Volume 12, Issue 1 - January/February 2010

Customer Service
tips for quality service

The Top 10 of the Last 10
by Carl Tompkins

What a great thing to be able to participate in the 10-year anniversary edition of AGRR magazine! It has been a pleasure and great honor to serve as a columnist for the magazine this entire span of time.

In honor of this occasion, I’ve reviewed each of the 64 articles I’ve written over the past ten years and picked the ten most significant tips in which to run a successful business and share them.
The Top Ten

Commandment 1 (March 2007 AGRR): The level of business success, and the speed at which it is attained, is based upon the will to change and the time dedicated to do so.

A reporter once asked me, “In all the years of your training experiences, what have you found to be the most difficult subject to teach?”

My answer was that just about all subjects provide the same level of challenge. However, the most difficult subject to see put into practice is “change.” Most everyone understands and agrees to the importance of change, but only a small minority ever creates and maintains the changes necessary to grow a business in a profitable manner. One of my favorite slogans is a particular definition of business insanity: “expecting different results by doing everything the same way.” Change is a must.

Commandment 2 (March/April 2004 AGRR): Every company and profession is in the field of sales and sells the same product to customers: an experience.

The key learning point from this article was to alert companies that customers buy much more than just a core product; they buy an experience that covers a multitude of topics that companies must manage and deliver in a manner that exceeds customers’ expectations.

Commandment 3 (January/February 2003 AGRR): Managers, if you’re not serving an outside customer, you had better be serving someone who is.

This article emphasized that all companies are in the “people business” and, while many employees’ jobs are to interface and serve outside customers, management had better interface and serve its employees if it hopes to be successful. Unfortunately, so much of management’s time is spent making rules, policies, enforcing procedures and providing work environments that make it difficult, if not nearly impossible, for employees to do their jobs well.

Commandment 4 (January/February 2008 AGRR): To be successful you must not only be goal-driven, but also great at reaching goals. Make sure all goals are S.M.A.R.T.—Specific, Measurable, Agreeable, Realistic and Time-bound.

Most will agree that goal-setting is a must. The problem is that most companies are not very good at reaching their goals because they fail to meet any one or all of the five rules of formation. Everyone involved must understand the goal, find it measurable, and must agree on its value and that it is attainable. Finally, there must be a time table for every goal.

Commandment 5 (July/August 2005 AGRR): Establish, believe in, and follow a zero-defect-policy .
It’s not okay to make mistakes, but the culture in many companies allows for mistakes absent of effective corrective action and problem elimination. Mistakes may happen, but should never happen more than once. The cost of rework in U.S. businesses can be (and has been) the difference between being profitable and going out of business.

Commandment 6 (November/December 2004 AGRR): You must see and assess all situations from a balcony perspective. Such a distance prevents over-engagement while allowing for view of the big picture.

This is one of the toughest lessons for any person to learn and perfect. While in the midst of a difficult situation, it is very easy to become over-engaged with people and move into the arena of argument and emotional battle. Keep your mental distance and see each situation as it really is in order to arrive at the best solution. You’ve heard the phrase, “being so close to the forest you cannot see the trees.” Keeping a balcony perspective prevents this form of blindness.

Commandment 7 (July/August 2004 AGRR): Avoid downsizing; it is a lethal business cancer. Instead, resize.
When profits do not meet business objectives, the first reaction often is to downsize the organization—meaning to let people go and close locations. Experts agree that this is not an acceptable business strategy but a precursor to a business exit. Instead, re-allocate assets into other business strategies or opportunities that provide a more reasonable chance for success.

“Most everyone understands and agrees to the importance of change, but only a small minority ever creates and maintains the changes necessary to grow a business in a profitable manner.”

Commandment 8 (January/February 2005 AGRR): Allow money to be the byproduct of the relentless effort to serve customers, employees and community in the most reliable and responsive method possible.

When money becomes the driving focus of attention, failure is certain. Successful businesses build their legends upon providing great products and services that are reliable. Their style in doing business, with both customers and employees, demonstrates responsiveness to people’s needs and the assurance that they will be taken care of. The byproduct is profit!

Commandment 9 (November/December 2005 AGRR): Be funny and make money.
We’ve lost the social fiber in American businesses. This is a horrific and unfortunate situation. It is the leading cause for the loss of morale in the workplace and morale is the fuel that runs the company. Why is there no loyalty between management and employees? It’s just no fun working together anymore. While this slogan may appear silly, think about it; it really says it all. Let’s start putting some fun back into the workplace and then watch the money flow!

Commandment 10 (May/June 2009 AGRR): Right is not always easy, but right is always right. Never fail yourself, your company, or those who count on you to make a difference. Do what is right. Lead with your heart and allow your mind to follow.

Carl Tompkins is the Western states area manager for SIKA Corp. in Madison Heights, Mich. He is based in Spokane, Wash.
Mr. Tompkins’ opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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