Welcome to MASET News. A monthly publication dedicated to the communication between MASET and our many interested friends, customers and potential customers
I received a number of phone calls with stories of poor Customer Service that some of you encountered. The following is one that I found especially frustrating and I will share it with you. "For reasons no one knows, all the city street lights have been out on our side of a rather long block in Albany (Manning Blvd) for at least a month or more, so I finally called City Hall to find out whom to call about getting these lights back on. Turns out (unsurprisingly) it is the Department of General Services. I called them and reported that the lights "are out for the entire length of Manning Boulevard on the west side of the Boulevard from Western to Washington Aves." The woman who answered the phone (at least it was a REAL person) asked me for the numbers of the light poles. I said, "HUH?" "Oh, yes," said she, "we cannot do anything unless we have the numbers of the light poles where the lights are out. "So - of course - I will get the numbers and will call her with them." - Schenectady, New York The Saga will be continued as soon as I hear from our reader with the rest of the story.
If any one else has an interesting personal story of poor Customer Service please share it with us by sending it to me at Charles.Loew@masetllc.com
Last month I asked for some ideas for the HELPFUL HINTS section of the Maset News. Unfortunately I did not receive any and therefore have left that section out of this month's issue. Please send us some Helpful Hints covering meetings, training sessions, dealing with others or any other subject that fellow readers might enjoy reading.
Our feature Article is a continuation of Ron Kaufman's excellent article on "Cultural Power". In addition to learning how to change a culture of an organization to become truly customer focused we also learn about the importance of measuring the correct aspects of our employees' work. It is not important to measure those things that are easily measured but it is vital to measure the specific areas that are of major interest to our customers, regardless of how difficult they are to measure.
Our second article this month, by H. James Harrington, addresses satisfying customer requirements and the value discipline that an organization chooses to use as its competitive edge.
It is important to stress here that it is very difficult to change what people want, but fairly easy to find out what they want. Thus, the skillful supervisor emphasizes diagnosis of needs, not changing the individuals themselves. Determine what kinds of behavior you desire. What are management's goals? Supervisors frequently talk about "good performance" without really defining good performance. An important step in motivating is determining what performances are required and defining them in specific, observable, and measurable behaviors so that employees can understand what is desired of them.
If so, sales professionals must have "healthy" consultative selling skills. But hidden conditions could be preventing them from achieving their full potential - and preventing the company from achieving top line growth.
Beginning next month in MASET NEWS, we will take a closer look at "killer" conditions that can adversely affect salespeople:
- Decision Making Dysfunction
- Enlarged Approval Gland
- Financial Paralysis
- Attention Deficiency
Learn more about how to uncover early warning signs and predict potential for growth in your sales force with RxSales: An Expert Performance System.™
FEATURE OF THIS ISSUE:
"I want to speak to a Supervisor!" (Part 2 of 2)
By Ron Kaufman
Last month I wrote:
"Companies should empower and support Frontline Staff to do what the Supervisor ultimately does, without having to check with the Supervisor each and every time. This means Staff must get enough training to KNOW what's right - and have enough authority to DO what's right."
Many readers sent in follow-up questions and suggestions.
"If we do empower staff, how can we measure if it is properly utilized?"
You should measure utilization of empowerment only by counting returning customer visits, or resulting customer compliments. If your high-value customers come back, make new purchases or praise your service, then your staff empowerment policy is effective.
However, if high-value customers do not praise and come back, or if only low-value customers are happy and returning, then you need to change your staff empowerment formula.
Here's a hint: Contact some of your high-value customers who did NOT return. Ask them WHY they didn't come back - and what your staff should have done to earn their repeat visit. Listen carefully. Your former customers will tell you exactly what to do.
And here's an added bonus: Just asking "non-returning customers" what it would take to get them back - will often get them back!
Sometimes it's not money, refunds and discounts that count, but your time and personal attention.
How do we know where to put limits so the liabilities of additional cost are minimized?"
To limit your liabilities, put a simple cap on expenditures allowed (without supervisor approval). Be sure to link the financial cap to actual client value. Small clients, small cap.
Big clients with big budgets, larger amounts allowed. Test this over time to get the right mix of flexibility and generosity by tracking your client's reaction.
Remember, the ultimate decision maker is whether good clients return and how much they are worth to your business in repeat purchases and referrals. As long as they come back, buy more and refer others, your expense is not a liability, it's a smart investment.
If the frontline staff is not actually your staff, but belong to an authorized distributor or service center (independent entities), can we apply the same principle?
Yes! I believe the SAME principle can apply and even become the foundation for stronger collaboration between you and your authorized "Service Partners". When you show trust by allowing distributors and licensees to make real decisions with real dollars for real customers, they will feel your appreciation and respect. That can make your company stand out from all the other companies whose products they distribute. That can lead to active recommendations and positive word of mouth for you. A real win-win. So do it!
Brilliant Ron!! Impeccable timing. After many a meeting to discuss our service levels, we came to a stand-still. Supervisors & managers alike continued to insist they were doing all they could with the frontline staff we have. Every time the front- liners have an issue I have to come to the rescue.
We knuckled down to a solution. An "empowerment pad" was our answer. Each staff member carries one of these pads & when they see or hear of an issue in our hotel they note down the problem, quickly solve the problem & then pass on the docket for future consultation.
We provided solutions to all the issues we could think of and told the frontliners to seek & destroy all of our issues.
The staff are visibly more vibrant & actually do not fear the situations they get into with our clients, they are looking for potential problems & pre-empting the solution. The supervisors are relaxed & they are now encouraging & motivating like never before.
I have read out your email to all my staff. Thank you for a perfectly timed chapter in customer service. Our organization is moving upward, it is very exhilarating.
About the author
Ron Kaufman is an internationally acclaimed innovator and motivator for partnerships and quality service, and the author of the best-selling "UP Your Service!" books and the award-winning monthly newsletter, "The Best of Active Learning!" Visit http://www.RonKaufman.com
Copyright, 2004, Ron Kaufman. All rights reserved.
SECOND FEATURE OF THIS ISSUE:
Businesses need a value-based customer strategy
By H. James Harrington
I've worked for many organizations on every continent except Antarctica, and my objective always has been to improve performance. In most cases, I helped companies become more customer-focused because, really, that's what quality is all about-achieving higher levels of external customer satisfaction.
The major focus of Six Sigma, total quality control/management and zero defects is to provide customers with products and services that satisfy their requirements and, better yet, exceed their expectations. We all believe that in order to gain customer loyalty, market share and increased profits, organizations must be customer-driven while continuously improving the quality of their products and services. But what if we're wrong? Organizations that focus on quality often lose market share; Ford Motor Co. and Motorola are good examples. Some organizations that implemented TQM and Six Sigma stopped using these methodologies because they didn't produce the desired results.
While attempting to understand this phenomenon, I ran across Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema's book The Discipline of Market Leadership: Choose Your Customers, Narrow Your Focus, Dominate Your Market (Addison-Wesley Longman, 1994). Treacy and Wiersema developed three "value disciplines" that classified organizations' external customer strategies:
Organizational excellence strategy. Organizations that use this strategy provide the lowest total purchase cost. This is accomplished by delivering products and services that conform to specifications at a low price and are easy to purchase. These organizations focus on streamlining their processes to minimize costs and hassle.
Product leadership strategy. This helps organizations provide customers with the most advanced products and services. Companies using this strategy thrive on creativity and rapid commercialization; they try to improve their own products before competitors do. They're very results-driven rather than product-driven.
Customer intimacy strategy. Organizations provide customers with the best total solution to their needs. Such companies are customer-focused--not market-focused. Their most critical process is solution development, which provides specific results rather than a general solution.
Given these different external customer strategies, is it necessary to apply a different quality system to optimize each strategy's performance?
The organizational excellence strategy wins customers by providing them with output at the lowest total purchased cost. The quality strategy used to support this approach is based upon poor-quality cost and business process improvement concepts. Outstanding quality isn't a driving factor in these organizations' strategies because their customers are cost-conscious rather than quality-conscious. These organizations try to meet requirements, cutting every corner they can. Calling this strategy "organizational excellence" is misleading because that's not its focus.
Product leadership strategy applies to high-tech corporations. A good example is Microsoft. The key to its success is to get to market first with a product of tolerable quality. Its customers buy its software because it's a leading-edge product and accepting problems is part of the package. The quality system here focuses on reducing cycle time. Both efficiency and effectiveness are put at high risk to get the product out fast. The quality system is designed for customers whose quality expectations are low. Such software companies are happy simply to meet minimum requirements of ISO 9000 and aren't trying to climb up the capability maturity model beyond level three.
The customer intimacy strategy focuses on individual customers by providing personalized results. Organizations using this strategy provide customers with the best perceived value they can get. This is an environment in which unique, customized solutions that require a high degree of individual excellence and craftsmanship are delivered. Such organizations require well-defined customer requirements and rely on inspection to ensure final results. Meeting or exceeding customer expectations on a very personal basis is key to their success.
Where do methodologies such as TQM and Six Sigma fit into these customer strategies? We all agree that the best measure of quality is the customer's perception of the deliverables. Thus, the quality strategy must support the customer marketing strategy.
Although some correlation exists between the different quality methodologies and the three customer strategies, it's very weak. The problem is that there's a fourth customer strategy that really applies to the majority of our external customers. I call it "value-based customer strategy." Organizations that use it provide the general public with output that represents the best value to them when they consider the price of ownership, features, availability, responsiveness, service and quality. These organizations focus on their processes to ensure that they're operating efficiently and effectively. They ensure that the processes are readily adaptable to the changing environment. They make effective use of information technology and TQM concepts. And they make great efforts to protect their brand image.
Value-based organizations are those that embrace quality and win increased customer loyalty over the years. It's the kind of company that I want to work for. How about you?
About the author
H. James Harrington is CEO of the Harrington Institute Inc. and chairman of the board of Harrington Group. He has more than 45 years of experience as a quality professional and is the author of 22 books. Visit his Web site at www.harrington-institute.com.
Reprinted with permission of the author. Originally appeared in Quality Digest, October 2003, p. 14.
COMING IN THE NEXT FEW ISSUES:
- Future tips from Our School for Managers will include topics in Coaching, Goal Setting, Time Management, Communication, Delegation and many others.
- Many new ideas and concepts from RxSales: An Expert Performance System
- Sales and marketing workshops
- A new workshop - Mentoring for Employee Success
- GoalCentrix - Driving Effective Plan Execution
- Online method of conducting an employee satisfaction survey
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