Service Without A Smile

May 29, 2002
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Are we a nation of sourpusses?

Is there no limit to the limits we place on others?

Are we still whizzed about that Rosa Parks park thing?

Well, yeah, kind of.

Driven in large part by consumers’ growing discontent with utility companies, American customer satisfaction levels have declined for a second straight quarter, according to the University of Michigan Business School’s American Customer Satisfaction Index.

But it’s not just one area of service that irks us; it’s across the board. There is no discrimination here because we are diverse in our dislikes.

Utility companies? Let ‘em fry (down to 69 from a score of 75, on a 100-point scale, the lowest ever).

Airlines? They’re grounded (down to 61 from 63, the lowest ever).

Parcel delivery/express mail? Return to sender (down 3 points to a score of 78).

The U.S. Postal Service, telecommunications industry and television broadcasting also fell by about 3 percent, while hotels and hospitals each dropped by 1 percent.

In fact, only two industries measured by the Satisfaction Index avoided the woodshed. They were newspaper publishing (really, we are not making this up), which stayed even, and the motion picture industry, which increased by more than 4 percent.

When things go bad, people apparently go the movies. Or at least they like to read about others in worse situations than their own.

Overall, the Satisfaction Index fell just 0.6 percent, but a drop of any kind portends a bleak financial future, according to Claes Fornell, director of the business school’s National Quality Research Center.

“With the recent upturn in consumer sentiment and continued retail sales growth, is this something to worry about? Since about 80 percent of the U.S. economy consists of services in one form or another, and consumer spending makes up almost as much of all economic transactions, poor service is more than an annoyance — it is a threat to corporate earnings,” said Fornell, who added that in all but one previous year, first-quarter ACSI results have predicted changes in the next quarter’s earnings for the S&P 500. “If this relationship holds, the earnings picture for the second quarter does not look promising.”

  • Already the earnings picture for Steelcase Inc. does not look promising, with a 62 percent slide reported last week. But CEO JimHackett would do well to clip out GregDodgson’s As I See It column this week in the Business Journal. Dodgson cautions against any rash action concerning the stock market because he, for one, sees a bullish light at the end of the tunnel. Two weeks ago, Dodgson gave a vote of confidence to Hackett and his management team while saying the stock has “value” for investors.

Meanwhile, however, those are not Steelcase stock certificates blowing across the Woodland Mall parking lot.

  • What do the Reds, Bengals, Bobcats and David Wagner all have in common? That’s right! They’re all based in Cincinnati. Or at least they will be soon. We hear the Old-Kent-cum-Fifth-Third executive is heading home for a juicy post in the Queen City.

No word on when, yet, but maybe before the Bengals suit up for real this fall.

  • If you’re going to have a heart attack, one of the safest places to do so, outside of a hospital, just might be … a Meijer store.

Why? Because Wayne State University’s School of Medicine is embarking on the Michigan branch of a nationwide study to determine whether more people who have cardiac arrests in public would be more likely to be saved by lay people using defibrillators or CPR within three minutes.

Dr. RobertZalenski, director of clinical research at WSU, said the two-and-a-half-year study will train employees of 40 Meijer stores, the Museum of African American History and the Detroit Institute of Arts in the use of defibrillators or rapid-response CPR in case of cardiac arrest.

The choice of West Michigan-based Meijer was no accident, according to Zalenski. First, the chain has stores all over the state, which makes for a better study, and second, Meijer already trains employees to administer CPR within three minutes of cardiac arrest.

“Meijer already had demonstrated a commitment to the safety and care of its customers,” he said. “Many stores may keep the flies off you while they call 911, but Meijer — of its own volition — developed a program in the interest of public health.”

Zalenski said an employee using a defibrillator already has saved one cardiac arrest patient in a Detroit-area Meijer.

  • The news is not all bad among West Michigan manufacturers. Yes, the furniture makers are having a tough time and GHSP is closing a Grand Haven plant (see story, page 9) due to a kink in the supply chain, but the news coming out of ADAC Plastics is good.

ADAC has landed a contract with Ford to manufacture all the door handles for the Mercury Villager and Nissan Quest minivans. The result will be 50 additional jobs for the automotive plastics manufacturer that will be split between its Kentwood and Muskegon plants.

The news is especially pleasing for ADAC because in March, for the first time in company history, the firm had to lay off workers. Executives agonized over the decision and expressed anguish when Business Journal staffers showed up that day to work on an unrelated story.

Now, however, the tide seems to be turning.

“This is an important opportunity for ADAC and for workers in West Michigan,” said JimTeets, executive vice president. “It’s rare that an automotive supplier gets the chance to manufacture all of the door handle components, interior and exterior, for a single automotive model. We’re really very excited about the unique opportunity that Ford has offered us with the Villager and Quest contract.”

And West Michigan can get excited about some good economic news, too.

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