From Low Performer to Best in Class

Posing with samples of their printed work are (from left) Manager Karin Tarter; Lisa Lawrence, design supervisor; Jorge Rodriguez, production supervisor; and Veronica Trujillo, accounting specialist.

Karin Tarter has turned Albuquerque Public Schools’ in-plant from a cluttered, disorganized copy shop to a quality-conscious operation focused on customer service.

Employees of Albuquerque Public Schools Graphics Enterprise Services stand near their Xerox Color 1000 with samples of their printed pieces.

Albuquerque Public Schools' in-plant used to be called "The Dungeon." Today, it's a shining example of operational excellence.

The first step in turning the shop around was cleaning it up, an undertaking that included a call to the exterminator. Then, with the tattered drapes gone and the workplace as tidy as it would get, she turned her attention to the team.

They were a downbeat crew, she says, accustomed more to “scaring people away” than meeting customers’ needs.

“Tell me what you need to do this job well,” she asked, and went on to retrain them as customer service professionals. She banned profanity, and recast customer interactions as opportunities to say “yes” rather than “no.”

Changing the Conversation

At the root of the low morale and the in-plant’s poor performance was a long-standing focus on one priority to the near-exclusion of all others: minimum use of the budget. The shop boasted five offset presses and a Xerox DocuTech, along with a mail operation, but print volume was exceptionally low. Tarter says she found the photocopier locked in a vault, and at two years old it had run just 500 copies.

This approach to management sometimes succeeded in keeping the cost of the shop under the radar, but it also hid its value. As a consequence, most of the printing work required by the district was being outsourced to local quick and commercial printers.

So, Tarter made herself the one who had to approve all work leaving the shop, and she ensured both quality output and brand consistency.

“Until then, anybody could print anything they wanted, with nobody checking for brand consistency and nobody to straighten up the art,” she says.

Far from finding the existence of an “approver” a roadblock, customers for the most part were delighted with the change. They had, for the first time many of them could remember, a contact in the print shop focused on customer satisfaction.

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