Volume 9 December 17, 2001
Message From Charles Loew
Comments From Our Readers
New On The Maset Web Site
Feature Of This Issue
Welcome to MASET News. A monthly publication dedicated to the communication between MASET and our many interested Friends, Customers and Potential Customers
MESSAGE FROM CHARLES LOEW:
This has been an extraordinary and difficult year for most of us. The events of the past few months have changed most people's perspective on both personal and professional levels. And now the "holiday season" is upon us. At this time of year, people of many beliefs and backgrounds traditionally celebrate feasts - Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa to name a few. All people of good faith and conscience look to the future in the hope of peace without the threat of war and terrorism hanging like a black cloud, obliterating the light of goodwill and brotherhood.
It is interesting to note that many of the major religions teach us to heed the "Golden Rule".
Christian - Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
Jewish - What is hateful to you, do not do to a neighbor.
Muslim - No one of you is a believer until you desire for another that which you desire for yourself.
Buddhist - Hurt not others in ways you yourself would find hurtful.
Hindu - Do naught unto others that which would cause you pain if done to you.
Zoroastrian - Do not approve for another what you do not like for yourself.
Through all the continuing shocking tragedies, we must work diligently to assure the future is better for our children, grandchildren and our brothers and sisters across the world. We are all in this together.
May Peace endure - in our hearts, thoughts and actions.
This month's feature article brings into focus a major ingredient leading to business success - The Customer. As the New Year approaches, it is appropriate that a New Year's resolution for businesses might center on building a better relationship with the primary partner in organizations, the Customer.
COMMENTS FROM OUR READERS:
"Thanks for the News letter which is extremely informative" from a reader in India.
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NEW ON THE MASET WEB SITE:
A new workshop titled "Effective Leadership and Staff Empowerment" has been designed and added to the Maset Web site. This workshop is s designed for Senior Management for a better understanding of their role as leaders during a Cultural Change.
A second workshop titled "Consulting and Facilitation Skills" is designed for individuals who l have the responsibility of training, facilitating and serving as a Quality Coach in an organization.
"Creating High Performance Organizations" is a new addition to Maset Products and Services. Utilizing our experts will assist any organizations to become World Class.
"Executive Retreat Planning" is a new addition to Maset Products and Services. It will assist you to make Management Meetings and Executive Retreat more productive..
We would like to thank Curt Bogle from Ikon for his letter of reference covering the fine job Carl Cooper did with Ikon. The enclosed letter shows the financial benefits of using Cross Functional Process Mapping.
FEATURE OF THIS ISSUE:
LOOKING DOWN AT THE CUSTOMER
(Get out of your tower and into the street.)
by H. James Harrington
I'm writing this column in my creativity corner-on an airplane flying from San Francisco to San Jose. Setting beside me is Tom Koogle, chairman and CEO of Yahoo! Inc. He is a handsome man with sharp features, soft blue eyes and long wavy black hair that's now turning to gray. He leaves you with a feeling that he's someone you would like to know.
Koogle has created a miracle in the last five years. Under his leadership, Yahoo has grown from a handful of employees to more than 32,000 worldwide-with revenue per employee at approximately $400,000 per year. This is an organization in which customer satisfaction is important to the executive team. Koogle personally answers e-mail from customers and takes pleasure at their surprise when the customers realize that the man at the top took the time to communicate directly with them. Yahoo's approach, putting the customer first, has played a big part in its meteoric success.
It seems like every time I look at a new company that's outperforming the pack of established organizations, I discover it's guided by an individual who has a personal relationship with his or her customers. The problem that many established organizations have is that, as they grow, they start building taller buildings, putting the CEO and the COO on the top floor. When you look down out of the 43rd floor window at the real people (i.e., customers) on the sidewalks below, they look like little more than ants running in a well-defined pattern. At that level, it's easy to forget that the company is held together by all of the little people who paid for the big windows, big desks and big boardrooms. Without us little people, the executives don't get paid. Sure, from their cathedrals in the clouds, it looks like we're all regimented. But, in truth, we're not. We're all individuals with individual needs, requirements and desires. It may look like there's one uniform pattern going on below, but in reality there are millions of individual scenarios that combine and separate continuously.
The only way CEOs can really understand their customers is to spend time out on the street, moving within the crowds and listening to their beat. Today-more than ever before-everyone in an organization, and especially the leaders, have to know and understand the beat of the customer. The leaders shouldn't depend upon the second-hand information they get from sales, marketing, public relations or service personnel. They need to be "in the thick of it" to have the required understanding. They need to get out of the black-tie meeting where champagne is served and stop in the local pub for a beer. The head of Harley-Davidson riding his bike is a good example: What would it say if you built motorcycles for a living and rode to work in a Rolls-Royce?
CEOs like to say that their companies make the customer "number one" and that their organizations are customer-focused. It's been said that the pen is mightier than the sword, but few acknowledge that deeds are mightier still. All of the proclamations that come out of the executive office mean nothing: it's action that counts. Most executives give lip service to customer relations, and that's as far as it goes. Every vice president, division head and middle manager should be required to spend time talking with or serving the organization's customers. The mayor of every city should spend one day a month riding in a police car. Louis Gerstner, chairman and CEO of IBM, should spend one day a month responding to customer complaints. Mike Gunn, American Airlines' executive vice president for marketing and planning, should have to eat the food he feeds to weary travelers. John Smith Jr., the CEO of General Motors, should spend one day a month at a dealer's repair shop, seeing what fails and talking to the customers. Every CEO, COO, vice president and board member should be required to spend four hours of his of her time each month behind the service desk.
Do you think your organization is customer-focused? Well, if the customer is truly "number one," the customer should be the most important thing in your business. And that means your leaders should be spending more time working with the customers than they spend on financial matters. Consider where your leaders spend most of their time. Measure the percentage of time your executive committee spends with the organization's customers listening to their complaints and understanding their needs. Table 1 illustrates time spent with customers as a measure of customer focus.
Table 1: Customer focus
Less than 2%
The customer is a necessary evil.
2 - 5%
We could get our work done if we didn't have to bother with these damned customers.
Good customer focus
Very good customer focus (world-class)
More than 20%
Outstanding customer focus (best-in-class). This is where your organization should be.
What percentage of the time do your executive committee members spend collecting information directly from your organization's customers? Let me know. I particularly want to hear from the best-in-class organizations.
About the author
H. James Harrington is COO of Systemcorp, an Internet-software development company. He has more than 45 years of experience as a quality professional and is the author of 20 books. E-mail Harrington at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his Web site at www.hjharrington.com.
Reprinted with permission of H. James Harrington. Article originally appeared in Quality Digest, February 2001, p. 24.
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