Hein (fub) wrote,
Hein
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Correspondence as a Quality Indicator

As some of you know, TNJ makes correspondence software. In fact, the offices of TNJ are "The home of Correspondence", if I am to believe the huge board that has been pasted over where once the entrance was.
Most of our clients are financial service providers, such as leasing companies, insurance companies, banks, etcetera.

And often, their (internal) processes are completely hidden from the view of their (prospective) clients. How do you select an insurance company? How do you know that, if and when the time comes, they will treat your case fair and just? You don't. And by the time shit goes down, it'll be too late to switch.

So you have to go on 'quality indicators'. External factors (that you can see) that say something about the quality of the company. Marketing materials and commercials are one thing, but they may be a bad indicator -- the people who make the commercials are not the same people you get on the phone when you call them about damage to your car.
Working at TNJ has convinced me that correspondence is a genuine quality indicator. Often, correspondence is generated on the work floor: your 'case manager' at the insurance company writes the letter to you. And if that is of low quality, you know they don't take their jobs seriously. Lately, I read every business correspondence I receive with a keen eye, and I think my theory does hold water. Clients of ours who take their correspondence seriously, generally have a very high level of service, and take care to correspond with their customers in an individual, case-by-case manner. That's simply better service.

Last week, we got a letter from the company where we lease most of our cars. The letter contained a sentence that wasn't grammatically correct Dutch. And that's a letter they send to all their customers. If they (as a company) don't even care about that, how much will they care about any problem that you may have?
Most companies that I have a relationship with, know I'm a man. But if they send me a letter adressed to 'Mr. or Mrs. Fub', or even start the letter with 'Dear Mr/Mrs Fub', they're just being lazy. They tell me they don't care enough about my particular case to actually think about the contents of the letter they send to me.

The overall quality of a service provider is the same as the lowest-quality process in the chain. Everything else can be stellar, but if one thing in the chain is broken, the overall experience will be low-quality too. And correspondence is a 'side-effect' of their primary process, and hence it's easy to overlook[1]. If their correspondence is of low quality, there is a good chance that somewhere there is a sub-optimal process (that has been overlooked too) -- and if you run afoul of that, you're screwed.

[1]: Often, our projects are part of an even bigger project. Correspondence is regarded as merely the last step: "First we build this huge new insurance system, and then we simply need something to print stuff on paper." But it's not that simple (if you want to go for quality) and projects can easily take four months or longer. And we tend to ask questions no-one has an answer to, like "How do you want your dates formatted?"
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