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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

Hammock Thoughts on a Dog Day Afternoon

A world-class view of quality

Published: Monday, August 7, 2006 - 21:00

Being retired affords one the opportunity to relax periodically in a hammock on a hot summer afternoon, doing a crossword puzzle and contemplating quality and customer service. While trying to think of an eight-letter term for "a person used as cover," my thoughts wandered to several topics:
  • Commercials, billboards, Web sites and newspaper ads for organizations seem to gravitate to the same term—"world-class." I have become immune to the term, because I don’t understand what it means anymore. How does a "world-class Greek restaurant" differ from a "world-class automobile" or "Geno’s World-Class Dry Cleaners" on my corner? Hasn’t this phrase worn out its use? Many products and services seem to rely on that cliché whether it’s justified or not. Maybe we need to start exploring the use of "Intergalactic-Class." I plan to visit Oopa’s Greek Restaurant to try their "Out-of-this-world gyro," although it’s a self-invented label that is obviously not true.
  • If organizations insist on providing us with an explanation of their services such as "100-percent satisfaction," "Best in class" or "Even our competition buys from us," shouldn’t they have to submit notarized documents attesting to these claims? How about the sign in a hospital emergency room stating, "No wait longer than 29 minutes?" Is there a stopwatch on the wall? And what do I get if it’s more than 29 minutes? A free operation of my choice?
  • A home remodeling company in our town has for years proclaimed in all their advertisements: "We do good work." Well, I would hope so. They should remember, though, that the consumer, not the company, defines “good.“
  • Here’s one advertisement I particularly like, and it has no guarantees or extravagant claims: "We are better than we used to be." This kind of message attracts me just for the experience of meeting people with a sense of humor.
  • Driving by many organizations these days, one can’t miss the numerous banners and flags billowing in the wind: "ISO standards-certified," "Winner of the Rose Award," "The Melvin Fanork Memorial Award." Does anyone besides those working in these organizations know or care about these recognitions? I don’t think so. Another banner should read: "Come in, and we’ll explain the award." My experience has been that most of the organization’s employees have no idea what the award signifies. Let’s at least have a company quiz, and the first one who provides the correct answer gets to remain employed.
  • Over the last couple of months, I have been in several establishments that have discontinued a particular product I have purchased for years. Whether it was a specific bowl of soup at a restaurant, a style of undergarment that I bought or a cleaning product that scores of people swear by, asking why it was discontinued always seems to elicit the same response: "You aren’t the first one to inquire about the discontinuance of that product. Everyone who comes in has the same question." Duh! Maybe you should have queried your customers before it was discontinued. Then I get, "Why don’t you write the company and tell them of your concern." Surveying their own customers is a lost art with some companies. Maybe our response when we buy a product or service should be, "By the way, should you decide to stop selling this, give me a call." I’ve done just that, and the expression on the clerk’s face is always priceless.
  • Well, let’s see now, about that eight-letter term. Oh yes, the answer is "straw man." As a retiree, I guess I have eliminated all work-related terms from my memory bank, so this one took a little longer to recall. Frankly, I have also eliminated "synergy," "downsizing," "rightsizing" and of course the ever-illusive "merger of equals" from my memory bank. The lobotomy was painful, but ridding my memory of these words was worth it.
  • Now I’m off to the local flea market. They claim to have some world-class undergarments I’ve been looking for.

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    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.