World Class Customer Service Drives Pennsylvania Correctional Industries

by Tracey Meyers, Sales and Marketing Manager, Pennsylvania Correctional Industries

At Pennsylvania Correctional Industries (PCI) we know every customer order helps
employ an inmate, as well as helps PCI fulfill its mission to “Teach Inmates to Work in

PCI is limited to selling products and services to only non-profit and other tax-supported
groups. That said, our field staff is responsible for covering those customers in 67 counties, 501 school districts, 27 state correctional institutions, 32 other state agencies and 40 Boards, Commissions and Bureaus. PCI covers a lot of ground, but could never handle the customer load without the help of a razor-sharp Customer Service section.

Linda Rutz is Pennsylvania Correctional Industries’ Customer Service Supervisor. She came to PCI from a career in customer service and sales in the hospitality business, as well as retail giant, Book-Of-The-Month Club. She has worked with groups both large and small, and brings private industry experience with a drive to truly service the customer.

Linda Rutz, PCI’s Customer Service Supervisor at work!

Linda Rutz, PCI’s Customer Service Supervisor at work!

Every order from a PCI customer goes through the hands of Rutz or one of her four Customer Service Representatives …this team processes in excess of $60M in sales every year! From cold inquiries by people who see our “BIG HOUSE PRODUCTS” delivery trucks on the road to established customers sending blanket purchase orders for the handling of hundreds of thousands of pounds of laundry done three times a week over the course of a year, Rutz’s section puts everything in order and sends it off to our factories where production takes over.

Upon arrival at PCI four years ago, she started a total revision of the PCI Customer Service Desk Manual. The current version has every possible customer service
scenario clearly outlined with easy-to-follow instructions on how to handle any
situation. This manual has become the “go to” resource for the entire PCI Sales & Marketing Division.

She has also challenged each CSR to be more than just “order takers”…rather she has helped them grow into inside sales people.

For example, when a customer called in to inquire about replacement weight pins that lock steel plates for a PCI leg press machine, Rutz trained customer service representative, Dori Holtry to not only take the order, but when and how to follow-up with the customer to make sure that the weight pins were the correct replacement part, all the while keeping the factory and the field sales representative in the loop.

While it was a small replacement order, Rutz used this as an example of how all customer interactions are related to other parts of PCI. Knowing that the customer needed replacement weight pins might lead to a field sales representative following up on whether or not they need a new piece of weight equipment, or surface sanitizer to clean up the gym after workouts. Additionally, the order might deplete the inventory on hand, resulting in the factory needing to produce more, so keeping the factory in the loop is key to making sure the next customer will receive their replacement weight pins.

“Communication is the grease that moves everything in our business,” says Rutz, “and we
know we’re successful when we get customer comment cards, letters and emails telling us so.” For example, Holtry received this e-mail for the weight pin order:

From: Rydbom, Mark
Sent: Monday, June 20, 2011 2:53 PM
To: Holtry, Doris (CI)
Subject: RE: Price Quote for Weight
Pins for SCI Pine Grove

Thank you for being so darn polite
about a bunch of weight pins!!! I
have to admit I am not used to that
all the time…

Mark Rydbom | Activities Manager II |
SCI-Pine Grove

Some of the items PCI produces may not look complicated but the actual ordering process can often be complex. Take for instance an “Employee of the Quarter Award Plaque.” To begin with, it needs to be designed and a size needs to be determined along with the wood stain, finish color and lastly, what font to use for the engraving. There’s also the question of whether the same plaque design is used for each quarter throughout the year and if there is a multi-year plaque with each recipient’s name added every quarter. The answers to these questions lead to further determinations on shipping costs, tracking inventory and a host of other items that have to be figured out by the Customer Service Section. It’s easy to get lost in the details if you don’t have a process in place to handle it, so Rutz made sure there was a process for exactly these types of orders.

Customer service representative, Page Gottdiner, received this compliment back in 2009 for just such an award plaque order.

From: Killian, Sandra
Sent: Monday, August 10, 2009 3:22 PM
To: Rutz, Linda (CI)
Subject: Page Gottdiner

Ms. Rutz:

I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge
one of your employees. I am a Clerk Typist…
tasked with getting a plaque for our upcoming
Graduation ceremony and subsequent recipients.
Page Gottdiner walked me through every step of
the process. I never had to acquire a quote like
this before and she made sure that we got what
we were looking for. I was able to present the
quote to my supervisor with confidence in knowing
that I was giving our Administrative staff exactly
what they were looking for. I hope you will thank
Ms. Gottdiner for her work. She followed up to
every question we had and answered promptly
and completely.

Thank you for your time.
Sandy Killian | Clerk Typist II | Education Department
| SCI Muncy

Under Rutz’s direction, the Customer Service Section is able to handle many orders without directly involving field sales representatives, which frees up their time for making important face-to-face customer visits. Additionally, Rutz is always looking for ways to improve, expand and develop her staff’s abilities to handle large and small inquiries with professionalism and care.

Of course, sometimes mistakes are made … a wrong color is ordered or the Customer Service Section misunderstands what a customer wants. When that happens, Rutz has a Customer Service Inquiry (CSI) process in place to document every one of these missteps with each one resulting in a corrective action to prevent it from happening again. Regular review of these CSI’s helps the Customer Service Section in their quest to continuously improve.

Clerical staff members, Vicky Coleman and Melissa Liebner, are empowered to put orders through all phases of Linda’s cross-check and proofreading process so orders that come in before noon are often sent out to the factories that afternoon. That helps service PCI’s internal customers – the factory managers and staff as well as the Accounting and Operations Division staff that Rutz’s group interacts with to handle invoice processing and other administrative work. PCI’s Customer Service Section touches every part of our business from order inquiry to purchase to relentless follow-up to delivery and payment.

PCI is a better, more customer-driven organization because of the work that Linda Rutz and her group do. She is instrumental in helping PCI “Teach Inmates to Work in Pennsylvania.”