Case 4.1 Amy’s Ice Cream
Amy's Ice Cream is a business that was founded in Austin, Texas, and now has 13 locations in Austin and one each in Houston and San Antonio. When asked about the driving force behind it, Phil Clay, the production manager, explained that "while the product is of excellent quality and does come in some unique flavors, ultimately ice cream is ice cream. One can just as easily go to Swensen's or the Marble Slab to get great ice cream. Service is what differentiates Amy's from other ice cream stores and keeps customers coming back again and again." And indeed, the service at Amy's is unique. Amy Miller, the owner and founder, got her start in the ice cream business when she worked for Steve's Ice Cream in Boston, a store whose gimmick was mashing toppings into ice cream. She recalls how Harvard and M.I.T. students would work at the store—obviously for reasons other than the great salary and fringe benefits. She quickly realized that this was a business that instantly made its customers happy. Working in an ice cream store was a "feel-good" occupation, which lured such bright workers who could easily make much more money working almost anywhere else. When she opened the first Amy's Ice Cream in October 1984, she had two philosophies: one that an employee should enjoy what he or she does, and another that the service as well as the ice cream should make the customer smile. These philosophies have provided the foundation for a business that two decades later is firmly established and thriving.
In the beginning, theater majors and artists often were hired as servers, because the idea of enjoying what they were doing was just as appealing to them as making money. These outgoing and creative employees were very skilled at projecting their colorful personalities across the counter. They joked and interacted with customers while filling their orders. Customers were drawn to the fun and variety of the service, which might be described as "ice cream...
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