Like any company that suddenly takes off, Restek found itself deluged with questions, comments, and complaints from customers. Neil Mosesman, technical marketing director, knew it was bad when he was taking customer calls while away at trade shows.

Rather than delegating customer service to one so-named department, as many companies do, Restek, a $9.2-million manufacturer of lab-equipment parts in Bellefonte, Pa., decided to spread the load across the company by providing service training and incentives.

Today when customers call Restek's tech-support line, they might talk to an engineer, a quality inspector, or the CEO of the 70-person company. Here's how Restek makes customer service everyone's job:

To start, all employees, from secretary to graphic artist, are briefed on Restek's product applications, big customers, and competition.

Training for the technical staff includes education on how to handle irate customers. Some 25 employees have completed technical training and take turns working the tech service lines. (More than 90% of the time, customers get through to a real person on the first call, says Mosesman.) To bring phone neophytes up to speed faster, a senior manager often shares a shift with a rookie. Today even a candidate for an R&D job must be comfortable conversing with customers.

Restek's bonus program includes a customer-service component; employees can boost their scores by volunteering to call customers under the company's "call-back" program. Each month, Restek phones 200 to 300 customers. Many are first-time buyers whom Restek is eager to check in with. (Did the product arrive OK? Is it performing to expectations? Any ideas for new products?) Restek also contacts customers who've returned products and those who haven't ordered anything for a year.

The call-back program gives Restek the direct word on why customers don't come back and hard feedback on new products. "When customers complain about a product, the follow-up call might be made by the person who manufactured it or tested it," explains Mosesman, "so they really want to know why something didn't work. And they feel like they have to bend over backward to fix the problem. They can't say, 'Oh, that customer doesn't know what he's talking about."

In the two years the call-back program has been in place, Restek has grown more than 50%, from $6.4 million in 1991 sales to a projected $10.5 million for 1993.

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