Herb Flink
Parker Fluid Control Div.
New Britain, Conn.

Engineers are often critical when it comes to solving customer problems. But even after fixing the problem, the engineer's job is only half done. He must still make sure the customer respects his company and will likely do business with it again. He should also make sure the case is reviewed inside his company to prevent future mistakes.

A two-pronged customer-service approach to this situation includes a follow-up program and a lessons-learned review. Follow-up programs get companies back on track with customers, make sure there are no additional problems, and even open the door to new business. Back inside the company, lessonslearned reviews keep employees at all levels up to date on best practices and potential problems. Companies of any size can effectively use these two programs.

Customer service means different things to different people, but it is generally agreed that it revolves around keeping customers 100% satisfied during and after a sale. The myth is that the customer-service department is solely responsible for it.

Yes, the idea and department share a name. But responsibility for action does not end with customer-service personnel. Everyone who comes in contact with customers, from executive assistant to engineer to order processor, plays a role in delivering customer service.

Because customer service is not confined to a single department, it is essential to instruct employees on how to work with customers. This training can be formal, in the form of prescribed procedures and requirements to which employees are trained upon first entering the company. And informal training can take the form of educational memos, e-mails, or brown-bag lunches with a team to brainstorm best practices. And although engineers may have the technical knowledge customers will desperately need, this training is just as important for engineers as building their technical skills.