Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Meeting Customer Needs; Pro-Customer Attitude Pays off for Oregon Daily

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Meeting Customer Needs; Pro-Customer Attitude Pays off for Oregon Daily

Article excerpt

A determination to create a "pro-customer attitude" among employees while increasing revenue has paid off handsomely for the Salem (Ore.) Statesman Journal, according to publisher Sara M. Bentley.

It was accomplished, she said, through a "Yes We Can!" program started in late 1990 and now hitting full stride.

"Yes We Can! became a rallying cry throughout the newspaper," Bentley stated. "Every person in every department became a vital link in the process. They were made to feel special, just as we hoped that they would make our readers and our customers feel special."

The promotion, she related, began with a Customer Service Awareness Week. Each department hosted other staffs for a day to create a better understanding of customer-service issues in other departments.

Secret reviewers critiqued each department's service efforts, from phone manners to one-on-one dealings with customers, Bentley continued. "Enthusiasm, team spirit, and creativity were rewarded."

A recognition award by the Customer Service Committee for providing better service brings monthly winners a $25 gift certificate, a Yes We Can! mug, a suitable-for-framing certificate, and their photos displayed in the lobby.

Here are other facets of the program:

* A Phone and Customer Service Handbook directory that includes customer-service tips, phone etiquette, and what to do when a customer calls.

* A newsroom participation campaign called "The Year of the Reader," whose goal is to "give readers what they want and provide open access to the newspaper."

* A cross-training program for circulation managers to improve customer service and enhance departmental relationships. Managers participate firsthand in various departmental operations through one- to three-day training sessions.

* A "Once Around Adds Up" campaign to control advertising errors. The ad sales and production staffs were divided into seven teams, all competing for monthly and quarterly prizes.

* A new pagination system "where rules are straight, copy is straight, cutoffs are made evenly and with precision," Bentley noted. "The benefit to the customer is a clean, precise product."

When the Customer Service Committee was first formed, the publisher recalled, one of its primary missions was to solve the problem of "customer frustration."

The solution, she said, was a centralized customer-service counter near the front door. It has six stations - three for classified and one each for news, circulation, and business.

"The concept of one-stop shopping now serves most of our customers in five minutes or less," Bentley said. …

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