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 Ko 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?