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Doing what comes naturally. Not!!!

Fred Law Vice President Sales & Marketing Therm-L-Tec Systems Inc.

Tom Peters, author of IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE, is nearly a one man army in his attempts to spark a revolution in customer service. "Today, no organization is secure," he has written. "To survive, let alone prosper, an organization must get to work on radical across-the-board reshaping toward customer satisfaction." Companies that stress service are what he terms "Customer Obsessed."

You and I are the culprits. As consumers we have become accustomed to second class service and shoddy merchandise and just hope it doesn't get worse. Ever try to get waited on in a department store and have the feeling you were intruding on the clerks' rap session if you can even find a clerk when you need one?

Remember when air travel used to be fun and exciting? Not anymore. Now its a trial in patience and understanding. When leaving on a trip, you just hope for the best, that your trip as scheduled isn't a fairy tale. With respect to seating arrangement, I prefer on the aisle but watch-out, here come the inconsiderates with their over-loaded shopping bags and carry-on luggage endeavoring to stuff them in the overhead compartments. Black and blue are two of my favorite colors but whatever happened to consideration for your fellow passengers. Sometimes l wonder if there is anything in the cargo bay other than mail and my suitcase.

As long as we are on the subject of customer satisfaction, I hope your experience with rental car companies is better than mine. To start with, when making a reservation you're asked what type of car you prefer. When you get to the check-in counter, what you requested means absolutely nothing. It's what they have available, if anything. And the mechanical condition of their cars are going down hill rapidly. Except for the price they charge, I often feel like I'm doing business with Lease-A-Lemon.

At one time or another, we have all encountered an unpleasant experience. Concerned management wants to know about legitimate complaints. What irritates me is when I'm asked about the service or a meal just completed and I register some justified dissatisfaction and the response is a shrug of the shoulders or "sorry about that" and the employee goes on about their business. My contention is if they are not prepared to deal with and attempt to resolve the complaint, then don't ask.

My wife and I were dining out, celebrating her birthday at what appeared to be a nice restaurant -- beautiful view over looking a lake. Carol ordered prime rib. The waitress brings a pitcher of au jus. It turns out to be thin maple syrup. The waitress made an attempt to remove the syrup and returns the same piece of meat. As I was paying the check, I mentioned to the owner what happened. His response was, "I can't understand how that happened. She's our best waitress." A few months later, driving by, I noticed the building was for lease.

Occasionally I have lunch at a local eatery -- nothing fancy just friendly folks. Eating there recently, I ordered Pepsi with my lunch. I was reading the newspaper and nearly finished eating when I realized I was drinking 7-Up. When paying, the cashier inquired if everything was OK. I mentioned the drink which to me was no big deal. Without a moments hesitation, she deducted the drink from my check. Maybe that's why I keep going back. Maybe that's why they have been in business since 1921.

Looking at the problem in wider perspective, it becomes a matter of ethics. Be it a product or service, to receive less than what was agreed upon in the sales transaction is, in essence, cheating the customer, intentionally or un-intentionally.

There are two forces controlling the situation. The producer and the consumer. Ideally, the initiative should come from the producer to market a reliable product or service that is met with confidence in the market place. Barring that atmosphere the pressure must be generated in the market place by the consumer to accept nothing less than the best.

A textbook definition of marketing takes into consideration all phases or steps from design, engineering, raw materials, production, quality control, advertising, distribution, price, availability, competition and finally -- customer acceptance.

The chain is only as good as its weakest link. This holds true in the marketing process. Should it be poorly designed, inferior raw materials, fabricated incorrectly or not available when needed -- if just one of these elements is handled incorrectly, the marketing chain is broken.

The work ethic of each individual, regardless of position on the corporate ladder, plays a significant role in the success of a business venture. A large percentage of 'corporate' American fails to recognize their one greatest asset is people. Without employees, nothing happens. And unless each employee is made aware of their individual contribution -- and that their specific activity is essential -- the quality of that person's work ethic is probably going to be sub-standard.

Do I sound like a chronic complainer? I don't think so. I merely expect due consideration as an average consumer. I endeavor to provide that same degree of service to my customers.

Henry Ford is reported to have said, "It is not the employer who pays the wages -- he only handles the money. It is the customer who pays the wages."
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Title Annotation:customer service
Author:Law, Fred
Publication:Frozen Food Digest
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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