COMMUNICATING WITH CUSTOMER
Good relationships require constant communication. Randall's is quick to point out that an important part of communication is active listening. Good relationships also require close contact. Companies that do not enjoy such frequent interaction can still make it easy for their customers to stay in touch.
Thomas Interior Systems:
- At Thomas Interior Systems, only about a half-dozen employees do not have direct, daily contact with customers.
- With such broad exposure, the company recognizes the need for employees to be generalists, familiar with customer requirements and with every element of Thomas's business.
- It responds to the need through its customer focus process, which includes 40 hours of training a year in such subjects as product lines of and programs with major manufacturers, specifications for major lines (i.e., carpeting, panel systems, electrical), project management, delivery and installation, estimating, design, computer issues, and business math.
- Solectron relies on a more formal process to communicate with its customers.
- It surveys every customer every week, and its executive staffs at every plant meet weekly to review the results.
- Before a customer is surveyed, Solectron finds out who, in the customer's organization, has the best information on how Solectron is performing.
- That person is asked to reply to the survey.
- The company faxes its one-page Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) survey to these key people every Friday.
- The form asks one question each about quality delivery, communication, and service.
- Customers respond with a letter grade (A-D) and any comments, then fax the completed form back, usually within a day.
- Solectron also enters all the weekly survey information into a database, to track numbers and plot trends by customer, category, division, and so on.
- On the evening before the executive meeting, the coordinators usually crank out a pile of overheads on this information for the next morning's presentation.
Problem solving modes of Solectron:
Solectron sends an acknowledgment to the customer that it has received the complaint and is addressing it, then pursues one of two problem-solving modes:
- If something is out of control in the process, the company does what-ever is necessary to bring it back into control. it then goes through a formal process to find out what happened and to take steps to prevent it from happening again.
- If the process is in control but the customer is unhappy, it tightens the tolerance limits on the process, using statistical tools.
Customer focus teams review quality and current delivery schedules during weekly meetings. Its customer's executives make pre-sentations at Solectron's weekly Tuesday morning forums. Each quarter, a team headed by the senior executive who represents the customer's interests at Solectron visits the customer to discuss ways to improve existing projects, and plans for future projects. Customer executives are surveyed twice a year, and an annual third-party survey provides objective data for comparison.