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Why Doesn't Character Always Win?

I strongly disagree with Ken Blanchard's premise that a person can be an able leader and at the same time be untrustworthy. Stephen Covey and others have taught me that trust is the foundation and essence of effective leadership. You cannot separate trust and integrity from leadership. In my opinion, this past presidential election was not about leadership, it was about politics, and Clinton's the master politician.

 -- Ron Blue ronblu52@aol.com

The Art of Being a Quality Curmudgeon

I was delighted to read your recent "First Word" column in the January issue of Quality Digest. I share your passion for being an active consumer and voicing my dissatisfaction with poor quality to those who have the power to improve the situation. While your pet peeves seem to be hotels, airlines and fast food places, mine are supermarkets. Why do they post signs designating checkout lines for people with "10 items or less" when it's a statement the cashiers are instructed not to enforce? Why do they post unit prices but use different units for different brands of the same item so that you have to do the math in your head to comparison price? Why do they put the frozen food aisle in the middle of the store so you either have to circle back to it, or put up with the fact that your ice cream is melted by the time you are finished shopping?

 -- Nancy E. Fosterfostern@gunet.georgetown.edu

Right On!

From another "quality curmudgeon," right on! It is so good to know that there is indeed at least one kindred spirit out there after having so many friends tell me to just "let it go" when I complain of poor service.

Some of my pet peeves:

  • Cashiers who carry on personal conversations with the customer in front of me at supermarket checkout lines or banks.
  • Receptionists who put me on hold for long periods of time without  letting me know what's going on, particularly when I'm paying for the long distance call.
  • Any service personnel who don't smile.
  • -- Tony Armentaaarmenta@selu.edu 

Paying for Opportunities

You did not mention my favorite example of customer service --furniture/appliance stores. Not only do you pay them for the item you have purchased, you have to pay a delivery fee. What does this delivery fee get you? An "opportunity" to wait for them to deliver your piece of furniture or appliance at their convenience.

 -- Alice J. Converse

More Curmudgeon Correspondence

My service philosophy with respect is much like yours. You are the customer. It is your money that you are spending, and you should expect prompt, courteous service.

Whenever I was in a supervisory position, I always put a service standard in the performance standard of everyone who worked for me. They were allowed one incident or justified complaint from a customer per rating period. Anything more and they failed this part of the irrating.

 -- Tony Fasolofasolot@baileys-emh5.army.mil

The Carry-On Baggage People

I could not agree more with your philosophies regarding service. Many a time I have wanted to tell these "carry-on baggage people" what I thought of them. You just said it for me. Thank you for a very uplifting article.

 -- Thomas Huntertomh@garwoodtestlabs.com

The Curmudgeon Twins

I picked up the January issue of Quality Digest to read over my first cup of coffee this morning. I haven't made it past your editorial. Wow! Are we twins?

I am director of quality improvement for a printing company and two magazine companies. I plan to post this column on our CQI bulletin board and highlight a few of the last lines. I, too, fully believe that customers have a responsibility to their suppliers to inform them of poor quality. Here I'm thinking of internal customers as well as the external ones. I so often use the line "if you don't vote, don't gripe." But you say it much better.

 -- Linda Kaulindakau@indpub.com

A Curmudgeon Wanna-Be

As a fellow curmudgeon (actually, I'm a curmudgeon wanna-be), I agree with your statement that, when paying a substantial price for service, the service should be exemplary. I refer to myself as awanna-be because I usually cannot find it within me to complain. Maybe it is just my good nature, but I often find myself driving away from poor service wishing I had said something.

I disagree with not saying anything when you receive too much change. That is a nonconformance on their part, just as if they overcharged you. So if you truly care about speaking out in order to improve service, then whether you benefit from the poor service really should not be an issue.

 -- Danny Kauffmandjk@po1.almptex.alumaxmill.com

Disagreement With the Quality Curmudgeon

I was pleased and annoyed by your column. I agree with most of what you had to say. As you pointed out, there is a responsibility to let managers know when you get bad service. Like you, I will go out of my way to let people know when an item or service does not meet my expectations.

Apparently you have never had to work in a menial type of job. If you had, you would know that the cashier usually has to make up the difference if the register drawer comes up short. You taught the manager nothing, and cost the victim of poor management even more. Your rationale for keeping the excess money escapes me.

You might try requesting an improvement in a poor service situation rather than demanding it. It is not too often that you will be able to talk with the person who is actually responsible. "Telling those with the authority to improve the situation" usually just makes them angry. You cannot know who has that authority unless you understand their organizational structure.

 -- Ken Kingkkingcqe@hotmail.com

The Foremost Goal

I think all of us find ourselves being highly critical of poor service, but perhaps we may address it from a different aspect. I am not as concerned about getting what I paid for (not that I don't demand it) as I am with the principal that the primary job of any manager and the systems he uses is to satisfy customers. If you give exactly the service you have advertised that you will, and the customer is not satisfied, you haven't done your job. I am not saying that you can satisfy every customer, but it is a goal that should be foremost in your mind.

 -- Ben Litwakben_litwak@cmi.com

Good Service

For years I, too, fit the quality curmudgeon description; bad service brought out very surly, ill-mannered and bad-tempered behaviors. Lately I have changed into a "Good Service Reinforcer." When I receive good service, I go out of my way to reinforce that wonderful behavior. I call, write, meet with and share the experience with as many people as I can. I immediately inform the good service provider of how much I appreciate the service. I tell their boss, manager and owner, if I can go that high. It is definitely a lot more fun talking about good service than bad service.

 -- Carmen Rescignocarmen132@aol.com

 Carrying On É

Sorry, couldn't resist. Luggage that you carry on gets to your destination when you do. The last two times my luggage didn't make it was because air traffic control had held us at the gate and there wasn't enough time to transfer the luggage to the connecting flight. I consider it impossible to complain to airline management.

 -- Patrick McNennypjm2207@rit.edu

Dishonest Curmudgeon

I agree that to get quality you must be demanding, but that doesn't mean that you have to be a self-professed curmudgeon or take the obvious pride that you do in being dishonest. I would think that if you were truly a champion of quality, you would be concerned with any breach of it. You may like to think of it as the "cost of poor quality," but it's just plain dishonesty. So much for mutual trust and supplier/customer relations! Instead of trying to cultivate them, you seem content to opt out for the status quo and get away with whatever you can.

 -- Gerry MooreDale City, Virginia

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March 97 Quality Digest