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A recipe for customer satisfaction.

Hopefully, you're "into" the desperate need to transform American industrial practices. If you are, you know that the purpose of the transformation is to change the way America does business before she suffers paralyzing competitive disadvantages in the global marketplace. Renewed competitiveness in global markets will be realized by satisfying our customers' expectations.

What is customer satisfaction?

Achieving customer satisfaction isn't complex. It requires being personal, treating customers as important individuals, talking value with the customer and making a commitment.

Satisfying customer expectations requires a complete organizational commitment that places the needs of the customer before policy and bureaucracy; which makes sense since the customer determines quality, value and the price of products and services.

I believe a satisfied customer is one that participates in a partnership that meets customer expectations by:

* jointly defining the needs, wants and requirements of product and service offerings;

* channelling feedback on product and service quality;

* periodically auditing the partnership to determine levels of satisfaction, and

* providing on-going programs for customer awareness and education.

Instituting a customer partnership culture starts at the top and requires commitment and flexibility down to the lowest levels. Customer service must permeate the whole culture of the organization. World-class customer service organizations listen continually to customers and employees and seek out both compliments and complaints.

The best customer service organizations empower employees to respond to customer needs. Quick, friendly handling of complaints at the point they arise builds customer loyalty. The authority to solve customer problems when they arise makes a company flexible and responsive in the eyes of its customers. Companies that respond in real time to customer needs will have satisfied customers.

And responsiveness is?

Responsiveness will be the winning strategy on the global competitive battleground. I think the successful companies in the future will be those who do things the fastest - time reduction will be how customers gauge their satisfaction.

What's good about time as a measurement is that it can be applied to any function, organization or process. If individual employees and teams begin to measure and reduce the length of time involved in a work process, many improvement areas will emerge. Especially, if the benchmark measurement is compared to world class performance.

However, it's not just doing things faster. It's doing things more efficiently so that the process requires less time. It's reducing the total cycle time - or lapsed time - of a process. To fully understand a process cycle time, it must be broken down to the smallest parts and then rebuilt to the most efficient total cycle time.

Reducing cycle time by doing something faster doesn't mean quality will suffer. In fact, quality will get better if process changes are made only after a process is thoroughly understood and in control. Only then is it possible to remove any step that doesn't add value to the process; only then will yields be improved, wastes reduced and costs decreased. It is important to emphasize that the ultimate goal of time reduction is to be more responsive to customer needs.

Who is responsible for customer satisfaction?

All of us! Yes, all of us are responsible for customer satisfaction. We must understand that empowered people who continuously improve processes satisfy customer expectations. Empowered employees initiate changes, solve problems, understand markets, master temperamental technologies and own processes - all expectations of customers.

People are empowered by a leader who observes, listens, asks pertinent questions and exhibits feelings; by a leader who responds honestly to others' ideas and helps generate new ideas.

The effective leader builds relationships based on trust. The effective leader facilitates team decision making processes by influencing team interactions, by building the confidence of team players, by timely recognition of achievements and by rewarding valuable contributions to the corporate vision.

To empower people, a leader must support, guide and coordinate the work of team players in an environment that spawns individuality and rewards risk taking.

The challenge will be met by those of us who believe that empowered people will make American industry competitive in the global marketplace by satisfying customer expectations.

Much has been written about customer satisfaction. In fact, we are beginning to make a very complex thing out of something that requires simple common sense. So, here is a five step recipe for customer satisfaction.

Five step recipe for customer satisfaction

Step one: Make a commitment to total customer satisfaction. Any good recipe begins with a personal commitment to doing something well. Inherent in this commitment is knowing what ingredients are needed and having them on hand.

Step two: Keep it simple. A good recipe is easy to follow by anyone who wants to create a similar piece de resistance. Therefore, our recipe for customer satisfaction calls for fewer and simpler business processes which make it easier for the customer to do business with the organization.

Step three: Communicate with the customer. You need to know the tastes of your consumer. My recipe for customer satisfaction will be successful if the ingredients are based on understanding your customer's requirements, needs and expectations.

Step four: Measure performance. Communicating with the customer will tell you which ingredients are the most critical and should be measured in order to cook up four-star customer satisfaction. The fewer measurements the better.

Step five: Take actions to improve service to your customer. Following step four will dictate which ingredients are most important to your customer. Once you know this mix, stir until you have the exact proportions that satisfy your customer's tastes. The secret to this recipe is that you continue to agitate the mixture based on constant customer feedback and employee involvement.

What comes out of the oven if you follow the Addison recipe? With a dash of this and pinch of that, I would expect you could be producing satisfied customers. But, you may have a different recipe, which is fine. It isn't so important which recipe you follow. What is important is that more of American industry's leaders adopt some recipe for customer satisfaction. If they don't, our goose will be cooked.

The Baldrige Award

The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Award was initiated in 1987 to establish an annual U.S. national quality award. Named after the former Secretary of Commerce who served from 1981 until his death in 1987, the purpose of the award is to promote quality awareness, recognize quality achievements of U.S. companies and to publicize quality strategies. The Secretary of Commerce and the National Institute of Standards and Technology are responsible for developing and administering the award with cooperation and financial support from the private sector.

Two awards may be given each year in each of the three categories: manufacturing companies or subsidiaries; service companies or subsidiaries and small businesses. Businesses located in the U.S. may apply for the award, with subsidiaries defined as divisions or business units of larger companies. Subsidiaries must primarily serve publics or businesses other than those served by the parent company.

Thomas E. Addison is manager of continuous improvement for Du Pont Polymers and was a member of the Board of Examiners for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. This is the last of a four-part series.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Lippincott & Peto, Inc.
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Title Annotation:Tech Service; includes related article on Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Award
Author:Addison, Thomas E.
Publication:Rubber World
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Previous Article:Yokohama Rubber Co. Ltd.
Next Article:The benefits from a partnership between the recycling specialist and tire maker.

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