Top-rate customer service often depends on doing little things right. Michael Bruns, CEO of Comtrak, a Memphis-based courier company, surveyed his customers and found that being put on hold was a top-ranked complaint. Since Bruns marketed his company as service-driven--and Comtrak handled up to 1,500 phone orders a week--he couldn't afford to ignore the problem.

By dividing the number of hours billed to his order-taking line by the number of orders taken, he estimated that customers had to wait on hold for an average of 45 seconds. Bruns decided the way to whittle down wait time to 30 seconds was to tie the phone bill to Comtrak's monthly departmental bonus-point system. At Comtrak, bonuses mattered to workers, adding as much as 20% to employees' paychecks. If the 30-second goal was missed, employees did not receive a bonus. If the goal was reached, employees qualified for bonuses and received extra points.

As a result, operators directed calls more carefully, dispatchers took more messages, and Comtrak hired an additional dispatcher. Bruns reported that Comtrak met its goal in seven of the first 10 months the system was in place.

Copyright 1997 G+J USA Publishing