Contractors Urged to Focus on 'Customer Satisfaction'

By Erwin, Sandra I. | National Defense, July/August 1999 | Go to article overview

Contractors Urged to Focus on 'Customer Satisfaction'


Erwin, Sandra I., National Defense


A series of prime contractor quarterly reviews kicked off by the Pentagon's acquisition chief aims, among other things, to remind industry executives that "customer satisfaction" should not be sacrificed at the expense of profits.

"Across the board [at the Pentagon], there was concern on whether the senior management in the industry was focusing enough on the programs, the quality of the product, price and schedule," said Jacques S. Gansler, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and technology, during a breakfast with reporters earlier this month.

These reviews were planned in the aftermath of a string of high-profile failures in programs ranging from space launches to missile intercepts. Those glitches, said Gansler, "were related to quality, not design." Defense Department officials subsequently decided it was time to sit down with industry executives out of concern that they "were spending all their time on mergers and acquisitions and little time on customer satisfaction," he added.

The first meeting involved the Pentagon's largest contractor, Lockheed Martin Corp., based in Bethesda, Md. Next in line are The Boeing Company, of Seattle; and Raytheon Systems Company, of Arlington, Va. The sessions were set up as all-day Saturday meetings. In general, said Gansler, these meetings are "focusing on the right things."

One goal is to determine whether "our government-industry interface is as effective as it should be. Lockheed felt it got a lot of management attention. We also learned a lot of about how our government people are interfacing with industry. …

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