Monday, 23 June 2008

The Main Elements of Quality Development

This is the third blog post about the quality concepts and programmes that I have developed over the last 3 decades. Over the years I have helped a wide range of service organisations (including British Airways, SAS, Hilton Hotels); governments in Russia, India, the EU and Mexico; and manufacturing companies all over the world improve their quality. In this series I'm giving a brief insight into some of the concepts that have been implemented in these companies and organisations to give you a better understanding of the concepts as well as the process you have to go through in order to improve your quality at all levels.

Please read the previous posts The Human Side of Quality and Quality Standards for the introduction to the topic of quality management and for definitions of the IP and AP levels, which I will describe in more detail in this post on quality development.

There may be a great difference between the IP level (Ideal Performance level) and the AP level (Actual Performance level), whether at individual, team or organisational level. The goal of the quality development process is to eliminiate this difference between the IP and the AP levels.

There are three main elements in the quality development process:

  1. Definition of the IP level
  2. Measuring the AP level
  3. Quality development
1. Definition of the IP level
Determining the ideal/desired level of performance, i.e. the quality objective

2. Measuring the AP level
Clarifying the actual level of performance - the present standard

3. Quality development
Assessing the difference that has been ascertained between the IP level and the AP level and, if necessary, to establish and implement a plan for quality development in order to achieve the desired level.

I know that this all sounds straight forward, but in practice it isn't necessarily so. There might be many reasons why it is impossible to measure the AP level accurately (employees fearing for the loss of their jobs, area managers wanting to report higher numbers to the head office etc.).

In the next instalment of the series (available on Wednesday), I will give an insight into Quality Areas and Quality Factors, which are the basis for identifying and communicating the overall objectives, i.e. the IP level you want to achieve. Understanding these topics will allow you to work more specifically with your quality development and foster a quality culture in your company.

If you would like to find out more about how I can help your organisation measure its AP level, identify its IP level and develop a quality development programme, please contact Lis Touborg on +45 4822 5100 or by email:

Friday, 20 June 2008

Inbox Zero - An Update

Further to the previous post on managing information overload with Janelle Barlow's article and Merlin Mann's presentation at Google Tech, I thought I would share Merlin's slideshow with you. If you watch the video and then download the presentation below to keep as a reminder, you've got no excuses for not doing anything about your information meltdown.

Quality Standards

This is the second of my short articles on quality, giving you an insight into the basics of the quality concepts and programmes that I have developed. In this post I will focus on quality standards and their importance in implementing a quality culture in an organisation.

Quality Standards

In order to develop quality effectively it is necessary to be able to describe quality unambiguously. This means, quite simply, to determine levels, norms or standards for quality which are conceived in the same way by everybody who is involved in the quality process. The work on "quality standards" makes it possible to:

  • Define what is understood by good, mediocre or inferior quality
  • Goal-focus the quality performance
  • Measure quality performance
  • Compare an individual or team's quality with the quality performance of other individuals or teams
  • Improve quality performance
  • Communicate quality deficiencies to individuals/groups of people who are supposed to check, ensure and develop quality
  • Inform customers and other external stakeholders (e.g. business press) of quality improvements
  • Obtain a quality certification
IP and AP levels
For any kind of quality development, two kinds of quality standards need to be defined:
  • The IP level (Ideal Performance level)
  • The AP level (Actual Performance level)
The IP level
This is the quality development goal. That is to say the level to be achieved or the situation desired at a certain time.

The AP level
The AP level is the quality level at any given measuring time. The norms determining what is good, mediocre or inferior quality change all the time. In order to ensure that demands and expectations are met, it is necessary to keep working on quality development, i.e.:
  • to evaluate and adjust the IP level at regular intervals
  • measure the AP level regularly
  • assess the difference between the AP level and IP level and make quality improvement a natural part of day-to-day life in your company
In the next post in this series about quality, I'll give more insight into the main areas of quality development.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Excerpts from the first edition of "A Complaint is a Gift"

While doing a Google search for the new edition of "A Complaint Is a Gift", I stumbled across a list of quotes compiled by Andrew Gibbons from the first edition of the book.

You can download the excerpts and quotes here. I would also recommend visiting Andrew's site as there are many other free book excerpts available.

Soon you will also be able to read excerpts from the new book here on the blog, so sign-up to receive the RSS feed or sign up for email news in the right-hand navigation.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

5 Myths of Complaint Handling

I thought I'd just share this little teaser excerpt from the forthcoming second edition of "A Complaint is a Gift" with you. These are 5 myths about complaint handling, which you might find useful to keep in mind when dealing with annoyed customers.

Myth # 1: People naturally know how to handle complaints. After all, they've been receiving them their entire lives.
Reality: Most people have to check their natural reactions when they receive complaints. At some level, a complaint is perceived as an attack, and when confronted most of us are inclined to attack back, especially if the complaint is delivered in a blaming manner. Effective complaint handling requires that we counter our instinctive tendencies. When staff who work call-center phones hear themselves on tape with a customer, they are frequently surprised that they sound so hostile and arrogant with customers.

Myth # 2: It's a good idea to set targets to reduce the number of complaints you receive.
Reality: Bad idea! If you set targets to reduce complaints, your staff will help you by not reporting the bad news they hear. To some degree this normally happens.
Setting targets to reduce complaints will only encourage staff to make sure your organization receives even less customer feedback. Your staff will do this by making it more difficult for customers to complain or by discarding complaint evidence.

Myth # 3: If you give customers what they want, you have satisfied them.
Reality: No way! Giving customers what they want when they complain does not guarantee satisfaction. There is a huge emotional component to complaints. If this emotionality is not addressed, you can give customers whatever they want, and they will still walk away upset. Good responders understand the psychological dimensions of complaint handling.

Myth # 4: Complaint handling and sales are unrelated.
Reality: Complaint handling is as demanding a task as is sales. Actually, a good complaint handler is, in effect, a sales person for your organization because they keep your customers coming back.

Myth # 5: Complaints are a sign that your company is not doing a quality job.
Reality: Companies will always create some dissatisfaction for their customers. Zero defects is a target, often not a possibility. Your quality suffers when you fail to hear this dissatisfaction. Complaints represent an open dialogue with your customers who are giving you a chance to keep their business. They are giving you information you might otherwise not hear that you can use to improve your quality. At a minimum, complaining customers are talking with you, rather than the rest of the world. And that is a gift!

"A Complaint is a Gift" hits the shelves in bookstores across the US on August 1st. You can also pre-order a copy from or read more about the book in previous posts.

Monday, 16 June 2008

How to Dig Out From the Information Avalanche

Further to my previous post about managing information overload in order to achieve focus, I thought I would just share a quick link with you about how bad the problem has gotten.

It is an article from MSNBC, based on a survey commissioned by LexisNexis entitled the "Workplace Productivity Survey". According to the survey, released in March 2008, seven out of ten US office workers feel overwhelmed by the amount of information in the workplace and 40%(!) feel that they are heading for a "data breaking point".

Some of the key rules for how to manage your information and your time are explained as a real life example as well so I would definitely recommend that you read the article.

The Human Side of Quality

Following on from my first couple of posts about quality, this is the first in a series of small introductions to the various quality management concepts I have developed.

It gives a short introduction to the "Human Side of Quality", which was the basis for the quality concepts and programmes I developed over several years at each level in the organisation: personal, team and organisational.

Most quality programmes and concepts are based on concrete and rational elements: systems, methods, physical products, etc. These elements are both valuable and relevant. It has, however, been emphasised that an important shortcoming in many quality concepts and programmes is the fact that the importance of the human factor, the emotional aspects of quality, is underestimated. Even though most quality experts today recognise the importance of the human factor in the quality process, very few of them offer concrete methods for quality development within the human side of quality. When I developed my quality concept it was unique in that it takes people as its starting point. The quality concept and the quality training programmes I developed:

  • Focus precisely on the human factor in connection with the overall quality of work

  • Offer concrete methods to develop the human side of quality, i.e. your personal quality and those parts of team quality; product quality; service quality; and organisational quality, where the quality level is determined by the attitude, commitment and behaviour of the employees in a specific situation.

  • Make the quality concept acceptable and easy to understand for everybody in the organisation.

  • Point out the individual employee's advantages in performing at a high quality level.

  • Involve all employees in the quality process.

  • Make quality development a natural and integral part of the day-to-day life and future of the organisation
The underlying principles and concepts address one of the key failures of e.g. the ISO certification process in that they can help you to measure your current levels of quality as well as develop ways of improving quality at all levels of the organisation. ISO only helps an organisation certify whether the quality that is delivered is standardised - not whether the quality being delivered is actually good or bad!

Read an interview from Gestion about "The Human Side of Quality" (hosted on Mediafire as a PDF file), which explains a lot more about my thoughts on this topic. Later on this week I will release the next instalment in the series, where I will be looking at quality standards.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Congratulations to Fatih Terim and Turkey

I've spent the evening watching Turkey beat the Czech Republic at UEFA Euro 2008 and just wanted to congratulate the Turkish coach Fatih Terim, whom I had the pleasure of speaking with when we were the two keynote speakers at a conference in Istanbul some years ago. Both of us were talking about winning teams and how it requires everybody in an organisation to pull in the same direction and achieve results. He spoke about it from a sports point of view and I presented my Employeeship concept, which has many football references.

It was an enthralling match and even 3 minutes from the end it seemed like the Turks were out of it until they somehow managed to score two late goals (although one was more than a little fortuitous). I guess that it's true that the game isn't over until the whistle has been blown - and in the same way you have to perform at your best at all times if your company is going to succeed.

Congratulations! I'm sure Istanbul will be a fun place to be tonight when the Turks will be celebrating as only they can.

Start Fighting Back Against Emails!

I just wanted to share an another excellent article from 43folders with you. Merlin quotes a new article from the New York Times about how organisations are finally starting to realise how big a drag on productivity emails and instant messaging have become.

Merlin asks the most pertinent question possible: “What does a company get out of its employees spending half their day using an email program?"

In many ways the most shocking stat is this:

"A typical information worker who sits at a computer all day turns to his e-mail program more than 50 times and uses instant messaging 77 times…"

However, you also need to think about the overall productivity as this infographic shows. In total we spend 48% of our working hours either in meetings or being interrupted by things that are neither important nor urgent. If I spent 4 hours of my time everyday either checking my Blackberry or being in meetings I would never get anything done!

It just goes to show the importance of working in a structured way and perhaps taking some inspiration from the Importance/Urgency Quadrant proposed by Stephen Covey, A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca Merill in First Things First.

This has been adapted into a version for how to handle emails over at The Productivity Blog, where you will also be able to find inspiration for other ways of increasing your personal productivity. The article is one that I wrote some time ago and is based on the principles of the Time Manager® productivity tool, just updated for the 21st century.

Head on over to 43folders for the full low-down and Merlin's very relevant thoughts in his excellent commentary that I completely agree with.

Simplify & Focus - How to Manage Information

I was just sent a link to a speech given by Merlin Mann (founder of 43folders) at GoogleTech last year. In it, he talks about how you can de-clutter your life and manage, rather than be managed by, emails. He calls this concept "Inbox Zero" and he has also created a series of articles about the concept.

This reminded me of an article that Janelle Barlow, the President of TMI US and my co-author on "A Complaint is a Gift", wrote several years ago about "Coping with Information Overload".

There is no doubt that if you want to be able to not just manage your time, but thrive in today's fast paced business environment - and still have a work/life balance - knowing how to deal with the deluge of information is paramount. You have to be able to simplify in order to keep your focus and perform at the highest level. Starting by clearing out your inbox is probably the one task that will give you the most mental space and energy to tackle the rest of the tasks at hand. It can seem a daunting task, but if you spend a little bit of your time reading the articles and/or watching the video you will be able to make progress right away.

Janelle's article looks at the very important distinction between knowledge and information and how we can deal with the ever increasing amount of information. The article has a wealth of useful tips and ideas for coping with information overload, asks pertinent questions and provides some practical self-evaluation tools.

You can see Merlin's speech below or read Janelle's article here.

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

Today I want to share an article I wrote a couple of years ago about Emotionally Intelligent Leadership. Read the brief introduction below and then download the full PDF article.

All leadership works through emotions. All undisputed leaders have earned their reputation because their leadership was emotionally compelling to a large or small group of followers.

Leadership in corporations goes beyond reaching a goal and ensuring that a job is well done. Nothing is more important for the leaders and managers of organisations than to have leadership skills, the social and emotional competencies required to manage their own and other people’s emotions, to drive the organisation’s collective emotions in a positive direction, and to avoid or control dangerous emotions.

Studies have shown that a leader’s ability to manage own moods and to influence the moods of others usually has a dramatic impact on business results. Since leaders have such an important role in bringing out the best in people, and since this has direct implications on the bottom-line results of the organisation, it pays for corporations to invest in emotionally intelligent leadership at all levels of the organisation.

Read the full article about Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

Monday, 9 June 2008

Jack and Suzy Welch (finally!) Have Their Own Web Site

Last week, the long awaited Jack and Suzy Welch web site was unveiled, following on from the great successes of their podcasts, columns and videos created in conjunction with BusinessWeek.

As the former CEO of GE and a former editor of Harvard Business Review respectively, their credentials are definitely impressive and the site allows you to look for insights into various topics facing managers and leaders in both small and large businesses.

Before delving too far into the treasure trove I would recommend that you spend a couple of minutes reading about their underlying principles.

Head on over to the Welch Way and prepare to be inspired.

Will "Jott" Help Break the Curse of the Crackberry?

Living in Europe, it's sometimes hard not to be envious of the technologies that are available to consumers and businesses in other parts of the world. One of the greatest examples of technology being used to increase productivity in recent years is Jott, which is currently only available in the US.

For those of you who don't yet know what Jott is, it's a service that transcribes speech into text allowing you the luxury of having a virtual PA. The service allows you to receive and read your emails on a Blackberry (or any other supported device) and then respond using your voice. Within about ten minutes your voice reply is transcribed into text and the email is sent. This means that if you're on the go you can even dictate notes and reminders to yourself and have them sent to you - thereby doubling up as a dictaphone. From what I hear the voice recognition is very precise and works well in North America.

Its greatest strength, however, is also its greatest weakness as developing voice recognition software for various markets is incredibly costly and difficult. At Eckoh, one of Europe's leading providers of voice recognition software for phone services, they identified more than 600 dialects and accents of English in Britain alone. Therefore it is highly doubtful that these services will ever make it across the pond in any form that is useful to European users. Just look at all of the software packages for PC that promise voice recognition. Some years ago I tried buying Dragon Naturally Speaking, but I could never get it to recognise my words as I don't have an American accent.

If you are in the US, however, I would definitely recommend giving Jott a go.

Visit Jott or read more about Jott and Blackberries. You can also read more about how you can use Jott for your personal notes at Gina Trapani's excellent Lifehacker blog.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

What does "A Complaint is a Gift" mean?

I just came across the above question on Yahoo! Answers and was sad to see that I didn't manage to respond to it in time, but I decided to email the person asking the question to clear up some of the mess that people actually responded with :-).

Below is the email I sent if any of you readers were actually wondering the same thing:

"... "A Complaint is a Gift" is a customer service management concept pioneered by Claus Moller, the Danish quality guru, back in the early 1990s and since developed into a bestselling book co-authored with Janelle Barlow. The 2nd edition of the book will be out on August 1st according to Amazon.

In short, it is a way of getting real customer feedback to help you improve your products and services. Research has shown that the customers who complain are very likely to remain customers if you treat them well, but are very likely to undermine your reputation to their peers if you do not. Winning a new client is substantially more expensive than retaining an existing one so finding out why your customers are unhappy, resolving their issues and using the knowledge gained to improve your overall quality means that you're getting something incredibly valuable for free: real market research rather than stilted focus groups and questionnaires filled out by people who just want to get it over with quickly and perhaps get a free pen in the process."

Net Promoter Score

Loyalty guru Fred Reichheld has started a real buzz going with the concept of Net Promoter Score, which is being implemented in a host of companies around North America - and we will probably see it in Europe soon as well.

The idea is that you can use NPS to measure your marketing efforts as an organisation by determining client satisfaction and using this very simple metric to improve your revenues and profitability.

The very simple explanation of the Net Promoter Score is that you have to identify the percentage of customers who rave about your products/services/company and are telling all of their friends, peers, or clients about it (9 or 10 on a scale of 1 - 10) minus the percentage of detractors - those who are not satisfied enough, and could even be badmouthing your brand in public (those who would score your organisation at 1 - 6 on the scale).

In other words, if 50% of your clients absolutely love you and 15% are not satisfied then your score is 50 - 15 -> NPS = 35.

Now let's try and take this concept into the real world... Competing for customers' share of mind has become increasingly difficult through the proliferation of media, which are all bombarding us with louder and louder messages from more and more desperate brand owners trying to stand out from the crowd. We're all fed up with companies telling us that they're the best. Why should we believe them? We're much more likely to believe a recommendation from a friend/peer/family member etc. who has already experienced a product/service that they love and rave about. If we trust their judgments in most matters then we will also be likely to trust their product and service recommendations if we have similar tastes and preferences.

Trying to compete through above-the-line advertising can often be seen as an expensive exercise in futility and it can be almost impossible for a small brand. Trying to harness the power of your loyal customers is often a lot easier - and a hell of a lot cheaper to boot! Back in the early 1990s, 30% of Apple's customers described themselves as "evangelists" for the brand and they not only helped create new "converts to the cause" they were also the most profitable customer segment as they would literally lap up any new product that came out. The big problem was that they also had a lot of detractors meaning that their NPS score was probably quite low. According to research by Bain & Company, the average NPS metric in the US is 15!

The key argument behind the Net Promoter Score is that a 12 point increase in the metric leads to a doubling of the rate of revenue growth, something Fred Reichheld argued in his book "The Ultimate Question" from 2006. It also states that one of the key opportunities lies in the methodology of ensuring you get buy-in from your customers in doing the research and not just asking what score they gave you, but why they gave you that score. Being able to have these frank discussions with the detractors from your brand gives you an opportunity to win them over and convert them to become "promoters" - one of the keys of "A Complaint is a Gift" as well.

Read more about Net Promoter Score in Fortune Small Business or visit

More Information on "A Complaint is a Gift"

The book description page for the second edition of A Complaint is a Gift is now live at and I thought I might as well just present it in the same way that Janelle Barlow and Claus Møller have over there:

• Demonstrates why complaints are the biggest bargain in market research, and how companies can use this information as a strategic tool to increase business

• Offers a complete Complaints Policy that readers can implement in their companies

• Presents dozens of real-life striking examples of poor-and excellent- complaint handling

Customer complaints can give businesses a wake-up call when they're not achieving their fundamental purpose-meeting customer needs. Complaints provide a feedback mechanism that can help organizations rapidly and inexpensively shift products, service style, and market focus. Unfortunately many businesses dodge responsibility for a customer's dissatisfaction, believing that complaining customers are trying to get something for free or that the problem is the customer's fault. Businesses who don't value their customers' complaints suffer from costly, negative word-of-mouth advertising.

A Complaint Is a Gift shifts the paradigm about how complaints are viewed by business. By presenting dozens of striking examples and research studies, Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller show that companies must view complaints as gifts if they are to have loyal customers. A Complaint Is a Gift is a "how to" book for those who want to turn complaints into a strategic tool to increase business and customer satisfaction, and to learn something new about products and services. It is filled with practical guidance:

  • how to behave as if complaints are gifts
  • how to use communication principles to handle upset customers
  • how to respond to written complaints
  • how to handle personal criticism, and more

A Complaint Is a Gift also tells how to create complaint-friendly organizations by encouraging customers to speak out. It outlines communication structures that can facilitate the movement of complaints from frontline staff to upper management, allowing customer-identified problems to be fixed within the company. Complaint-friendly cultures are described in detail, and specific structures are suggested that can be adopted by companies interested in becoming complaint-friendly.

A Complaint Is a Gift repositions the role of complaints in business-and argues that handling customer complaints is not just about making customers feel better. It is a book for individuals and companies to deal with complaints in a new and refreshing way. It also brings together three decades of customer dissatisfaction research and shows how companies can use this information to change internal policies and practices.

The first edition has sold more than 130,000 copies so far and it's very exciting to see the buzz that is starting to build around the new edition. For more information and to order a copy see the previous post about its release.

Thoughts on Quality: What is Measured - is Improved!

My experience gained from working on quality development in many different countries and cultures, organisations, departments, and teams around the world confirms the results of many surveys: People react positively to attention, interest in and reward for their efforts. Over the years I have developed a wide range of quality improvement tools that involves everybody in an organisation in the task of measuring, evaluating and developing quality. These tools help in the following ways:

  • Everyone will be aware of both good and poor quality in connection with their own work
  • Everyone will be aware of the existing quality level - and will know how much remains to be done before other people's demands and expectations are met
  • Everyone has the experience of their managers, their colleagues and other people paying more attention and showing more interest in their work
  • Other people's greater awareness combined with the greater quality awareness of the individual will lead to higher quality in itself:
    • Whatever is in focus - whatever is measured - is improved!
It is also important to remember what Michael LeBoeuf said:
"You get more of the behavior you reward. You don't get what you hope for, ask for, wish for or beg for.
You get what you reward." - Michael LeBoeuf
Also be aware of the different types of rewards: thanks, recognition, salary increases, benefits, promotions, and greater responsibility.

To sum it up, one of the most important lessons in quality improvement is:

"What is rewarded - gets done!"

Friday, 6 June 2008

Quality - A Subject Close to My Heart

For the past 40 years I have been actually involved in quality development and improvement, and it is one of the topics for which I have received most acclaim for my management innovations. In 1990, the then Department of Trade and Industry in Britain named me as one of the world's "quality gurus" for my work on developing an understanding of the need for taking into account the human factor in quality: the "Human Side of Quality", and, in particular, for my concept "Personal Quality". The idea behind it is that quality starts at the individual level and without good personal quality, you cannot have good team or organisational quality. This was probably one of the finest accolades of my career, particularly as only three people are mentioned in the new wave: Philip Crosby, Tom Peters and Claus Møller. If you would like to find out more about all of the quality gurus and an overview of their quality concepts, you can read the full article by Professor Tony Bendell here (PDF format). Over the next few weeks, I will start sharing some of the ideas about my various quality concepts with you in a series of blog posts about quality at all levels of the organisation. If you would like to find out more about these concepts after reading the blogs, please contact Lis Touborg ( on+45 48 22 51 00 to find out more about how I can help your organisation and teams develop their quality through seminars and consultancy. Soon you will also be able to purchase eBook versions of all of my publications on quality for instant download. I hope you enjoy the article series and, as always, I look forward to receiving your feedback and comments.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

BusinessWeek's 2nd Annual Customer Service Survey is Out

BusinessWeek have just announced the results of their second annual customer service survey in the US. The survey was done with the help of JD Power and shows some interesting results. You will definitely be able to pick up some interesting tips for your company to improve your customer service.

For a wealth of in-depth results, including the top 50, feature articles and for an opportunity to share your own customer service experiences head on over to BusinessWeek.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Using technology to stay on the front foot in the customer service race

Earlier today I came across this interesting article over at ComputerWorld about how companies are starting to develop "Customer Service 2.0". There are some interesting examples of how Comcast, often slated for their customer service, now monitors Twitter (a mini blog service) and very quickly responds to negative comments in order to alleviate any grievances and ensure that customers feel their problems are being dealt with.

The sometimes abusive comments being posted by bloggers and Internet users are worth listening to as these could be from the customers who are so hacked off that they've given up on complaining, but at the same time now have the free tools available to tell the world how they feel about your company in a minute or less. Following on from the concept of "A Complaint is a Gift", by monitoring the Internet for unhappy customers can give you a competitive advantage and can put you in a position to not only keep your customers, but increase their loyalty dramatically. Knowing what we do now about how few of unsatisfied customers actually complain, this is one of the best opportunities that technology has afforded us to actively identify our unhappy customers and make sure we bring the relationship back on track.

Head on over to ComputerWorld to read the full article with several examples of how companies are now monitoring the web and kick-starting "Customer Service 2.0".

Pre-order "A Complaint is a Gift" (2nd Ed.) now!