October 6-10 has been designated Customer Service Week by the International Customer Service Association. ICSA organized the first celebration in 1988, and in 1992, the U.S. Congress joined them in proclaiming Customer Service Week a national event. This year's theme is "Quest: Quality, Excellence, Service and Teamwork."
The celebration highlights the positives of customer service. "You never hear about customer service unless it's negative," says Dan Consiglio of ICSA. "There was no method to celebrate the positive."
The response to the yearly celebration has been very positive, reports Consiglio. "We hear time and time again how pleased people are to have the opportunity to be in
the spotlight for something positive," he says. "There are so many innovative and very positive customer service groups and different corporations out there that really go unnoticed, and they're pleased to have
the opportunity to showcase what they do."
This year, ICSA has added a new feature to Customer Service Week: the Applause Program. People can visit ICSA's Web site to register their encounters with good customer service on the "1997 ICSA Applause Program Honor Roll."
For more information, call ICSA at (800) 360-4272 or visit their Web site at www.icsa.com.
QS-9000 Deadlines Approach for Big Three Suppliers
The deadlines that members of the Big Three set for their suppliers to be third-party certified to QS-9000 are either passing or are fast approaching. Only 2,500 supplier sites out of an estimated 8,000 to 9,000 Tier 1 suppliers to Chrysler and General Motors are listed in the American Society for Quality's database of QS-9000-registered sites. On July 31, Chrysler Corp.'s deadline passed for all of its production and service part suppliers to be certified to QS-9000. General Motors' deadline for suppliers to be QS-9000 certified is December 31, 1997.
As these deadlines come and go, the next question is: What will the Big Three do to ensure compliance?
Chrysler spokesperson David Barnas estimates that, by the end of 1997, 90 percent of the company's more than 900 suppliers will be third-party-certified to QS-9000. "The relationship we have with our supplier community is very positive," he says. "However, we do view the July 31 deadline as being very significant." He adds that those suppliers not certified by the deadline will not be eligible for any of Chrysler's Platinum Pentastar, Gold Pentastar or role model awards for the 1997 model year.
"We are taking a different approach," says General Motors spokesperson Dan Jankowski. "Those suppliers who are not QS-9000-certified by December 31, 1997, will not be eligible for any business with General Motors beyond that." Jankowski adds that GM is seeing very strong compliance with the requirement among its suppliers.
"Ford does not require our production suppliers to get third-party registration to QS-9000," says Dan Whelan, manager of Suppliers Technical Assistance at Ford Purchasing. He adds that Ford's Q1 process requires suppliers to meet certain quality standards. "To be Q1, you have to meet the requirements of QS-9000," he says.
Whelan does not anticipate Ford making the third-party certification mandatory. "We have no plans at this point in time of requiring it, particularly of any of our Q1 suppliers," he says.
Flexible Hours Programs Increase
For a growing number of companies today, the phrase "9 to 5" may soon become an anachronism. In Office Team's recent nationwide survey of 150 executives from the nation's 1,000 largest companies, 84 percent said their firms now offer either a formal or informal "flexible hours" program for their employees.
Respondents were asked if their firms currently offer either a formal or informal flexible hours program. Their responses: 47 percent reported an informal program, 37 percent have a formal program, 12 percent have neither, and 4 percent don't know what kind of program their company has in place.
Respondents were also asked if, in the next five years, they expect the number of employees telecommuting to work to increase or decrease. Thirty-five percent believe telecommuting will increase strongly, 52 percent expect it to increase somewhat, 9 percent expect no change, 4 percent think it will decrease somewhat, and none believe it will decrease strongly.
Flexible hours and telecommuting programs are popular with employees, who are increasingly trying to balance work and personal demands. Such programs are also believed to enhance recruitment and retention efforts, which are particularly critical in today's employment environment.
Partnership Helps Umbrella
Haas-Jordan Inc. -- a Toledo, Ohio-based umbrella manufacturer that employs 52 people -- has manufactured umbrellas since 1899. The basic design of umbrellas hasn't changed much in the more than 2,500 years since umbrellas were first used in China and Egypt. When Haas-Jordan began trying to incorporate new technology into their manufacturing process, they ran into some difficulties.
In order to find some solutions, they began working with the Edison Industrial Systems Center in Toledo, the local affiliate of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Managed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the MEP program is designed to help small manufacturers improve their businesses.
Haas-Jordan President David Waltz told the Edison Center about his problems in trying to gain access to a wind tunnel that would permit his company to test their umbrellas for wind resistance and do comparative analysis with competitors' products. The Edison Center did the footwork -- making phone calls, acting as a liaison and negotiating with the University of Toledo, which has a wind tunnel. Haas-Jordan has now done two wind tunnel analysis studies at the University, with the Edison Center overseeing the actual tests. The company has also successfully completed two other projects with the Edison Center.
"Their great value to us is as a resource and network system through which to reach out to the specific area of expertise that we need," explains Waltz. "In our case, it has been prototyping, laboratory testing, design engineering and solvent welding. Those are rather divergent fields. It has been a very successful networking system that has allowed us to reach a successful completion in all areas."
To find out about the MEP program in your area, call (800) 637-4634. To contact MEP headquarters at NIST, call (301) 975-5020 or visit MEP's Web site at www.mep.nist.gov.
Link Between Corporate Culture, Financial Performance
Five years ago, Richard Petronio, an organizational psychologist, noticed a small segment of companies that consistently outperformed other companies financially. These companies came from all major industries -- high-tech, manufacturing, health care, retail services, financial and insurance. Petronio was especially curious about why these companies had higher performance levels than most other companies.
Petronio found characteristics within these high-performance cultures that seemed to predict financial performance. These characteristics included: empowered employees; equal application of personnel policies across the organization; shared rewards; open, fair, credible and trustworthy senior management; teamwork; and a high identity with the company and its products. He also noticed a very strong correlation between the presence of the high-performance characteristics and financial performance.
"The reason why these high-performance cultures have these characteristics is usually because the founders of the company had them in their own personality style," says Petronio. "It wasn't the financial performance that led to progressive human resource programs. Those progressive programs led to higher financial performance."
For more information, call Richard Petronio at Surcon International Inc., telephone (773) 883-1229.
October Calendar of Events
Seventh International Conference on Software Quality; American Society for Quality; Montgomery, Alabama; telephone: (800) 248-1946; Web: www.asq.org.
National Customer Service Week; International Customer Service Association; telephone: (800) 360-4272; Web: www.icsa.com.
Forum '97/Texas Quality Expo; American Society for Quality; Dallas; telephone: (800) 248-1946; Web: forum97.asq.org.
1997 Air Force Quality & Management Innovation Symposium; Montgomery, Alabama; Air Force Center for Quality and Management Innovation; telephone: (248) 656-1700.
Second Annual Worldwide Lessons in Leadership Series; Lessons in Leadership; telephone: (800) 689-9771; Web: www.wyn.com.
APICS '97 International Conference and Exhibition; APICS -- The Education Society for Resource Management; Washington, D.C.; telephone: (800) 444-2742; Web: www.apics.org.
International Conference on Enterprise Integration Modeling Technology; National Institute of Standards and Technology; Torino, Italy; telephone: (301) 975-5748; Web: www.nist.gov/workshop/iceimt97/.
First World Customer Service Congress; Tysons Corner, Virginia; telephone: (703) 359-5969/(800) 899-6363; Web: www .cscongress.com.
October 29-November 1
"The Disney Approach to Quality Service: Customized for the Health Care Industry"; Disney University; Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida; telephone: (407) 828-5800; Web: www .disneyseminars.com.
Second Annual National Summit on Building Performance; Washington, D.C.; telephone: (414) 227-3511.
Moving "Down" May Be the Best Career Option
In some cases, the best way to find a satisfying career may be to move down, according to career development specialist Beverly Kaye. In the new revised edition of her bestselling book, Up Is Not the Only Way (Davies-Black Publishing), Kaye suggests nontraditional ways to help employees find satisfying careers, either by moving laterally or even, in some cases, by moving "down."
While first writing the book 15 years ago, Kaye noticed some interesting phenomena. "Not everybody necessarily wanted to move up," she says. "Some people were saying, 'I don't want my boss' job; I don't want those headaches.' " She also noticed that, even if organizations were growing, they didn't necessarily have promotions for everybody who wanted them.
Kaye predicts that in the next century employees will become more responsible for their careers than ever before. "The individual will have to carry his or her own portfolio, seek opportunities, be very much in charge, and the company -- because of its need to retain talent -- will have to give attention to the career issue like it never has before," she says.
Individuals also must be opportunity-minded, stresses Kaye. "Opportunity still knocks, it just opens new and different doors," she explains. "The more people are able to see that opportunity is still there -- and that they have to make their own -- the more they will see more possibilities for themselves."
Customer Satisfaction On the Rise
Government services are recording higher satisfaction among customers, according to the most recent quarterly update of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which measures the quality of U.S. economic output. In fact, favorable ratings for government services, coupled with stable satisfaction scores for the manufacturing and durables sector of the economy, has caused the ACSI to have its first upwards move since its inception in 1994.
The government sector -- which represents about 13 percent of the Gross National Product -- recorded a 5.4-percent gain in satisfaction, led by an 8-percent improvement for the Internal Revenue Service. Along with the IRS, a higher police services rating from residents of both central cities and suburbs -- resulting from reduced crime -- contributed to gains for both the government sector and the national index. This brings the ACSI to 71.1 on a 0-100 scale.
Customer satisfaction with manufacturing/durables at 78.4 is not significantly different from the 78.8 rating of one year ago. The automotive industry, which makes up a large part of the manufacturing/durables sector, shows a five-point gap between customer satisfaction with product quality and satisfaction with service quality. Overall quality, which is a composite of the two, is the major driver of customer satisfaction in this industry, which has had a relatively stable ACSI score for four years.
Personal computers suffer from a four-point gap between service and product quality. Because of worsening service to users, satisfaction with personal computers has declined 10 percent since 1994, despite sales increases that have expanded the customer base.
The ACSI is co-sponsored by the American Society for Quality and the University of Michigan Business School, and is supported in part by corporate sponsors. It is based on interviews with 12,186 customers, combined with about 35,000 customer interviews conducted in the prior three quarters.
Reengineering Has Negative Long-Term Impacts
Some companies that reengineered dramatically during the past 10 years -- especially those organizations that used reengineering as an excuse to cut staff -- are now finding it increasingly difficult to recruit new employees, according to Michael D. Zinn of Michael D. Zinn & Associates.
Zinn, whose Princeton, New Jersey, firm specializes in executive searches, conducted an informal poll on reengineering's impact in Fortune 500, venture capital and financial companies. He found that morale was negatively affected as late as three or four years after reengineering, with people becoming overworked and overstressed.
"When they reengineer to the point where a lot of the meat is taken away with the fat, they create bad will," explains Zinn. "And when you create bad will, it becomes increasingly difficult to recruit the top people in the industry, which can affect the strategic ability of that company to move forward.
"Reengineering is a delicate process. It can have a very positive effect if done correctly. If it's not done correctly, then reengineering can -- in the long term -- significantly affect shareholder value."
Zinn stresses the importance of leadership in reaping successful, positive results from reengineering. "The most important ingredient is a true leader, a visionary, at the top of this process, who is communicating to the existing or remaining employees, as well as the departing employees, what the rationale was behind the reengineering," he says.