April 2008 Feedback

March 31, 2008
Our Readers Respond to Our January Article "Lend a Helping Hand”

Friends of Trevathan

I appreciated your “walk through” the hall of fame piece on Vernon Trevathan. As one of his bigger fans, I’m happy to see the exposure you have given him for a great career in process automation. You have expressed very well the Monsanto culture at the time regarding process control and what a breeding ground it was over many years for greatness. All of these folks are long gone from Monsanto and Solutia, but many, such as Vernon, still contribute to the automation profession in some fashion. I think the St. Louis ISA section has captured most if not all of them with the honor of ISA Fellow, and I can personally attest to many of the pioneering aspects of their achievements in process control. I also would like to point out that Vernon’s 6 future trends do not fall on deaf ears within the society. The basis of the 2007 society agenda was largely to respond to these very challenges and that remains unchanged. You have said in a very few words what our united cause is all about and in the process, you have selected a true Hall of Famer!

Stephen R. Huffman
ISA President, 2007
Automation Federation Chair, 2008

Helping Hands a Must-Read

Re: “Lend a Helping Hand “ article in the January issue of Control.

We are a 30-year-old small manufacturing company located in Amherst, N.H., and customer service is a high priority for our company right now.

I have asked our HR Manager to send this article to all our employees so they can “hear it for themselves” about how to win new customers and keep existing ones.

Tom Donahue,
Monarch Instrument

Bedrock Customer Service

In the January issue of Control, our company was quoted in the “Lend a Helping Hand” article.

It was great to have the chance to highlight a salient fact of customer service, one we find most suppliers completely miss: Ironically, while good suppliers are characterized by delivering reliably to expectations, they have to cause a problem before we can tell if they are truly great.

We are most interested in how a supplier behaves when the proverbial stuff is hitting the fan, and they are unable to deliver on our original expectations or their promises. Then we get to see how they react to the new reality, which has changed in an heartbeat from “Kumbaya” to “Houston, We Have A Problem.”

To use a football analogy, while basic blocking and tackling are important, if you don’t have effective special teams you can lose a game in an instant. Special teams may play less than 5% of the game, but at that moment, they are the only players on the field, and it is suddenly irrelevant how good the offense or defense is.

Breaking this down further, a few questions must be answered:

  • Can all customer-facing staff differentiate between nuisances and problems that threaten the customer relationship?
  • Once a critical issue is recognized, are they empowered to escalate it quickly and to the right individuals?
  • Will these additional people rapidly accelerate, moving at the speed of the customer as opposed to the pace of their comfort zone?
  • When it is a cross-functional issue, can departmental walls be rapidly breached to define and deploy a solution that is both good for the customer and the supplier?

It is during problem resolution that we watch our suppliers most closely. The results are often remembered for years, even decades, because at that critical moment, it affecting our delivery of our promises to our customers, who are watching and judging us in exactly the same way. This is our make-or-break moment, and therefore the supplier’s as well. Service during problem resolution is one of our bedrock criteria as we select and reject suppliers.

Wright Sullivan, PE
President, A&E Engineering, Inc.

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