tips for quality service
The Five-Point Foundation for Success
by Carl Tompkins
Long before you go to market with what you feel to be the very best of
all products, make sure that your entire organization is prepared to meet
(or even better, exceed) customer requirements within the five subject
areas that I call “the five-point foundation for success.” I refer to
them as the foundation because if your company fails at any one of the
five, the business will collapse.
I first heard this list of five subjects in 1988 while attending a seminar
conducted by renowned business consultant and author Tom Connellan. He
presented these as the five buying factors that exist in the minds of
customers. While Tom did an excellent job teaching the merit of each,
he, like me, had to give credit where credit is due on this great discovery;
that credit goes to Leonard L. Barry, a professor at Texas A&M University,
who has devoted his career to studying what causes customers to buy.
To the Test
The first subject area is “reliability.” Do your products and services
do what has been promised? Just as important, are the people within your
organization reliable? Do they keep their commitments? If, for any reason,
products, services or people fail to be reliable, no price is low enough
to cause customers to buy. The mission of reliability starts and stops
at the top of the organization.
Number-two on the list is “responsiveness.” How well does your organization
size up in the minds of customers on quick, efficient and effective communications?
In 2005 Consumer Reports conducted a consumer survey about what companies
did best to earn customer loyalty. The leading response was that the best
companies were those that resolved problems the quickest with the least
amount of hassle. While solving problems efficiently makes up a major
portion of responsiveness, routine customer communications also must be
quick and attentive to needs.
The third subject is “assurance.” Simply put, customers in today’s fast-paced
world of business are in fear of being left alone to survive without the
help of their expert suppliers. Trust never has been more vital than in
this current day and age. The more assurance companies provide, the greater
the customer’s confidence and resulting referrals. A weak link in the
assurance chain is that what often is promised never occurs. You must
“walk your talk!” Remember, 65 percent of all business volume is a result
of repeat business. Need I say more?
Fourth on the list is “empathy.” It is vital to demonstrate genuine concern
for the customers’ feelings. This does not necessitate our agreement with
the customer but instead provides the right for customers to feel the
way they do. We’re all in the people business, and, until we properly
and adequately address the personal needs of the customer through active
listening and concern, we’ll never achieve the right to talk business.
The final subject is “tangibles.” Tangibles are the many items that come
into play in the course of doing business. The list can be quite lengthy,
which lends cause for management to pay attention to detail. Think of
the things that help create the image of your company. To understand how
well your company complies with this requirement, ask yourself, “Does
my company represent an image with which customers would be proud to associate?”
Categorically, the answer to this question should lead a company to assess
its cleanliness, organization, ethics, functionality, quality, community,
morale and professionalism. The key here is to concentrate on the little
things that mean big things to customers. I’ve seen customers intentionally
miss appointments because they saw weeds growing in a parking lot.
The above five points pertain to any organization—whether a business,
association, church, or club. Ensuring that each of the five is perfected
and maintained will allow for almost all goals to be attainable. The greatest
building aspect of having such an excellent foundation is that you’ll
never have cause to remodel; just the opportunity to add more square footage.
Carl Tompkins is the global marketing resources manager for SIKA
Corp. in Madison Heights, Mich., and the author of “Winning at Business.”
He is based in Spokane, Wash.
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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.