I Am Here for the Customer

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

One of my earliest recollections in the Baldrige Program was our annual Quest for Excellence conference in the spring of 1992, when the CEO of Solectron (a 1991 Award recipient) was speaking at a breakout session and left the stage almost mid-sentence. One of the other Solectron executives picked right up where he left off, but why did Complaint departmentKo Nishimura leave the stage? A key customer wanted to talk to him and Solectron executives were available to their customers 24/7. As a fairly new member of the Baldrige staff, this sent a clear message to me, Solectron is a customer comes first company for sure! I am certain this action and others like it also made it very clear to Solectron employees that customer focus is job number one.

So, why do I raise this story from the past in 2011? Because the last quarter of 2010 showed declines in key sectors for the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Because many of us grumble about our own customer experiences. Because customer focus begins with leadership. Because this topic coincides with one of the changes in the 2011-2012 Criteria for Performance Excellence.

In recent issues of the Criteria we have increased the focus on building a customer culture in the organization. We have asked questions related to how the organization creates a culture that ensures a positive customer experience in Category 3, as part of Customer Focus. In the 2011-2012 Criteria, we have learned from our Award recipients, including Solectron’s early example, and moved the customer culture consideration to Category 1, Leadership. If the organization is to have a workforce focus on the customer, it must begin with leadership that focuses on delivering a consistently positive customer experience and leadership that sets an example for engaging customers. In other words, senior leadership must create that customer-focused workforce culture.

So, you might ask am I here for the customer. Very definitely yes. My regular Blogrige postings and the  Insights column on our web site are two new examples using social media to connect to customers and stakeholders. And our Examiners know that I make sure I am here each year for all four weeks of Examiner training so that I can have some “one-on-one” time with this important customer group. But customer engagement is two-way dialogue, so please let me hear from you.

How is a customer-focused culture being set in your organization? Who is leading the effort? Is it obvious to your customers and are they loyal to your organization?


About Barbara Fischer

NIST Baldrige
This entry was posted in Baldrige Award Recipients, Baldrige Criteria, Baldrige Director, Baldrige Events, Business, Customer Focus, Leadership and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to I Am Here for the Customer

  1. bill boyt says:

    Hallelujah and Amen. Fortunately, quality has improved for many products making customer service/focus an even stronger differentiator

  2. Also in this story, I am impressed by the teamwork of the top executives — able to pick up a presentation from one another without missing a beat. That, too, is good customer service.

  3. Very good article, we want more of this calibre

  4. I just finished attending a meeting with the majority of Chevrolet dealers. It was great to hear the leader of Chevrolet (Alan Batey Vice President of North American sales and service) discuss improving the customer experience as an important issue for Chevrolet. Even though Chevrolet outperforms all other large volume brands (including Toyota)in customer satisfaction (ranked 4th overall of all brands), he wasn’t satisfied. Alan used the words I was looking for – “world class” when discussing customer satisfaction. Benchmarking for cusomter satisfaction might need to be evaluated from more than your competitor’s scores. If you truly focus on the cusomter – do you have the proper metrics to do so? How can you get better if you don’t? Just because you are a leader with a score of 800 out of 1000 as compared to other competitors, you’re still 200 points below excellence from the customer perspective. That should truly be the issue. How do we get those other 200 points!

  5. Bryan Zak says:

    I have noticed that Senator Mark Begich is really doing a fantastic job of using media technology to reach out to his constituents. An example is the other night my cell phone rang, and a voice said, “Stay on to join a conference call with Senator Mark Begich”. So, I did and I listened as the Senator took questions from constituents. Today’s technology has changed and some organizations are taking advantage of the opportunities to reach their customers. Of course the real success to reaching customers will be to have a “quality plan” in place when reaching out to the customers.

  6. Harry Hertz says:

    Thanks for the comments on this blog post. Thanks for the two specific comments on how executives in business and government are setting the customer culture. I would love to hear other exmples from blog readers!

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