Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Since 1994, the American Customer Satisfaction Index, under the auspices of the National Quality Resource Center at the University of Michigan, has been the standard for measuring consumer satisfaction. The index measures satisfaction with 200 companies in 43 industries and is the most comprehensive system in place to reflect our likes and dislikes in the marketplace.

Second quarter results for 2007 indicate an overall score of 75.3 out of 100 with gains in service satisfaction outnumbering declines. In addition, overall satisfaction has risen for nine consecutive quarters, the longest period since measurement began in 1994.

I suspect that each of us has our own opinion on the state of quality and customer service based on personal experiences. In that regard, I agree with the current numbers from ACSI. Because they seem to parallel my own experiences, I thought it would be interesting to scroll through some of the companies reflected in the index and offer my own reaction and reflections.

Mike Micklewright’s picture

By: Mike Micklewright

Question: What kind of dishes are made out of lead?

Answer: China

Many of us in U.S. industry have forgotten the principles of our dearly departed quality guru, W. Edwards Deming, since his passing in 1993. Since then our quality levels as a country have grown only slightly. At the Society of Anti-Deming (SAD), we believe that if we practice the opposite of what He preached to us, we might do better. Please evaluate your qualifications to become a member of SAD. You may also send it to your boss, or your boss’s boss, if you think either is qualified to be a SAD member.

Click on the “E-mail story” button in the upper right of this page. Type in your boss’s e-mail address, and send the story using my name (Mike Micklewright) and e-mail address (mike@mikemick.com) instead of yours.

The recipient will never know it came from you. I’ll get the blame, and you can remain humble and undetected, while your target learns our SAD ways.

Here goes.

Please evaluate yourself on each of W. Edwards Deming’s 14 points, as follows:

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Being confined to a hospital bed can bring more discomfort than the malady that prompted the admission. Crowded rooms with other patients in various stages of illness, tasteless meals delivered with apathy, loud announcements for lost doctors, and a staff more concerned about planning their next day off than answering your call for another pain pill are common.

How does this sound? A facility that provides each patient with a private room outfitted with plasma televisions; plush visitor chairs; state-of-the-art adjustable beds; effective soundproofing that eliminates the constant cacophony from the loudspeakers; a detailed menu from which food can be ordered 24 hours a day; electronic medical records that obviate repetitive questions; a business center for visitors who may be on the premises for extended periods; and physicians, nurses, and support staff for whom providing patients with a pleasant experience is their most important function.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Being confined to a hospital bed can bring more discomfort than the malady that prompted the admission. Crowded rooms with other patients in various stages of illness, tasteless meals delivered with apathy, loud announcements for lost doctors, and a staff more concerned about planning their next day off than answering your call for another pain pill are common.

How does this sound? A facility that provides each patient with a private room outfitted with plasma televisions; plush visitor chairs; state-of-the-art adjustable beds; effective soundproofing that eliminates the constant cacophony from the loudspeakers; a detailed menu from which food can be ordered 24 hours a day; electronic medical records that obviate repetitive questions; a business center for visitors who may be on the premises for extended periods; and physicians, nurses, and support staff for whom providing patients with a pleasant experience is their most important function.

Douglas C. Fair’s picture

By: Douglas C. Fair

Just weeks after earning my industrial statistics degree, I hired on with a major aerospace company. My first “real” job entailed working with engineers and operators to deploy statistical process control (SPC) in a large machine shop. I quickly found out that the warm, coddling confines of a university classroom had done little to prepare me for the complexities of a short-run, aerospace SPC deployment. I found myself confronted with a bewildering array of different machines, jigs, tooling aids, part numbers, and union rules. As a newly hired statistician, I was stunned to find that the aerospace world lacked any similarity to what I had been reading in my statistical texts. Although 20 years have passed, I remember a great deal about my experience because that shop floor taught me a lot about the practical application of SPC.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

How many times have you viewed a compelling story on TV, or read a newspaper or magazine account of an investigation of wrongdoing and then never discovered the outcome? Mass media tantalize us with sensational reports, and after the hoopla the stories just fade away.

As I lay here recently in my hammock, iced tea in hand and a summer breeze drifting over my receding hairline, it occurred to me that this might be a good time to revisit some of the articles I’ve written over the last two years and to determine their outcomes. In addition, some of the stories might just have morphed into something more interesting. In the opening words of The Lone Ranger radio program, “Return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.”

Mike Micklewright’s picture

By: Mike Micklewright

“I’m starting with the man in the mirror,
I’m asking him to change his ways.”

by Michael Jackson

Question: What did the registrar auditor do after informing his client that he wasn’t allowed to give advice?

Answer: He gave them advice.

I like to listen to Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Yeah, so what? I’m sure there are songs that you like to listen to but don’t want others to know about. The only difference is that you’re not dumb enough to inform 30,000 subscribers like I’m doing.

In my defense though, it is a really cool song, and it continually motivates me to improve who I am. What’s wrong with that? Jackson sings the song with such conviction that as I sing the song along with him I can feel myself gritting my teeth and getting pumped up with the same conviction, until someone notices, and then I pretend there’s food stuck in between my teeth, and I pick it out with a fingernail.

What’s great about the song are the words and the conviction. I try to block out who’s singing the song and what appears to be the hypocrisy between the words of the song and the singer himself. I love the lyric—

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Whenever I enter a Ritz-Carlton hotel, I know “I’m not in Mediocreville anymore!”  Walking through those doors transports me to a world unparalleled in service, with guest amenities and services consistently beyond my expectations. Unlike the Wizard of Oz, the hotel is everything it purports to be.

I’m not a shill for Ritz-Carlton hotels, but, like other quality professionals, I’m a fan of extraordinary customer service and of organizations that exude professionalism and exceed customers’ expectations, and The Ritz-Carlton is one of those organizations. In the July issue of Consumer Reports , the magazine’s subscribers agree that, “The Ritz-Carlton earns top marks in value, service, upkeep, and making problems go away.”

Douglas C. Fair’s picture

By: Douglas C. Fair

I frequently hear discussions among engineers, managers, and higher-ups concerning process capability, an alphabet soup of indexes and three-letter designations. The indexes are bandied about as though a single number communicates knowledge, understanding, and certainty. My experience is that this is simply not the case, and I have come to the depressing conclusion that most people are confused as to how capability indexes should be used and what they truly mean.

“Say, what’s the capability of that part?” I cringe when I hear this question and its related variations. I shake my head and wonder about the future of our planet when I hear someone answer quickly with a single-number response.

Bill Kalmar’s picture

By: Bill Kalmar

Organizations that provide spectacular customer service always keep their line people informed of new developments or offers that will improve a process, and of glitches in the system that may have an adverse effect on customers. Similarly, great customer service means being flexible to the needs of customers and making sure that your internal information is accurate before issuing instructions or denials to customers.

Two recent incidents illustrated for me that line employees are the lifeblood of organizations, and when service representatives aren’t up to date on new policies and system problems, or when they act in a capricious manner, it affects the reputation of the organization.

At the outset, let me state unequivocally that as a Verizon cell phone customer for more than ten years, I’ve been very satisfied with customer service, phone upgrades every two years, and the availability of nationwide phone service when traveling. For convenience, my monthly Verizon bill is automatically charged to my checking account. Just like clockwork, on the 15th of each month I can expect a charge to hit my account.

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