Management Articles


Quality Service Comes from Quality People

By: Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

President of The Mansis Development Corporation, Dr. Kent is a specialist in the structure and management of small and medium-sized organizations, and frequently serves as a personal coach and management consultant to executives for solving their management and employee performance problems. Before founding his consulting company, Bob held senior management and executive positions in federal and provincial government and private corporations. He has been a director of several health care and service organizations and a consulting member of private and government task forces in the areas of government finance, organization structure, personnel management and executive development. Since 1972 he has lectured in management at several Canadian and American universities in the faculties of Management, Administrative Studies, Medicine and Continuing Education where he has been an award winner for excellence in teaching and professional expertise; and he has published over 125 books and articles on management.

International restauranteur and entrepreneur Oscar Grubert once told me "Serve a thousand good meals, and nobody says a thing. But serve just one poor meal, and a thousand people know about it! " Customers are notoriously fickle. And today, success in the service industry goes beyond the quality of the food, or the cleanliness of a hotel or the presentation of merchandise. The more critical element in service quality is the personal service provided by each and every employee.

A case in point is Taco Bell, the large fast food chain. Its current success, surpassing McDonald's in financial return and growth, is largely due to its emphasis on careful selection, thorough training and enlightened coaching of its customer service personnel, as opposed to an emphasis on food quality or preparation. Taco Bell discovered that customer satisfaction and loyalty are directly tied to both the quality and the longevity of its service personnel.

The American Department of Consumer Affairs reports a strong link between resolving customer problems on the spot and the customer's intent to repurchase. Ninety-five percent of customers who experience service problems remain a loyal customer if their complaints are solved speedily. Slow resolution of service problems drives customers away.

My office in Phoenix had some annoying service problems with one of those humungous US telephone companies. The irritation lingered for five months of bureaucratic runaround. In desperation I contacted the president of the phone company directly and instantly the problem was resolved. But that annoyed me even more because I had to climb to the top of the company to get satisfaction. Despite the president's quick response, I know the odds are slim I'll deal with them again. And as Oscar predicted, I've told a thousand people about it!

Companies can have glitches providing their service. We can live with that. But when the business doesn't let its own employees solve simple customer problems to ensure high quality service, our confidence disappears.

Yet the norm for so many service industry companies has been to make service personnel an endangered species. Most service employees are part-timers who work in dead end jobs for minimum wages and minimal benefits. As a result there is little loyalty to the employer and even the most conscientious service employees become disillusioned. They soon leave, and the mediocre hang on until they're fired - and the cycle begins again, frequently with less qualified people than before.

Empowering service personnel to make better decisions on the job, as Taco Bell found, requires hiring better people, giving them better direction, creating career opportunities, and training them to identify and satisfy customer needs.

© Copyright 2001 The Mansis Development Corporation

Other Articles by Robert H. Kent, Ph.D., CMC

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