An Article From the Archives:
In this month’s From the Archives (originally published in Productivity’s Service Insider, September 1989), “Teams Motivate Employees to Improve Service, Cut Costs,” Banc One Corporation shares their story of how identifying and solving service problems allowed them to reduce rework and correct errors, which in turn led to reduced costs and improved bottom line sustainability. The concepts of quality teams, making problems and countermeasures visible, and recognizing and rewarding employee behavior are timeless; they’re as relevant today as they were in 1989. Read on to learn how Banc One’s program resulted in motivated employees, increased job satisfaction and dedication, improved quality and profits, and of course, happier customers!
Briefing: Each Banc One member bank has a quality council composed of top executives and senior staff members that sets service goals. The council appoints quality teams that identify and solve goal-related problems. Inside Tip: Make important data visible. When a plan is implemented to solve a service problem, post measurement data. It will keep people focused on improving service.
Delivering high quality service to customers always costs more money. Right? Wrong. Demonstrating that better service actually costs less and equates to bigger profits is the philosophy of Banc One Corporation, a 20 member bank headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.
Banking is a very staff intensive business, and a great deal of employees’ time can be spent in reworking and correcting errors. By eliminating those errors, Banc One has discovered that they reduce their costs, make the customer happy and improve their bottom line substantially.
The key to Banc One’s success comes from knowing where service problems exist. “When you dedicate yourself to high quality service, it does not mean that you try to be everything to everyone,” says Ann R. Holland, senior quality officer responsible for training Banc One affiliates. “It does mean commitment from the top down to carefully identified customer groups and market needs.”
Quality Service Teams.
Banc One utilizes a strategic plan for identifying and measuring quality problems, then implementing solutions for them. Each Banc One member has a quality council composed of key executives (chief executive officer, president, chief financial officer, and manager of human resources) and senior staff members. The council is required to develop an annual plan that defines the bank’s service objectives and to appoint quality teams of employees on every level to identify and select projects.
The quality teams focus on a specific function within the bank and look for these key characteristics: Accuracy. Is the product or service provided accurate? For instance, are bank statements being processed accurately? Is information on the statement where customers expect it to be, or do they have to look for it?
Behavior. What are the relationships like between employees and customers and how can they be improved? Keeping true to Banc One’s marketing theme of “18,000 people who care,” all bank employees monitor how they interact with both external and internal customers.
Completeness. Is all necessary information gathered at the first meeting with a customer? Or do bank employees have to follow up to complete a transaction or request?
Timeliness. Are customers receiving action in a timely manner? Are they being told when a request will be handled, or are they being told, “We’ll be in touch”?
Once these characteristics have been defined, more elaborate measurement tools are used to quantify the problems. “It is possible to measure the cost of poor quality,” says Holland. ” You can identify where you experience the highest cost, where there’s significant customer impact , how much time it will take to solve the problem, and whether it is a problem you can fix or simply control.”
Graphs are plotted to show the trends in a given problem over time. Pareto analysis (a bar graph which illustrates identified problems in descending order of magnitude) illustrates which concerns should receive the highest priority. Flow charting and work simplification help employees learn how to tackle a problem in the most efficient manner. Cost analysis shows the payback on correcting a problem. Finally, cause and effect analysis anticipates what kinds of problems may be expected after corrections are implemented.
Making Data Visible
The data for all of this analysis is gathered through a variety of means: customer interviews (both internal and external), customer feedback cards, focus groups and checklists, to name a few. Once a service problem has been identified and plans have been implemented to correct it, ongoing monthly measurements monitor whether it is improving or worsening.
To keep employees focused on the importance of giving better service, Banc One encourages the display of key data in employee work areas, where they not only see the kind of progress being made but also are reminded of how important the service concept is to profitability.
“The message that management sends employees about its dedication to quality is very important,” cautions Holland. “Is it real or just lip service? Employees need to know that they have management’s permission to spend both time and money on improving service and that they will be rewarded and recognized for their efforts.”
That kind of assurance is backed up by training programs and awards. The “We Care” plaque is presented to those
employees who, in a one-time event, deliver service above and beyond the call of duty or who, over a long period of time, maintain consistent and superior customer service. Shares of stock are also awarded for good suggestions.
Other motivators include allowing an employee with a good suggestion to make a presentation, in person, to management on the idea. Others may be treated to lunch with the chief executive officer or president as recognition of an achievement.
“The important point is to make better service a philosophy from the top down and to get employees on all levels motivated to look for improvements,” concludes Holland.
“We’ve discovered that those employees actively involved in quality improvement teams have the highest job satisfaction level in the bank. When people are motivated, they become more confident in themselves and more dedicated to their jobs. That equates to fewer errors and greater profits.”