Friday, February 4, 2011

Column #52 - Cut Out the Heart and the Body Dies.

So, eight people from Pittsburgh decided to relocate to Jackson. There were six salesmen and their Director, and one Risk Management person. The Memphis team didn’t fair much better. We had about 125 people working at the Memphis Distribution Center. Now, one could not reasonably expect that forklift drivers, order pullers and phone operators would be asked to transfer, but we also had the Service Operations Manager, Technical Service Manager, Call Center Manager, the Director of Distribution and the Warehouse Manager in house.
If Pittsburgh was the ‘brain center’ of Delta, Memphis was its ‘heart’. When someone called Delta’s Toll-Free number, they got Memphis. No matter if they wanted to complain, order a shop full of parts or just find out when an old tool was made- Memphis got the call. This was by design. Back in 1983-84, when the shake-up was going on and the Rockwell Stationary Tool Div. was struggling to find its identity, and then Delta got created, it was decided that having one toll-free phone number, for Service, would be the best thing for our customers. So, the legendary number 1-800-223-7278 was created (just as a side note, and we could never find out if it was intentional but it probably was…that number spelled out is 1-800-BAD-PART). This 800# connected directly into our call center and it had been doing that for the better part of 16 years by the time 2000 rolled around. To say that Delta had created a customer service ‘diamond’ would be an understatement. Our 800 line was staffed with people who knew their stuff. We had many multi-decade employees on hand who really cared about the customer on the other end of the phone. On top of that, we had the Technical Service Dept. backing them up. By 1999’s ‘merger’ announcement, I was the ‘acting Supervisor’ and had had 3 other guys with me.
Remember what I said about personal bias showing up in some of the decisions at the time? Here’s a good example: One of the first decisions about Memphis was…to close the 800 call center. The number wouldn’t be disconnected but the incoming call would now be routed to the nearest Porter-Cable (soon to be billed as “Porter-Cable/Delta”) Service Center. Someone’s expectation was that people whose expertise was in the portable electric power tool market would suddenly be able to handle all types of questions and service concerns relating to stationary machinery. It didn’t turn out quite as planned- but that’s a story for another day- let’s get back to the Memphis staff and what happened with them.

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