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  • Customer Service:
    You Get What You Pay For in Arlington
  • President Clinton Establishes
    New Award in Brown's Honor
  • Beware of Workplace Stress
  • A Moving Experience
  • Inc./MCI Announce Positive
    Performer Award Winners
  • Does Money Really Motivate CEOs?
  • Measuring Philanthropic Performance
  • Doctors' Office Gets  ISO 9000
  • More CE Marking Deadlines Approach
  • Army Offers Free QMS Audits
  •  

    Customer Service:
    You Get What You Pay For in Arlington

    Read my lips: No more taxes. In 1991, the City of Arlington, Texas, took those words to heart as it moved from a tax-supported to a fee-based parks and recreation department. The result has been a much more customer-focused city department. Despite the fact that citizens now pay for park services that were once free, registration and community support has increased dramatically. Customer-satisfaction levels have soared from 62 percent in 1991 to 85 percent in 1996.

    The secret is customer focus driven by accountability to a paying public, says Jim Spengler, director of the Arlington Parks and Recreation department.

    "When you do things strictly on a tax basis, you lose that market demand connection," explains Spengler, who uses principles from W. Edwards Deming, Shigeo Shingo and others to aid the department's improvement processes. "Now, people demand more because they are paying for it."

    Based on the data from focus groups and surveys, the city learned just what those demands were. First, it needed to match staffing hours with park usage. Although peak park usage was weekday evenings and weekends, full-time park staff only worked Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. for maintenance and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for administration.

        By utilizing flex-time, the department increased its hours of service at no extra cost. Full-time maintenance staff are now available from 5 a.m. to midnight seven days a week, and park offices are open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

    Customers also expected better grounds, facilities and equipment, says Spengler. A rigorous total productive maintenance program not only has improved customer perceptions of park facilities but saves the department about $180,000 per year.

    There are other indications that the department is meeting or exceeding customer expectations. Fifty-eight percent of Arlington's 120,000 households are registered for some park service -- not including those who belong to private youth organizations that use park facilities. Also, in 1988, the city failed to pass a bond issue for parks and recreation. In 1991, the bond narrowly passed with 54 percent. In 1997, however, the voters approved a $38 million bond issue by 81 percent.

    Since 1991, more than 100 process improvement projects have saved the department about 43,500 work hours and saved the city more than half a million dollars.

    www.ci.arlington.tx.us/parrec.html

     

    President Clinton Establishes
    New Award in Brown's Honor

    On April 3, the one-year anniversary of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown's death in a plane crash, President Clinton announced that a new award has been established in Brown's honor. The first presidential award to honor companies for outstanding achievements in community and employee relations, the Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership will recognize company programs that improve the individual well-being, as well as the communities, of its employees.

    "This new award will honor the achievements of companies that have effectively linked corporate citizenship to their business strategy," says Edgar S. Woolard Jr., chairman of the board of directors. "In recognizing outstanding citizenship programs, the award will promote practices that improve business performance by supporting employees and communities."

    Both private and publicly owned, for-profit companies are eligible to apply for the award, including U.S.-based subsidiaries, business units and divisions of multinational companies. The Conference Board will administer the award program, which is funded completely by private organizations. The first awards will be given in the fall of 1997.

    For more information, contact Melissa Berman at (212) 339-0472 or Edgar Woolard at (302) 774-2707.

     

    Beware of Workplace Stress

    Downsizing, reengineering, prioritizing, reorganizing If all the "ings" are giving you a headache, you may be experiencing the first signs of workplace stress, says Dr. Barbara Bruce, in Mayo HealthQuest, the Mayo Clinic's new wellness publication.

    Bruce, a Mayo Clinic behavioral specialist, says to watch out for these signs of stress: headaches, abdominal upset, disrupted sleep, fatigue, lack of patience and loss of sense of humor.

    Once you know the tension's mounting, take steps to fend it off. "So-called workaholics are productive to the exclusion of other parts of their lives," she points out. "Often as work demands climb, we spend less and less time with friends and family. This contributes to the increased stress and exhaustion -- and ultimately decreases productivity."

     

    A Moving Experience

    Paul Arpin Van Lines has won the Inc./MCI Positive Performer Grand National Award for superior customer service.

    In the moving industry, satisfying already stressed-out customers is no small feat, explains David Arpin, president and co-owner of the nation's eighth largest van line. "Moving is the third most stressful event after death and divorce," he says. "We try to prepare our drivers, helpers and office staff for that. We go out of our way to make sure that our customers are getting the service they pay for."

    The company does this through customer surveys -- 30,000 phone calls per year from their corporate offices in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. This encompasses not just one survey at the end of the move but at least six quality assurance phone calls throughout the process. Customers are called prior to the move to notify them what will happen and when the packers will arrive. The quality assurance representative calls prior to the packers arriving and a couple of hours after they arrive to ensure that customers are satisfied with their work. They also call before and after the driver arrives, and when the move is complete.

    "If the customer is unhappy at any point, we can respond immediately," Arpin points out.

    Although this makes Paul Arpin Van Lines more expensive, it has also allowed the company to identify and act on service problems that might be missed by others. For instance, at one time the company was receiving complaints about stains on overstuffed furniture. After looking into the problem, quality assurance representatives found that the stains were caused by sweaty movers carrying the heavy furniture. Movers now wrap all overstuffed furniture in cellophane before carrying it to the truck.

     

    Inc./MCI Announce Positive
    Performer Award Winners

    Inc. magazine and MCI recently honored the winners of the 1997 Inc./MCI Positive Performer Awards, a national program dedicated to recognizing small, innovative companies who have successfully implemented superior customer service programs.

    Besides Grand National Award winner Paul Arpin Van Lines (see adjacent story), the winners are:

      National Award Winner, Service -- Vytra Healthcare, Melville, New York

      National Award Winner, Manufacturing -- Solar Communications, Naperville, Illinois

      National Award Winner, Retail Sales -- WinterSilks Inc., Middleton, Wisconsin

      National Award Winner, Not-for- Profit -- Marian College of Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

      Technology Leadership Award Winner - Acadian Ambulance, Lafayette, Louisiana

       

     Does Money Really Motivate CEOs?

    Does pay for performance really work? When it comes to CEOs, the opinions are mixed, says Matthew Budman, writing in Across the Board, the Conference Board magazine.

    "Incentives presuppose that a CEO can do a better job," writes Budman. "Would anyone suggest that unincentivized CEOs make worse decisions?"

    San Diego-based pay critic Graef Crystal told Budman: "These guys are already working as hard as they can. They can't work harder for more money. They give their best. They're already working as smart as they can."

    And yet, companies run by incentivized CEOs have done better than companies without incentives, counters Kevin J. Murphy, professor of finance and business economics at the University of Southern California's School of Business Administration and one of Crystal's strongest critics.

    "In each of the last two years," says Murphy, "I found that CEOs with higher pay-performance sensitivities have realized significantly higher shareholder returns over the past one year, five years and 10 years."

    While acknowledging that there seems to be some connection between CEO performance and their pay, the proof is sketchy, claims Budman. He points to a 1988 Journal of Financial Economics article citing a study which found that firm performance increases when managers hold up to 5 percent of the outstanding stock but actually decreases when managers hold between 5 percent and 25 percent.

    While incentives may not actually increase CEOs' performance, they do serve a function, maintains Budman: They signal new corporate directions and attract strong executives who may lift a company's fortunes.

     

    Measuring Philanthropic Performance

    Performance measurement is becoming as important to a company's philanthropic strategy as it is to its product strategy, according to a recent Conference Board report. More and more companies are being pressured to prove that their community relation efforts are, indeed, improving the bottom line, says Myra Alperson, author of "Measuring Corporate Community Involvement."

    "I use the term social investment," says Alperson. "Companies are investing with a return expected that in some way is going to benefit the company. It's a business decision to do these programs."

    And, as with all business decisions, performance measures are required. Nearly half (44%) of companies do some form of measurement or evaluation, according to Alperson's study of 177 contributions and community relations managers at Fortune 1000 companies. More than half (56%) benchmark their programs against other organizations.

    Many companies report that insufficient budgets, staff and time hinder their efforts to evaluate and benchmark. But successful companies report that their programs produced concrete results in strategically linking community involvement activities to business goals.

    To work around the limitations to measurement and evaluation, some companies have developed strategic approaches, including: devolving more responsibility to administer and evaluate community involvement programs to business units, developing more active partnerships with grantee organizations to shift some of the responsibility for producing measurable results to grant recipients themselves, and budgeting a portion of a grant for self-assessment.

     

    Doctors' Office Gets  ISO 9000

    As physicians and medical organizations continue to feel the crunch by HMOs to provide low-cost quality care, some have turned to ISO 9000 for help. One such organization is Surgical Focused Care, a New York City practice run by orthopedic surgeons Mark Figgie and Richard Laskin. The practice received its ISO 9000 registration from Kemper Registrar Services late last year.

    "The industry is changing the way it handles reimbursement to physicians," says Jack Davis, nurse clinician at Surgical Focused Care and the doctors' representative for ISO 9000. "We are looking at ways to become more organized in order to provide quality care in a cost-effective manner."

    Pursuing ISO 9000 helped physicians and staff provide more timely and higher quality service to its patients. For instance, instead of patients filling out forms at the office while waiting for the physician, which often results in inaccurate or incomplete information, the office mails the questionnaire to patients prior to their visit. The patient arrives at the office with a completed form, which means less waiting for both doctor and patient. More important, the information is much more accurate, says Davis.

    In terms of improving business, ISO 9000 has helped the office develop a system for continuously recording patient satisfaction, clinical outcomes, infection rates and so forth -- information that HMOs look for before referring business.

    "HMOs have been asking the hospitals for outcome measurements to prove that what we do is worthwhile before they give us any of their business," Davis points out. "Hopefully the referrals will justify the cost [of registration]."

     

     More CE Marking Deadlines Approach

    Be aware that, although conformance deadlines have come and gone for several CE Marking directives, deadlines are fast approaching for several others. CE Marking certifies that a product conforms to European Union health, safety and environmental standards, and will eventually be required on the majority of U.S. exports to Europe, according to the International Trade Association.

    Directives and their deadlines are as follows:

    Lift Directive -- July 1, 1997

    The safety of passenger-carrying elevators, including all lifts and their safety components permanently installed in buildings. Both the manufacturer and installer are responsible for compliance.

    Energy Labeling -- Jan. 1, 1998

    Energy labeling of household combined washers and dryers.

    Energy Efficiency Directive -- Sept. 4, 1999

    New electric mains-operated household refrigerators, frozen food storage cabinets, food freezers and combinations of these.

    Explosive Atmospheres -- July 1, 2003

    Electrical equipment for use in potentially explosive atmospheres.

    For more information, contact the U.S. Department of Commerce Office of European Union and Regional Affairs at (202) 482-5279.

    Source: European Community Quarterly Review, Technology International Inc., (804) 560-5334.

     

    Army Offers Free QMS Audits

    If you are an Army contractor and you're eyeing ISO 9000, here's a deal you can't beat. The Army Materiel Command offers free quality management system audits through its Contractor Performance Certification Program. Currently, (CP)2 second-party audits are available only to Army contractors or potential contractors.

    The (CP)2, begun in 1985, was updated in 1995 to include the 20 elements of ISO 9000. But it goes far beyond the ISO 9000 framework, points out Diann Carran, deputy (CP)2 coordinator with the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center in Rock Island, Illinois. The program includes audit elements for customer satisfaction, quality costs, warranty performance, ethics, business planning, safety, environmental and a company's plan for continuous improvement.

    "It covers more than ISO 9000," says Carran. "It gets into the management philosophy. It credits people for expanding and improving their quality process."

    Adding to the credibility of the program is the fact that lead auditors are ASQC or RAB-certified.

    Because the (CP)2 process is more stringent than ISO 9000, it could be used as an inexpensive way for companies to jump-start their ISO 9000 effort with what amounts to a free preaudit -- something the AMC is well aware of but not overly concerned about, says Steven Terronez, product quality manager for ARDEC.

    "Our main concern is that they supply [quality] goods to soldiers," says Terronez. Regardless of any other motivation, (CP)2 ensures that the supplier meets Army criteria for an effective quality management system.

    For more information on (CP)2, contact Marc Saperstein, ARDEC Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, at (201) 724-3557.

     

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