“People + Process + Technology = Customer Satisfaction”
By: Joe Vaccaro, CMDSM
The core of what we do in business is based upon the execution of fundamentals. By keeping
things we say and do logical, rational, reasonable and as simple as possible, we are able to deliver
goods and/or services that should fulfill our customers’ needs and meet, if not exceed,
expectations. The three key components, for discussion purposes, of our business equation are
P+P+T= CS. People + Process + Technology = Customer Satisfaction. In this equation, each
variable is important and significant but still dependent upon the others. Understanding and
appreciating their inter-dependencies and inter-relationships enables us to adjust, manipulate and
favorably mix these variables in order to optimize productivity.
The first variable, people, is probably the most complex, frustrating and rewarding. Our staff
brings to the workplace their own values, norms and expectations. Leaders are challenged to bring
out their peoples’ individual best each and every day and, at times, in spite of themselves. The
toughest decisions concerning the people variable, a leader has to make, are who to hire and who
to fire. Everything in between is relatively less trying and emotional. It’s always personal when it
comes to the people factor. A few years ago, while I was working as manager of distribution
services for a company that was the leading publisher of K-12 educational material, I had to recruit
and hire a customer service representative for our outbound air courier section. I must have
interviewed at least twenty applicants before I found the one that I hired. The gentleman that I hired
had no experience in mail or air courier services but did have customer service skills and abilities
having worked in a hotel. We knew that we could teach him the technical aspects of the position
because he had the right attitude and mind-set. He had an upbeat and positive attitude that he
projected at all times. Within six months, Eric became the supervisor of the section. Over the
course of time he has become the assistant manger of the department. He has the combination of
intelligence, focus, drive and positive mental attitude. Nothing was given to him. He earned his
promotions by being and acting as a professional every day. To him each customer’s issues
became his personal issues. His focus was and always is on customer satisfaction. I have also
worked with people, who although extremely intelligent and capable never have or for that matter
ever will achieve what I believe to be their potential. I have worked with men and women far more
intelligent than I that lacked the inner focus and drive that separates the winners from the losers, or
at times the living and the dead. They expected things to come to them. They had a sense of
entitlement. The world revolves around them, so they believe.
I once had a partner in business that was the best marketing and sales person I have ever seen
perform. On a personal level, we had no relationship. In fact, we couldn’t stand to be in each other’s
presence unless we were in front of a client or prospect. However, I learned more from him during
the course of our partnership than I have learned from anyone since. He had an intensity and focus
that was awesome. In spite of our differences in age, style and personalities, we instinctively
worked together extremely well. We knew how to play off each other’s strengths. The business
grew and ultimately we parted. We both benefited. Personally, I wouldn’t give him the right time.
Professionally, I still respect and admire his skills. So much for peace, love and understanding. We
focused on results, did what it takes to succeed and life went on. The customer came first. We
both agreed on that. We made a few dollars along the way. Here are some helpful tips when
considering the people variable in our equation.
● “Time only counts in prison”
Evaluate performance and only consider and reward the current and possible/probable
future contribution. How long someone has been with the organization
is of no consequence. You worked, you got paid. That’s the length of your contract with
● Work with men and women, not boys and girls
You can be a woman at 18 and a girl at 65. Maturity is a state of being and mind.
Chronological age is a non-issue.
● Document, document and don’t forget to document
Record the positive as well as the negative actions of your staff as they occur.
Maintain and keep a daily log.
● Invest your training dollars wisely
Train and develop your staff that has the potential to grow and make a greater
contribution. Don’t waste your time, money and effort.
● Hire for the long term, focus and work in the short term
Hire people for jobs/positions that would enable them to grow and hopefully reach
their potential. However, nothing is forever. The customer’s needs and expectations
come first. Adjust and adapt to the situation at hand. Refresh yourself and your staff
Process is the next variable to consider in our business equation. Prior to working in the
administrative support services function, I worked in designing both automated and manual
systems. I learned and applied various industrial engineering tools and techniques that I still use
today in reviewing and analyzing day-to-day operations. I never stop studying and evaluating what
is taking place in my environment. When, for example, I’m in a Subway sandwich shop buying
lunch, I observe such things as how and what they use to construct a sandwich, how long it takes
to complete and how long it takes to check me out. I watch the raw materials as they flow down the
production line and become a finished product. I apply the same basic approach when I benefits of
automation. When walk into my mail services operation each workday at 7am. I observe who is
sorting mail and newspapers and responding to phone calls, who is late, who just called in sick, etc.
I look for and try to quickly remove any impediments in the workflow. As leaders, our job is to
ensure that the sets and series of activities performed and events occur within the process in a
timely, orderly and consistent manner in order to achieve desired and expected results. Any
deviations from the norm are immediately noted and corrected. Processes are under continuous
visual review and analysis. Documentation pertaining to procedures, systems and controls are
methodically scrutinized in order to ensure compliance and applicability to the dynamic nature of
the work being performed. Opportunities to improve/increase efficiencies such as training staff to
be multi-task are identified and quickly implemented. Adjustments are made as necessary. Staff is
organized around the process. The workspace layout and design is coordinated to fulfill not only
the current but the future foreseeable needs. Too often mail and distribution services are allotted
too little space. Improper planning of the workspace can result in decreased productivity, low
morale and a negative or unfavorable perception by the end-users. If the workspace is neat,
orderly and clean and visually appealing, people will respond accordingly. Perception to
many is reality. Most people fail to see beneath the surface of what is in front of them. If the
distribution of communication is the lifeblood of any organization, why are many mail and
associated service centers poorly planned or considered as an after thought and residing often
below ground far and away from the majority of the end-users? Surely they are not revenue
generating entities but are they not just as essential to the overall mission and profitability of any
organization? Here are some basic points to consider when reviewing/analyzing processes.
● Workspace Layout & Design
Is there proper and adequate lighting, heating and ventilation in the workspace?
Does the work flow in an orderly, logical and controlled manner?
Is the workspace safe and free of any potential hazards?
● Standard Operating Procedures
Create, maintain and continuously update/revise the written operating procedures. This
will enable you to transfer knowledge in a uniform manner when you are cross-training
● Equipment & Tools
Is the equipment being operated and maintained according to procedure?
Is equipment technically obsolete or no longer capable of fulfilling the business needs?
● Management Information & Controls
Are there systems in place to record and report management?
Is the data being recorded and reported still valid? Can accurate and reliable
business decisions be made using this information?
Keep It Simple Stupid. Simplicity is the key in all we do in every day business.
Eliminate any redundant tasks/activities.
The last variable to consider in our business equation is technology. Introducing technology and
implementing technological solutions without doing the requisite up front analyses can be costly
in time, effort and dollars. Technology should be acquired only after an in-depth review of all
alternative solutions. However, before weighing and considering the benefits of technology, the
focus should be on determining, defining and documenting the current and perceivable future
evolving and at times revolving business needs. This is when the customer and service provider
have to think out of the box but at the same time remember where they are in the real world.
Technological solutions, if possible, should be not only modular but also field upgradeable. After
market support is critical in order to continuously realize the true and wherever possible, the line
staff should be consulted of any possible and probable changes before any acquisitions are made.
Their input can and usually is critical to the success of any new enterprise solutions. The current
operating situation, manpower, systems, procedures, controls, management reports, physical plant,
existing equipment and tools has to carefully be assessed. Cost/benefits analyses have to be
conducted. Every stakeholder in the enterprise has a vested interest in the acquisition and
application of any new technology or changes in production and/or distribution. For example, the
printing and distribution of financial research reports for an investment bank on-site here in the U.S.
and physically transporting them via air courier to foreign countries as opposed to transmitting them
electronically overseas and having them printed there and distributed locally affects everyone in the
distribution chain. Everyone from the supplier’s organization (investment banker) to the courier’s
and ultimately to the customer’s enterprise is impacted organizationally as well as financially. You
introduce technology and you shake everybody’s tree as well as their pocketbook!
● “Know what you don’t know”
You can not expect yourself to be an expert on everything. Read, research, reach-out
and contact anyone and everyone who can help you make an informed decision when
evaluating and selecting technological solutions. Learn from the successes and
mistakes of others. Don’t bet a beta site unless you fully understand the risks and
● Time is always of the essence
After you carefully do your research, review and analysis and make an informed
decision, act! Be on the cutting edge of technology if you can, not on the bleeding edge.
Don’t take too much time to make a decision or your window of opportunity will close.
● The rewards must be greater than the risks and the benefits must outweigh the
Increased efficiencies and cost effectiveness should be your core objectives as you
successfully introduce and implement new technology. There is always risk. Minimize
risk as much as possible.
● Measure and promote up and down the enterprise the results of your innovation
Quantify and qualify the results of your technological solution. Let people know the
positive impact of your efforts. Market and sell your staff’s achievements.
●Organize your staff around technology
Restructure/reorganize according to the business needs, not the personal wants.
Don’t design a solution around someone’s personality and/or limitations.
In closing, here are a few helpful tips to consider when pursuing customer satisfaction.
Only hire and retain the best. Take the time to recruit, hire, train, cross-train and continuously
develop your staff. The best technological solutions without properly trained people to apply
them are meaningless.
Center everything you do on the customer. If you are customer-driven, then your staff will be
customer-driven. Lead and they will follow. Remember that the customer is the reason we are
Design your organization to be flexible and adaptable. Decision-making should be as far
down stream the enterprise as possible.
Be “Big enough to cope but small enough to care” about everything and everyone.
It’s always personal if it affects your money.
Never sell what you can’t deliver. Give more than you receive.
Listen carefully to your customers. Hear what they are saying and not saying.
Do more with less. If you don’t challenge yourself, somebody will eat your lunch.
Nothing beats a word-of-mouth customer reference. You are as good as your last delivery; mail
drop; etc. Yesterday is a memory and tomorrow is not a given.
10. Smile when you pick-up the phone. Your customer can hear it and see it.
We all seek customer satisfaction everyday. Each day presents its own challenges and
opportunities. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is not a given. Focus on the moment.