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spike bulletAugust 1998 - Living a Quality Corporate Culture

Quality is an Attitude
Examples of a Quality Culture in Action
Resources, Books and Articles

"Quality" is an Attitude

Many companies claim to produce "quality" products or offer "quality" services. This word has become a new corporate label that everyone wants. Talking about quality and achieving it are very different.

To truly become a quality company, the corporate culture must recognize and promote quality standards through everyday actions, not just in marketing literature and advertising.

A "quality culture" demands:

  • That companies and individuals within that company deliver on their promises - both stated and implied promises
  • That companies stand behind their promises when something is returned or an error is brought to their attention
  • That they do what they say they will do
  • That the company operates with honesty and integrity
  • That people who deal with the company be treated with respect - whether employee, business associate, supplier, vendor, client or customer
  • That the environment is treated with respect - products/services consumed in the production of goods and services are not wasted unnecessarily, and waste is handled in a responsible way
  • That products work the first time and perform their intended function, without hassles for the buyer
  • That products are sold at a reasonable price (not necessarily the lowest price)
  • That services are delivered within the time promised or the buyer is notified of any delay
  • That the company can be reached in a reasonable way when a problem does arise, when a customer has follow-up questions or wants to order additional products or service
  • That customers, vendors, suppliers, business associates and clients perceive the company as having a quality culture.

Does this imply that a company never makes mistakes or that individuals within that company never make mistakes? NO!

It does mean that each and every person within the company constantly strives to give the best possible service at every moment.

It also means that when a problem occurs or an error is made, they will correct it as quickly as possible.

Examples of Quality in Action

These are all true examples from our experience.

We previously hosted our website with another Internet Service Provider (ISP) who decided they were going to stop offering that service with less than 2 weeks notice. After searching the Internet and reading local newspaper ads, we contacted several possible ISP vendors, explaining our search for a new hosting service. A few called or sent e-mail indicating that they were interested. One sent back a response with a URL link that said, "look at this." They had already created a copy of our home page on their server. Because of that type of responsiveness, we are hosted there and continue to receive excellent service. The ISP: The Internet Outsourcing Group.

A few years ago, we were in the market for a new desktop computer. The computer we received had several components that were even higher quality than what we ordered. After delivery, there was a peculiar error whenever certain pages were printed. The manufacturer's technical staff could not find an answer to why the error occurred, much as they tried. We started asking around to see if others could provide a clue. Someone said they had a similar problem, caused by a problem with the video graphics card. After contacting the maker of the graphics card, we received a message that they had already shipped us an upgrade for the video card, which solved the problem. We took the computer back to them for several additional upgrades, all of which were handled promptly and professionally to our satisfaction. The original manufacturer: US Machines in Irvine, CA; The graphics card manufacturer: Diamond MultiMedia.

We walked to a shopping center for lunch near a training center where we were attending a seminar on customer service techniques. On the way back from lunch, we noticed a department store advertisement "get a credit card in 10 minutes." This was a store where we had never shopped. However, we had heard stories of the store's quality corporate culture. Since we had only 15 minutes left, we spotted a sales person that was not helping anyone else and asked if we could really get a credit card in 10 minutes - we left the store with a credit card and got back to the seminar on time. The department store: Nordstrom.

Planning a corporate celebration included creating memorable gifts for team members. After calling several companies and asking friends for referrals, we visited a highly recommended company that offered a wide selection of items. One item proposed was a clear acrylic 6-inch ruler, engraved with the client's corporate logo and motto of the project team. Everyone agreed we were pleased with the gift suggestion as well as the price. When it came time to pick up the rulers (they day before the party), they were not ready. The owner of the store apologized and explained that they had just upgraded their engraving machine and it was not working as well as it should. They promised to deliver the finished rulers that evening. Indeed, they did complete the job and delivered them to our home at 8:30 that evening. Needless to say, we have used the same company for subsequent events. The company: Blue Ribbon Trophy, in Orange California, (714) 998-2611.

When we wanted to purchase a laptop computer, we researched many different models and brand names, made up our mind and went to a retail store to make the purchase. The salesperson showed us the model we had chosen and suggested we also consider another brand's model that had all the features as the one originally chosen. In addition, it had more memory, an internal modem already installed and a faster CPU speed for the same price. After additional research, we returned to purchase the recommended model from the same sales person. The store: Fry's; the laptop computer: Compaq Presario 1075. An additional benefit discovered much later: the Presario 1075 is completely Year 2000 compliant!

A client of ours needed Year 2000 software changes done very quickly (within a matter of weeks) after the failure of a previous contractor to complete the work to the client's satisfaction. After trying to contact many different possible vendors, we contacted a company who said they could meet the next day to discuss our client's needs. A meeting was held at 8:00 am the next morning. The following day, a meeting was set up with all the people involved in making a decision and a formal proposal was received within a few days. The company was selected and did an outstanding job of converting the code within 6 weeks, constantly challenging us to be as responsive as they were. The company: HCL America.

For several years, we worked for a consulting company that prides itself on high quality service and hiring the best possible people they can find. We were constantly reminded to hire new people who were at least as good as we were, preferably to hire people even better than we were. Because it was a high quality, client service oriented company, we found ourselves reporting to someone for one project, being a coworker with them on another project, then having them report to us on a 3rd project. The company's organization chart was a ring of circles, with no higher-than or lower-than symbolism. During our years with the company, we never met anyone there who was less than exceptional in ability, experience or professionalism. The company: Systems & Technology Corporation (SCT).

A former boss, mentor and friend, was passionate about quality. He often said "whatever you produce must be so good that you are willing to sign your name to it and stand behind it." His constant reminders kept us on our toes for many years. He lived his beliefs every day, setting a high personal example of leadership that we have rarely seen since. He simply would not compromise on quality. His name: Rob Roberson (now deceased).

People remember exceptional quality service as much or more than they remember bad service. They do not usually remember "average" service.

Do you have an example to share?

We encourage the readers of this newsletter to provide additional examples of exceptional levels of high quality that we can add to this list. Please send e-mail with a one-paragraph example and give us permission to use your story. We are not interested in stories of poor service, only high quality service.

Disclaimer

These actual examples do not guarantee that you will receive the same excellent service. They are provided to show examples of what is possible and how quality can be accomplished. Even Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence, has noted that over time, sometimes quality companies or divisions lose their ability to maintain exceptional levels of high quality.

World Wide Web graphic Internet Resources

world wide web - articles Articles

book graphic Books

  • A Man's Life, James Martin.  Four Seasons Press; (May 1995) ISBN: 0964218895
  • Business Ethics: Readings and Cases in Corporate Morality, W. Michael Hoffman, Jennifer Mills Moore McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages; 4th edition (November 27, 2000) ISBN: 0072483482
  • Games Bosses Play, Russell Wild.  McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Books; (September 1, 1997) ASIN: 0809230852
  • In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman Warner Books; Reissue edition (August 1988) ISBN: 0446385077
  • Leadership is an Art, Max DePree. DTP; Reissue edition (August 1990) ISBN: 0440503248
  • Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, Wess Roberts.  Warner Books; Reprint edition (February 1990) ISBN: 0446391069 
  • Making a Difference: Twelve Qualities That Make You a Leader, Sheila Bethel.  Berkley Publishing  Group; Reprint edition (October 1990)  ISBN: 042512309X
  • Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives, John Naisbit, Warner Books; (February 1984) ASIN: 0446356816
  • Running from Safety, Richard Bach. Delta; (December 1995) ISBN: 0385315287
  • Teaching the Elephant to Dance: Empowering Change in Your Organization, James Belasco.  Plume; Reissue edition (July 1991) ISBN: 0452266297
  • The Addictive Organization, Anne Wilson Schaef.  Harper SanFrancisco; (September 1990) ISBN: 0062548743
  • The Constraints of Corporate Tradition: Doing the Correct Thing, Not Just What the Past Dictates, Alan Kantrow.  HarperCollins (paper); Reprint edition (November 1988) ASIN: 0060157534
  • The Female Advantage: Women's Ways of Leadership, Sally Hedgesen.  Currency/Doubleday; (May 1995) ISBN: 0385419112
  • The Knight in Rusty Armor, Robert Fisher. Wilshire Book Co; (May 1989) ISBN: 0879804211
  • The Leadership Challenge: How to Get Extraordinary Things Done in Organizations, James Kouzes, Barry Posner.  Jossey-Bass; (May 1990) ASIN: 155542211X
  • Thriving on Chaos: Handbook for a Management Revolution, Tom Peters.  HarperCollins (paper); Reprint edition (September 1991) ISBN: 0060971843
  • You'll See It When You Believe It!, Wayne Dyer.  Quill; (September 2001) ISBN: 0060937335
  • Zapp: The Lightning of Empowerment: How to Improve Productivity,
    Quality, and Employee Satisfaction,
    William Byham, Jeff Cox. Fawcett Books; Revised edition (February 1998) ISBN: 0449002829

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