look at how any organization can increase profitability, satisfaction and competitive advantage by delivering consistently outstanding service." -- American Express Open Forum

About the Author

Frances Frei is UPS Foundation Professor of Service Management at Harvard Business School, where she developed the school's successful Managing Service Operations course. Anne Morriss is the Managing Director of the Concire Leadership Institute, a consulting firm that helps leaders to surface and remove performance barriers

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By Dana Marshall on 30 Dec. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good reading
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Amazon.com: 29 reviews
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
If you care about your customers, you need to read this book... 22 Jan. 2012
By R. Buell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I was an MBA student at Harvard Business School, one of the most difficult classes to get into was Frances Frei's Managing Service Operations elective. I was one of her lucky students, but demand was so high that even those who ranked it as their first choice often failed to win one of the prized seats in the class.

If you read this book, you'll understand why...

Frei is a world-renowned guru in service management and a Harvard teaching legend. In "Uncommon Service," she's partnered with Anne Morriss, a leader in strategy, leadership and institutional change. Together, they distill the principles of service excellence into an intuitive road map that any executive, with the appropriate conviction, can follow to improve customer experiences, and in turn, firm performance. Not a bad value proposition when you think about it - developing a sustainable competitive advantage by making your customers' lives better.

What I loved about the course, and indeed this book, is that it is full of real world examples of service successes and failures, used to masterfully illustrate a system of interconnected design principles that lead to service excellence. The stories are compelling and their implications are clear, and by the time you're finished reading, you'll be able to diagnose what's right, and what's wrong with the service design of your company, as well as those of your competitors.

On their own, the principles of service excellence make "Uncommon Service" a must-have for any entrepreneur interested in deploying a world-class service operation from the ground up. Having been a service entrepreneur myself, this aspect of the book appealed to me deeply. However, Frei and Morriss, who themselves have considerable experience working with many of the world's largest and most complicated service organizations, have crafted the book to speak as well to executives interested in improving pre-existing operations. The book tackles implementation issues in the context of a complex organization in motion, as well as how to develop a service culture, and how to scale service excellence as the enterprise experiences growth.

If you run, or aspire to run a service organization, and you're concerned at all with the experiences of your customers, you need this book. It is exceptionally engaging, devoid of jargon, brutally honest, and a joy to read. It is simply a masterpiece, and I cannot recommend it more highly.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Serving 4 impact 5 Mar. 2012
By F. J. G. Zimny - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover

It is an understatement to claim that technology has revolutionized the way that companies perform. That same technology enables professionals within customer service to develop individualized relationships with customers or pure encounters. Supported by advancements in management science, operations management and maketing, companies are able to improve both profits and financials.

But technology is not the critical success factor. In my opinion, the mindset of meeting the customer demand for great service - and saving money at the save time - is more important.

Frances Frei and Anne Morris wrote a book covering some recommendations how to design customer service.

In UnCommon Service, Harvard Business School Professor Frances Frei and coauthor Anne Morriss bring their provocative argument to the table: that companies must dare to be "bad" in order to be great, choosing strategic ways to underperform while fueling a winning service advantage.
The authors claim that uncommon service is created by specific design choices made in the very blueprint of a business model. And it not merely about making customers happy; instead it is about creating an organization where all employees - not just the star performers - provide excellent service as a matter of routine. These outstanding service organizations create offerings, fund strategies, system and cultures that set their people up to excel casually.

The authors claim that they introduce a decidedly fresh view of service. An organizational design model is presented built on tough services one must make about four dimensions of any business.
Frei and Morriss illustrate the power of their approach with examples from a wide array of industries. Uncommon service makes a powerful case for a new and systematic approach to customer service.

The core

These are the four dimensions of your business:

Your service offering:How do customers define "excellence" in your offering?
Your service funding mechanism:How will you get paid for delivering excellence?
Your emplyee management system:How will you prepare your employees to deliver excellence every day?
Your customer management system:How will you get your customers to behave in ways that improve their service experience - without disrupting anyone's else's?
Your service offering (which specific attributes of service are you competing on) is determined by its funding mechanism, the employee management system and the customer management system.

Leverage of trade-offs is essential.

As the authors explain, there are four service truths:

You can not be good at everything;
The authors claim simply that dissatisfaction is a predictable outcome when you try to be great at everything. To put it into practice you have to undertake various steps (e.g creating an internal attribute map, creating and external attribute map and analyzing your performance. In this way, one can identify wasted edges and wasted profits. The next step is redefining value.

Someone has to pay for it;
Four ways are identified to pay for excellence:

Charge customers extra for it;
Make cost reductions that also improve service;
Make service improvement that also reduce costs;
Get customers to do the work for you.
To put it into practice these steps are recommended:

Examine your cost structure;
Monetize your strengths;
Unleash your customers.
It is not your employees fault;
In a service model that works, employees are reasonably able and reasonably motivated to achieve excellence. The able part is made possible by selection, training and job designs that set up real-world employees to succeed. The motivated part is facilated by a performance management system that makes them want to do their job effectively.
You must manage your customers;
Their basic message: if you are in the service business, you do not know which customers are showing up, when and what they are going to do once they get there. And so you need plan for managing this uncertainty. Customer chaos can be managed in two ways: by reducing )tends to favor efficiency) or accommodating it (supporting service).
To create a successful customer management system, one has to select customer and train them applying well designed customer jobs. And just like with employees, the customer performance should be managed.
The authors use as formula: Service Excellence = Design X Culture.

When your service model is designed right, it produces the same sensations among the people who interact with it. But like an empty building it is missing the critical element of people interacting with each other. Or culture. The authors refer to other authors to sharpen your insights with regard to culture.
My rating

4,0 stars on a scale 0-5.

The authors wrote a very well structured book with lots of examples.
For those who are looking for non-American service examples. Not too many.
There are many professionals that advocate in designing service technology and processes are essential to create transformational innovation or other strategic avenues to growth. The authors stress the importance of the human element.
This book is recommended reading for anyone who is interested in reflecting about the management of customer service.It is to you how that knowledge and information will be applied by you to achieve business or professional growth
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Pick what you do best and excel at it 9 Feb. 2012
By BHFL - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I am an entrepreneur. I make things, create things, and want to bring new ideas and products to people. But I am terrible at managing people. So why would this book help me? Because no matter what you are making, managing, growing or building - you need viewers, customers, loyal followers and this book tells me how to give these integral consumers what they need from me most. You can't do everything brilliantly they tell me. Focus on the service you do best and on what your consumers need from you. The book is easy to digest, clear, decisive and encouraging. Knowing these two authors, and having been lucky enough to get their feedback on my projects, I can say their enthusiasm for building businesses that are cutting edge and lasting makes this book a must read for anyone who wants to see their company, project, film, start-up succeed.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A Cardinal Work with Practical Insight 21 Jan. 2012
By Dan Thibeault - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Over the past few years I've read numerous titles in an effort to improve my company's service delivery (titles including Raving Fans, Exceptional Service, Different, CS is Worthless, and many others). I believe each offered unique perspective and in turn anxiously hoped for more of the same with Uncommon Service. Well I just finished my kindle edition of this newcomer and can report being all but floored by this extraordinary work on the service process.
Frei and Morriss tackle the subject with a less conventional look at how the design and execution process can derail even the best intentioned service offerings. With each chapter and telling example F&M regrettably exposed the folly of my own company's continued inability to attain our desired goal of unparallel client service. They explain why service (versus product) offerings so easily devolve into an all but the kitchen sink approach to customers' needs and show how companies can move to a rationalization-based approach while actually improving client satisfaction. After apologizing to my managers I plan to put these transformative ideas to work.
Blue Ocean Strategy for Customer Service 12 April 2015
By Mike Tamayo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you’ve read Blue Ocean Strategy, you’ll see similar concepts applied in this excellent contribution to furthering the development of customer experience. Like BOS, Uncommon Service emphasizes the importance of committing to making service delivery trade-offs in order to provide target customers with the desired experience. Too often, companies are unwilling (or unable) to make the required trade-offs, and consequently provide mediocre customer service…”the major obstacle to delivering great service,” the authors emphasize in chapter 1, “is an unwillingness to embrace weakness.” To succeed in providing a tailored customer experience, companies must determine which attributes are most important to their target customers and focus on those, while devoting relatively less attention (i.e. embracing weakness) to those things not valued by those customers (think Southwest Airlines…strong on price, less so in providing on-board amenities).

Uncommon Service is divided into six chapters, with the first four focusing on a detailed discussion of each component of the authors’ service delivery model…
Paying for the Service Delivery
Employee Management
Customer Management
Scaling the Service Experience

Here are some of my key take-aways…
The importance of using a customer attribute map to identify what aspects of the service experience are important to the target customer in a specific operating segment (very important). This is very similar to the strategy map introduced in Blue Ocean Strategy.
Funding a customer experience can be done by…charging more, making cost reductions that improve service, making service improvements that reduce costs, getting customers to use self-service. Good case studies are provided to illustrate each option.
An employee management system includes robust methods for selecting, training, designing jobs and measuring performance. A good management system includes incentives to do a job well, and disincentives to do a job poorly.
Customer management (my favorite chapter because I found it the most informative) emphasizes that customers, “don’t just purchase a service, they participate in creating it (think Starbucks - good, self-service check out at most supermarkets - bad).

Uncommon Service is a substantive, well-written book that has a number of useful suggestions for delivering an exceptional and consistent customer experience. Strongly recommended.
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