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Bill Kalmar

Customer Care

So... We’re Number One?

Great. But I’m not sure I want you to treat me like family.

Published: Thursday, April 7, 2022 - 12:02

For years, when I was the director of the Michigan Quality Council during Gov. John Engler’s administration, we reviewed businesses across the state and looked for world-class service. What we found was that meeting and exceeding the expectations of customers was of paramount importance. And companies who practiced that stood head and shoulders above other companies.

Having said that, I marvel at the ads that herald “Customers are No. 1,” or “We treat you like family.” In my mind, aren’t these just givens? I would hope that as customers we’re the No. 1 when we come into a store or order something online. That seems rather logical. So why do companies have to advertise it? Just wondering.

Then there’s the comment about us being treated like family. Now let me be a bit critical here. I guess it would be nice to be treated like family if we all had the typical Ozzie and Harriet family. But I suspect that isn’t always the case. Thus, are we sure we want to be treated like our family? Again, just wondering.

Our lives are inundated with ads and commercials from companies that want our business. We can’t get through an evening without hearing those commercials from lawyers whose claim is how much money they have returned to their clients. It’s always a high-dollar amount. What I’d like to know is the total amount of the settlement, less how much the legal firm took from the client, so we can see the actual amount. If you really want to treat me like family, wouldn't you give me a larger percentage?

Now if I sound a bit cynical today, maybe it’s the change to daylight-saving time, and I need more sleep! Fortunately, I just learned that the U.S. Senate passed a law that will put us on daylight-saving time all year. Guess that means no more losing sleep, and thus I’ll be more attentive and not so cynical. Because of course, as readers of Quality Digest, you are my No. 1 customer, and I promise to treat you like family. (Yes, I have a normal family!)


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.


Talk is cheap

In my opinion, 99% of the companies who spout such stuff as "we treat you like family" or "customers are #1" or, my personal favorite, "our people are our most important resource" are lying, and they know it.  Their actions are as far from their words as those marketing pictures of the food at fast-food restaurants are from what the food actually looks like. 


The old saying still holds true:  "if they have to tell you, it's not"

As in a package label saying "High Quality!"  If it's really high quality, they wouldn't have to say it - people would already know.