For the fifth consecutive time in 13 years, the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) received the highest ranking of any participating entity—public or private—on the American Customer Satisfaction Index or ACSI. Our score of 96 surpassed the scores of industry leaders like Apple, Lincoln Motor Company and Coca-Cola, and was the highest ever attained in the history of the index. That’s pretty thrilling. What’s even more exciting to me, though, is that our performance on 2013’s survey was two points better than on 2010’s, meaning we haven’t rested on our laurels.
We take part in the ACSI process every three years, but we also survey next-of-kin and funeral directors annually. Results from the independent 2013 Survey of Satisfaction with National Cemeteries mirror what we see in the ACSI, with 98 percent of respondents agreeing the quality of service received from cemetery staff is excellent.
While it’s always gratifying to read where we’re succeeding, the most critical information we gain from these surveys centers around where we’re falling short of expectations. Focusing on those areas allows us to adjust our training programs, business planning and metrics to ensure we keep improving.
For example, goals in our strategic plan call for 100 percent of respondents to agree by 2015 that cemetery service and appearance are excellent. We still have some work to do to reach that mark but we’re making steady progress. A monthly scorecard posted at each cemetery shows staff members how their performance compares with other cemeteries in their region and across the nation, and serves as a daily reminder of their direct impact on customer satisfaction.
Some outside NCA have said 100 percent satisfaction is an unrealistic goal, but as the great Vince Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.“
I’m genuinely proud of our dedicated employees and volunteers, who keep finding new ways to express their compassion and professionalism. I know they agree that our greatest reward comes from hearing that we served Veterans and their families well on one of the toughest days of their lives. That’s what keeps us striving; that’s what fuels our pursuit of excellence.
For more information: http://www.va.gov/opa/pressrel/pressrelease.cfm?id=2519
Steve Muro is the VA’s Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs