All too often companies and processes lose track of the fact that customer satisfaction needs to be the end goal.  Especially in this era of communication and review sites such as Yelp, it’s incredibly important to ensure that your customers have nothing but praise when they are done dealing with you.

Here are some tips from Government Computer News:

Meeting work standards and quotas is not good enough any more. Caring about customers is the key to survival in the marketplace. Caring does not always mean doing everything the customer asks for. Caring means providing the best possible service for the customer at the lowest possible cost. Doing things that are not needed, even though requested by the customer, is not in the best interest of the customer.

The problem most data processing professionals face is that they do not understand the customer’s needs and thus are unable to make significant contributions to customer care.

Managers must look at each job from two perspectives. The first is the customer’s perspective: what he wants and needs. The second perspective is the perspective of the producer of the products that will satisfy the customer’s needs. If these two views are inconsistent, it results in unhappy customers and, in many cases, unhappy technical people.

Let’s look first at my automotive situation and second at data processing. I wanted my automobile fixed, but I also wanted some minor questions answered, and I wanted my car to be clean at the end of the servicing operation.

The mechanic working on my car was allotted three hours and 12 minutes to do eight different tasks. The only thing the mechanic was paid for, evaluated on and instructed to do were those eight tasks within the allotted time. Keeping the car clean and answering my questions were not part of the job and would have made it difficult to meet that time standard.

The mechanic’s perspective of a quality maintenance job was significantly different from mine as a customer. In this case, the technician was probably given a pat on the back for completing the job in three hours and 12 minutes; the dealership lost a customer.

Let’s look at a similar situation in data processing. The customer brings a computer system in for service. It needs some coding changes, and those changes are assigned to a programmer. Eight lines of code need to be changed, and the programmer is given three hours and 12 minutes to do the work.

In this situation, the customer wants a defect-free system after the change, wants his documentation updated and wants the programs ready for the next change. The programmer is told to make the change but is given no guidance on how to test, how extensively to test and whether to update system and programming documentation or end-user documentation.

The programmer completes the changes in three hours and 12 minutes. None of the documentation is updated. He is not sure that the changed system will work in production, but he thinks it will.

Unfortunately, the program abnormally terminates. The programmer is called in to make the correction, and the job is rerun. The customer is charged for all of that work. The customer makes errors in entering data because the documentation is not updated, again increasing the cost of operation.

The next time the program is changed, the new programmer makes an error because the documentation was not updated. The customer again pays. The net result is an unhappy customer, and the technical person may not know why.

In many organizations, quality assurance groups are attempting to close the gap between what the customer wants and what the technician delivers. The approaches being used include:

* More quantitative definitions of the customer’s criteria for evaluating quality.

* Problem-tracking systems. The problems identified by customers are recorded in a system that ensures they will be monitored until corrected to the customer’s satisfaction.

* Use of data processing quality improvement programs. The purpose of these programs is to use the information recorded in the problem-tracking system to identify the more serious problems and then change the processes.

It is the manager’s responsibility to ensure that the customer is satisfied. In fulfilling this responsibility, managers must make the technical people aware of their contribution to this customer satisfaction mission. The technical people must also be given the time, tools and training necessary to achieve customer satisfaction.


Perry, William E. “Customers, not quotas, must come first.” Government Computer News 20 Nov. 1987: 43+.