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Customer Surveys > Creating Organizational
Creating Organizational Excellence
Customer Service and Organizational
A convenient way to think of the strategy for success is to picture a three-leg stool. The stool represents the organization supported by three legs, which symbolize these key ingredients. Each leg has very separate and distinct attributes and each is critical to the survival of the organization. The legs of the stool are visionary leadership, internal data from employees and external data from the customers of the organization.
The first leg or element is visionary leadership. Any organization comes into existence because of a vision. Sometimes the vision lasts, remaining clear and compelling. Other times the original vision fades, as does the relevance of the organization.
In quiet times, leadership often is simply called upon to maintain and refine goals for an organization. In such tranquil conditions once an organization hits upon a successful product or service, it can expect to see it have a lifetime of decades before obsolescence sets in. Today, however, products or services may have a brief lifetime measured by a few years or even just months. To survive in these conditions, leadership must develop an organization that is highly tuned both to the environment and to internal processes.
In Texas each Governor offers the state his or her vision. Then the Governor and the Texas Legislature call, through the state’s strategic planning process, for every state agency and university to create its own compelling vision within the vision of the state.
The next element, the second leg of the stool, is data from the employees of the organization that provide the employees’ visions of their work and the organization. These are the internal data. This is information gathered from the people that make up the organization. It is the opinions, working knowledge, supervisory assessments, and observations that come from people that do the work of the organization. Internal data are concerned with how capable employees feel the organization is. Do employees feel that the organization stresses and achieves quality? Is there cohesiveness among employees so that there is a team effort to get the work done? Do employees feel a sense of commitment to the organization and feel that the organization supports them? Do employees feel they are treated fairly by the organization? Do employees see a sense of mission in the organization and a focus on excellence? Does one part of the organization work well with other parts? Does the organization meet the needs of internal customers? Internal data are the employees’ assessment of how the organization is performing.
As in the case of the element of visionary leadership, the State of Texas has taken long term steps to create tools that address the second requisite (internal data) of strong organizations. The Survey of Organizational Excellence, an employee attitude survey used by many of Texas' state agencies, assists organizations to acquire standard and readily comparable internal data on organizational competence. Organizations collect this data at least every two years and use it to identify strengths and weaknesses to improve the organization and its efforts.
The third element for continued organizational success is regular collection of data from the environment of the organization: customers, suppliers, regulators, and competitors. These are the external data. Such data provide comparisons between what the organization sees as its accomplishments and the perceptions of others that have an interest or "stake" in the organization. External data are gathered to gain insight into customers' or clients' preferences for products or services provided by the organization, customers’ views of the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, and to find what improvements are desired. The State of Texas has begun to address methods to systematically collect and analyze data that sheds some light on customers of state organizations.
Businesses have learned to collect data on a number of dimensions to create external data or customer satisfaction information. Sales figures and if the trend is up or down over time are important. Usually strong sales mean customer satisfaction. Sometimes it means that a business has a unique product with little or no competition but typically sales and customer satisfaction are correlated. Customer loyalty or repeat business is another important dimension of customer satisfaction. Brand recognition is another. Outstanding organizations have products that are recognized and respected.
More sophisticated efforts lead to an understanding of customer success with one’s own efforts and that of competitors’. A company will purchase a competitor’s product or use their service to determine how it compares or benchmarks against their own. Products will be examined in careful detail to determine the durability, cost, and desirability. Businesses will comparison shop to examine a competitor’s range of options, price, availability, quality, location, delivery alternatives, service capability, convenience, and product guarantee. Many businesses will also use mystery or phantom shoppers to gauge how well their employees’ respond to their own customers.
A huge variety of organizations exist that provide customer satisfaction information to businesses. J.D. Power and Associates is prominent in assessing customer satisfaction in areas such as electronic goods and automobiles. Customer service assessments are commonplace in high technology fields where, for example, trade magazines include customer ratings of technology providers. One of the oldest organizations providing citizens information on products and doing regular customer satisfaction surveys is the non-profit publisher and research organization, Consumers' Union publisher of Consumers’ Report. Among businesses, the Better Business Bureau is a traditional fixture, founded in 1912, that serves as a way of identifying the consumer satisfaction practices of local and national businesses.
The connection between customer satisfaction and government organizations is less direct than for many businesses. Dissatisfied customers in business mean decreasing sales and new competition. Dissatisfied customers in government can express themselves through elections but that is a slower and less direct process. In business, customer problems will affect the bottom line in a few months, but in government the impact of dissatisfaction can take years. Therefore, there is a need to develop more timely methods to assess satisfaction. Citizen complaints, if unknown or ignored, can result in the failure of efforts and a depletion of support and validity of all government. If citizens, for example, do not feel that the public schools teach effectively, parents will seek to place children in private schools, lessen participation in school board elections, and oppose bonds and taxes necessary to support schools. Or if citizens feel that law enforcement is inadequate or not honest, cooperation will lessen and violence and crime may increase.
Customer satisfaction involves an orientation that basically says "take care with all parts of the process that develops a good or service for the ultimate customer." In most settings that customer will be the one who pays to buy the good or service.
In the governmental sector, there will be several customers - the one who uses or consumes the service, the ones who regulate it (Judicial and Legislative), the ones who authorize it (Legislature), and the ones who manage public approval (Executive).
A process orientation is very important in settings in which the customer is not the one who 'buys' the service and thus provides the most important feedback about quality and acceptability of the service. The process orientation allows an organization to look at what the contributions of all departments are in satisfying the multiple customers. The process orientation forces an organization to examine the internal processes that contribute to the whole. When the processes are examined and documented, the managers can then identify the internal customers of each process and say to each worker "you must add value at each step" and "you must improve the quality of what you do as seen by your customers."
This orientation will allow us to ask questions such as:
Better, more timely understanding of who the customer is and what creates satisfaction is as important for government as for business. Here are some of the essential elements that years of experience teach about the successful acquisition of customer satisfaction information.
These are some of the considerations that an organization should make as it starts to understand and improve customer satisfaction.
In the 76th Session of the Texas Legislature, these points were reflected in Senate Bill 1563 that requires that all agencies and universities in the state address customer satisfaction. Recognizing both that improvements in customer satisfaction from private business have raised citizens' expectations of government and that customer satisfaction for government entities has several unique aspects, the legislation requires a number of things. Among them are:
There are a number of guidelines that an agency may want to remember when addressing improving and quantifying customer satisfaction information. These include:
For purposes of routine management or quality improvement, any comments from customers may be useful, but casual comments or unrepresentative samples do not constitute adequate measures of customers' satisfaction with state agencies or their programs.
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