Consumers are turning away from companies that are not customer-driven. According to management consultant Richard Whiteley, author of "The Customer Driven Company," almost 70 percent of identifiable reasons why customers leave companies are related to poor service.
What steps can a company take to cultivate a customer-driven culture? Mr. Whiteley has identified seven fundamentals:
1. Create a customer-keeping vision and inculcate it in everyone in the organization.
2. Understand the firm's customers by establishing feedback mechanisms that measure customer impressions of the firm's products and service. Without carefully listening, a company will not understand why it is losing customers, because research indicates only 4 percent of dissatisfied customers complain.
3. Copy the methods and philosophies of successful companies.
4. Demonstrate to customers that the firm's most important task is serving them. Hire, educate and reward people who pursue customer satisfaction.
5. Improve those procedures that create value for customers. Make certain that all procedures and communication, including invoices and shipping schedules, work for the customer's benefit.
6. Measure successes and failures from the customer's perspective.
7. It is critically important that the firm's leaders constantly promote a vision of serving the customer.
Having trouble attracting female workers and keeping them on the job? Try some suggestions from "A More Promising Future: Strategies to Improve the Workplace," by Phyllis Fudell and Jennifer Watson (Wider Opportunities for Women, $17).
* Improve access to health insurance and other benefits. Hawaii has a prepaid health-care law that covers employees who work 20 hours or more. A state-funded project also helps small businesses pay their share of premiums.
* Change the structure of work. Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., a $58 million, Vermont-based ice cream manufacturer, has a work force that is 50 percent female, with many women in non-traditional jobs. The company has a "joy gang" whose job it is to liven up the workplace.
* Create opportunity and value diversity: In 1989, under the leadership of Stein & Co. Executive Vice President Julia Stasch, the developer set up an affirmative-action program for women and minorities. By 1990, the company had 60 tradeswomen working on the Ralph Metcalfe Federal Building in Chicago, meeting the 6.9 percent federal goal.