Spring 2014: GCWorldBIZ Insights

April 5, 2014

By Sid Chadwick, Chadwick Consulting, Inc.

Simple Lists Save Money - So Why Don't More People Use Them

Some people scoff at the idea of making and using lists. “There’s no need,” they reason. “This task isn’t very complicated—I can remember all of the necessary information.”

Unfortunately, even simple things can go wrong—in both our professional and personal lives. I recently observed a production manager reviewing a major project being prepared for the mailstream. The frustration and disappointment were evident on his face as he realized the magnitude of the problem: Basic finishing issues had not been addressed, and now there was some risk that (a) a significant spoilage and reprint cost might be incurred or (b) a major discount would have to be offered.

The bottom line: The company’s number one customer would not receive the company’s best effort. As the production manager described what had not been checked or implementedbefore the project was to go into the mailstream, butafter postage had been adhered to each printed piece—I asked myself, “Why wasn’t a checklist developed for this type of project at this stage of production?”

Why do we so often fail to put written checklists in place to ensure consistency of production standards? Isn’t the lack of written standards, or checklists, a frequent cause of inconsistent performance?

Isn’t that why commercial airline pilots and surgery teams make fewer errorsbecause the whole team routinely uses a checklist? Do we as an industry recognize that we lower our production costs—and improve our bottom line—when we’re more consistent and reliable in what we produce?

Here are some examples of written lists that would change—literally elevate—an organization’s performance and reputation with its customers while reducing its costs—and increasing its bottom line:

1. What should be included when we submit a Request for Estimate?

2. What should be reviewed by a second party before a quote (of what size) is sent to the customer?

3. What should be checked before a proof goes to the customer? Who’s responsible?

4. What should be checked on a press-sheet? How many people—and who—should sign it?

5. Who should receive advance notice of a customer’s plant tour?

6. What should a plant tour include, always?

7. What should be checked, including a review by the customer, before postage is affixed?

8. If one of our top ten customers or prospects expresses unhappiness with our performance—in any manner, on anything—who is to be notified, by when, and how? 

9. What are the duties of each participant in a customer’s press check?

10. What basic information is required before we begin producing work to allow us to properly and reliably serve a new customer?

11. What “core customer information” should our delivery drivers have before they make a delivery?

 These are but a few examples. Your organization has its own list of frequent and/or costly errors that seem to continue to crop up. How will you treat this opportunity for checklists that drive standards? Individual leaders’ responses are symbolic of each organization’s culture—even its destiny—and reflect the importance of a company’s performance and its employees’ respect for themselves, their jobs and their customers.

Sid Chadwick is president of Chadwick Consulting and an associate editor for GreensheetBIZ.

Contact Sid B2Me.me/DC8


Customers’ needs have not stopped changing. However, we are too often comfortable doing what we’ve always done, not pursuing development of what current and prospective customers want and need and what could be improved.

Every company in this industry would improve its performance for its clients if more desk jockeys got out of their offices and visited more clients. Anyone in a decision-making position should be required to visit customers with thoughtful, prepared, probing questions:

  1. What’s changed most noticeably since I was last here?
  2. Could we review your organization’s current strategy for new business development? I’m not sure I’m current on recent changes and what’s working.
  3. Who should I talk to to learn about recent trade show activities and results?
  4. In your opinion, what are your organization’s most valuable differentiating qualities relative to your top competitors?
  5. How are your customers’ requests, expectations, and needs changing?
  6. If you could change anything about how you work with suppliers and what your suppliers do or don’t do, what would you like to change?
  7. What are the most distinguishing, valued qualities and contributions of your top two or three suppliers?
  8. Could we review our discussion, what was most important to you, and what I understand I need to follow up on for you?

The Harvard Business Review published an article that is as true today as it was in 1995, titled “Why Satisfied Customers Defect.” Every client I’ve shared this piece with over almost 20 years (yes, we paid copyright fees) recognizes that moderately satisfied customers leave (vs. completely satisfied customers) when they have a choice of supplier sources because, in their gut, they recognize they’re not completely satisfied—and they’re not receiving the best their supplier can offer. 


  1. Have everyone in your organization document and send to your chief marketing officer (often the president) every customer request they receive. Educate and train on what this might sound like. Periodically review what’s been learned. Promote internally, and externally, what you learn that’s valuable and actionable.
  2. Track, record, and repeatedly share internally the “lifetime value of a customer.” Your most valuable customers (and members) can provide you with far more than the dollars they spend with you (e.g., market knowledge, referrals, new requests, invaluable introductions).
  3. If you learn that a customer wants to try something new—that you can facilitate and support—go ahead and get in the boat with them. Lifelong friendships are developed from common experiences, whether success or failure initially occurs.

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