Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why are the reachest people poor? Part Two

In ISKCON at present, we only reward quantity. The number of books sold; the total money collected; the number of Life Members enrolled; the number of plates of prasadam distributed. We only strive for quantity and neglect quality. However, after reading one of those millions of books distributed, our congregation and people in general think: 'Oh this is a nice philosophy. After following it I wonder what kind of a person one becomes. Are they polite, courteous and attentive to my needs or will they just ignore me because they have something else to do at the time. Let me go to their temple and see for myself.' So we have to reward the devotees for what I call 'quality customer care' (the congregation, readers of our books and visitors to our temples being our customers).

Here's another truism: people do what gets measured. I cannot stress that point too strongly. Every important goal needs to be accompanied with a way to keep score so that you and your team of devotees can measure the progress towards reaching your objectives. Additionally, keeping score and letting devotees know how they are doing is a tremendous motivational tool. Just like in the non-devotee world, would people enjoy playing golf, tennis, soccer or whatever if there were no way of keeping score? Here are some things to look for:

1. Number of congregational complaints received every week (every temple should have a suggestion/complaint box)

2. Number of complimentary letters received every month

3. Number of square feet cleaned per day

4. Percentage of donations coming from repeat donors

5. Number of congregational devotees involved in service

I would also suggest you follow these guidelines when attempting to measure progress:

Don't let anybody con you into believing that you can't measure what they do. If what they are doing can't be measured, they aren't contributing.

Keep it simple. Otherwise, devotees will spend too much time measuring, rather than pursuing, their goals.

Measure progress toward goals achieved and not activities performed.

Remember that it is far more important to measure group than individual goals: team performance counts the most. We have a tendency in ISKCON to reward the top man without considering the team that backs him up.

Finally, remember that the best performance measures give devotees frequent feedback so that they can see how they are doing and adjust their performance accordingly. Put up a highly visible chart, poster or scoreboard and update it regularly. There are many different ways you can reward devotees - personal thanks, a trip to Mayapur, recognition in front of the community. I am sure you can use your imagination.

The second area we can immediately improve is the Sunday feast. I remember that in Los Angeles in 1970 the Sunday feast was a gala event, and we usually made five to ten new devotees each week. Many of those stayed to render years of devotional service. We actually started planning the Sunday feast on Monday. Every devotee had some duty ... from serving prasada, to watching the shoes, to sitting with guests and preaching to them. Devotees spent all week rehearsing plays and dramas. On Sunday, all visitors to the temple were greeted, given a tour and preached to.

Today we go out to distribute books, preach in colleges, etc., but when people come to our temples they often get indifferent treatment. Reception of guests is given a low priority. Srimad Bhagavatam 8:16:6 and 8:16:7 states that any guest in one's house (even an enemy) should be treated royally even if he comes unannounced. The homes where this kind of treatment is not given are considered to be homes of jackals. Obviously some temples are better than others, but my honest opinion is that we have fallen a long way from the standard. Managers must organise the training of devotees in this area and recognition should be given for outstanding service in 'quality customer care'.

Let me leave you with a few statistics to think about regarding what happens when someone comes to our temple and has a bad experience, and what factors contribute to a bad experience:

1. A typical business hears from only four per cent of its dissatisfied customers. The other ninety-six per cent just quietly go away and ninety-one per cent will never come back. That represents a serious loss for temples that don't know how to treat guests and a tremendous gain for those that do.

2. A survey on 'why customers quit' found the following:

Three per cent move away

Five per cent develop other friendships

Nine per cent leave for competitive reasons

Fourteen per cent are dissatisfied with the product

Sixty-eight per cent quit because of an attitude of indifference toward the customer by the owner, manager or an employee

3. A typical dissatisfied customer will tell eight to ten people about his problem. One in five will tell twenty. It takes twelve positive incidents to make up for one negative incident.

4. Seven out of ten complaining customers will do business with you again if you resolve the complaint in their favour. If you resolve it on the spot, ninety-five per cent will do business with you again. On average, a satisfied complainer will tell five people about the problem and how it was satisfactorily resolved.

5. The average business spends six times more to attract new customers than it does to keep old ones. Yet customer loyalty is, in most cases, worth ten times the price of a single purchase.

6. Businesses having low service quality average only one per cent return on sales and lose market share at the rate of two per cent per year. Businesses with high service quality average twelve per cent return on sales, gain market share at the rate of six per cent per year and charge significantly higher prices.

Maybe we do have God on our side, maybe devotees are pure, maybe our book distribution is powerful, but maybe we should also use our intelligence and see how we can improve our preaching rather than rest on our past laurels and old paradigms. We are not the first group to try to spread a spiritual idea: Srila Prabhupada told us to take note of the management techniques of the Rama Krsna Mission, Tirupati Devasthanam and the Catholic Church. Maybe we have to take Rupa Goswami's advice - copy success and use it in Krsna's service. Perhaps our fund-raising will be then become 'fun-raising'.

Delivered as a lecture at the Fourth European Communications Seminar at Radhadesh, Belgium, in January 1993.

ISKCON Communications Journal Vol. 1 No. 2 December 1994