In their book, In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's BestRun Companies, Peters and Waterman ( 1982) identified 43 excellent companies and organizations to study. Their purpose in examining these excellent companies was to better understand what organizational and human characteristics led to organizational success. To be considered "excellent," a company had to (a) be considered excellent by an informed group of observers (analysts, academicians, industry insiders), (b) be in the top half of its industry on four of six quantitative measures of profitability over a 20-year period, and (c) be regarded as having achieved a 20-year record of innovation by industry experts.
One of the companies Peters and Waterman designated as "excellent" was International Business Machines (IBM). Peters and Waterman thought so highly of IBM, especially of its commitment to customer service, that "Big Blue" was continually used as an exemplar for success. The following quotes from Peters and Waterman ( 1982) are typical:
Take IBM, for example. It is hardly far behind the times, but most observers will agree that it hasn't been a technology leader for decades. Its dominance rests on its commitment to service. (p. 137)
While people are in this position (assistant to the company's top officers), they spend their entire, typical three-year stint doing only one thing -- answering every customer complaint within twenty-four hours. (p. 159, italics in original)
To make sure it is in touch, IBM measures internal and external customer satisfaction on a monthly basis. (p. 161)