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This is not about customer service—we're talking busi­ness survival here! Service is not a department; it's a state of mind—an attitude—a corporate value integrated across business functions. Let one functional area fail in service efforts, and the entire process is jeopardized. Because of product failure? No, because the values sys­tem failed. The objective of this paper is to ingrain four concepts inherent in every business function—integral attributes to success: communication, motivation, people, and service.

Why is it whenever "customer service" is mentioned, the first thought is either a group of folks in the front office taking customer calls, or that retail department that handles gift wrap? This is generally where service ends, not where it begins—and certainly not where a culture of service excellence is developed. The best cus­tomer service group in the world won't ensure customer satisfaction if the organization hasn't placed priority on cross-functional excellence. And there's more to excel­lence than customer service. The real issue driving ser­vice excellence is organizational culture. And to be successful, many organizations need to launch an all-out offense on the strategy and principles by which the organization does business.


There are multiple ingredients for success. Close your eyes and picture a table. On that table are multiple con­tainers, all opened, with measuring spoons in each. The containers are labeled quality, values, culture, commu­nications, service, people, and motivationall ingredi­ents waiting to be blended to create success. Now belly up to the table, and mix the ingredients before you to create a customer-focused enterprise. Please determine exact measurements, and state why that amount is nec­essary for the final product. Not so easy? In the absence of a recipe, formula, guidelines, instructions, procedures, or process knowledge, how then does one develop the exact recipe? How indeed! The answers lie in understand­ing how each of these ingredients are defined and inte­grated into the entire organization.

There is an obvious lack of attention and continuing education that these success attributes receive in the workplace. The real issue is understanding how all of these attributes work together to form a cohesive, team-oriented enterprise. There is no question: When you talk survival, one must ensure these ingredients for success are not only considered—but implemented and continu­ously supported by the management team.


Philip Crosby says quality is "first among equals," mean­ing when discussed in relation to other business criteria such as cost, quality, and responsiveness, quality is first among these equals. Second, without either a quality process in place, or a prevailing quality attitude, all ef­forts to achieve successful implementation and support of corporate values will only go so far. Simply stated, you might empower people to provide customer satis­faction, and you might trust those individuals and re­spect them for their position, but in the absence of quality improvement efforts, a clear message is being sent: "We don't want to improve!" We all know this is not the case. Human beings inherently want to do a great job. They want to succeed. They want to work within a quality structure. Unfortunately, many organizations send compelling messages demonstrating a lack of sup­port for quality to the workforce without knowing it's ever being done.

Individuals will readily accept a work-around for pro­cesses that fail, and will cope with organizational prob­lems—so long as they know the organization is serious about fixing the problems long term. When individuals cannot rely on management to support and sustain quality improvement efforts, the message received is, "We don't really care about improvement efforts." This is the compelling message demonstrating the lack of support for quality processes. This may seem a bit harsh, but if problems continue to plague the organization, and processes do not improve, what other message can one deduce?


We hear a lot about walking the walk, and talking the talk. Can you truly verbalize exactly what this means? It's simple, actually. It means actions start with man­agement. Management sets the tone and acts as the working example of what is expected of others. "Walk­ing the walk" means that we don't just ask for measure­ments supporting specific processes—we measure our own processes as well. We don't just talk about improv­ing work processes—we improve them.

The primary difficulty in implementing any quality improvement process is a sustained effort. There is an inherent excitement in a quality improvement process in its initial stages due to the mandate, involvement, and actions from top management. Communications on the importance of quality improvement efforts make clear the need for and support of an official policy state­ment. But this communication quickly becomes lip ser­vice when, after initial implementation phases, the excitement wears off and management sits back wait­ing for the troops to make it happen. As soon as man­agement stops placing emphasis on improvement efforts and limits their personal involvement, everybody else gets the point, and follows the lead—the lead message of course being "not me—you." And the message is re­ceived. Not me—you! The result is everybody else wait­ing on somebody else to lead the charge. So nobody does anything, and quality improvement efforts fail. There is no shortage of companies who have been through this process, and countless number have attempted the pro­cess multiple times, only to find failure for like reasons. The point is clear. Without complete management sup­port and continuous involvement, quality improvement efforts cannot be sustained. Some will view quality im­provement as the latest fad or management initiative that will change with the season.

To Be Continued

For balance of this article, click on the below link:

Lean Manufacturing Articles and click on Series 13


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