Share your commitment for great service with your vendors so that your customers receive great service, too. Champion Mortgage Co., in Parsippany, N.J., noticed a problem pattern when customers reported that their home equity loans or refinancing went well--except for the appraiser, attorney, or other outside vendor representing Champion. "The first person the customer meets is often the appraiser, and one of the last is the lawyer at closing," says Leigh Beumee, vice-president of marketing. "We need to rely on our vendors to provide great service so customers don't begin or end the process with a bad taste."

The mortgage company hired an outside services coordinator to train vendors in customer service and to find ways for Champion and its 45 vendors to work together better.

"Our vendors like having someone who sees their perspective and looks out for them, too. The coordinator is not positioned as the 'service quality police," emphasizes Beumee. "We've cross-trained employees for years but never included vendors. We now arrange for attorneys and closing representatives to sit in each other's shoes for half a day. It has opened eyes on both sides and has improved relationships. I know customer service has improved because customers now praise our vendors."

Champion created an "Outside Services Service Quality Award" to show its appreciation for the vendors' new commitment to customer service. The annual award goes to the firm or individual who receives the most praise from Champion customers. Winning vendors love the recognition, says Beumee, and it has become quite a competition among the various firms.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing