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Coldwell Unit, Archive Receive Sterling Award


COSTA MESA — With the aim of setting a new performance standard for Orange County companies and organizations, a council of business and community leaders honored Archive Corp. and Coldwell Banker Relocation Services on Tuesday for their attention to quality and customer service.

The winners, chosen from among 21 entrants, have adopted quality-control programs that have increased market share or productivity, said the Sterling Council, which presented the awards.

At its essence, the award is a measure of customer satisfaction, said lead judge Kenneth J. Farrell, who has also served as a senior examiner for the national award on which the Sterling is modeled--the U.S. Commerce Department's Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

"It's a change in the way American business has measured itself," Farrell said. "Most companies just focus on financial results. But we know as consumers that we make decisions on how well they meet our needs."

Archive Corp., based in Costa Mesa, is one of the world's leading manufacturers of computer-tape drives, which back up data stored on personal computers.

It won the award, in part, Farrell said, because it created a customer satisfaction index, decreased warranty returns and increased the percentage of products it shipped correctly the first time.

Coldwell Banker Relocation Services, is the Mission Viejo-based subsidiary of Coldwell Banker Residential Group, one of the nation's largest home-sales operations. The subsidiary gained the second-largest market share in the relocation industry, according to the Sterling Council. It moved into that position from sixth place in 1985.

Conventional wisdom suggests that quality programs work for manufacturing but not service companies, Farrell said. Coldwell's achievements include formal awards and bonuses to employees for exemplary customer service, continuous training programs for employees, a database that ranks suppliers based on past performance, and a training program for new suppliers to inform them about Coldwell Banker's expectations.

Ironically, the two award recipients were recently purchased by entities outside of Orange County. Coldwell Banker was sold in May by Sears, Roebuck & Co. to the San Francisco investment firm Fremont Group, which plans to keep its headquarters in Mission Viejo. And San Jose-based Conner Peripherals bought Archive Corp. in December, saying it would be operated as an independent subsidiary based in Costa Mesa.

The Sterling Council, which has 18 corporate members, was established in 1991 to promote quality improvement in Orange County. It was proposed by Ronald L. Merriman, area managing partner of the KPMG Peat Marwick accounting firm in Costa Mesa. UC Irvine's Graduate School of Management and The Times Orange County soon joined as founding members.

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