Sunday, November 4, 2012

Applying Lean to Your Customer's Experience

One of the first benefits of doing some lean is cash. Cash flow improves pretty quickly as you move toward "just-in-time". Merely by replacing the reorder function of MRP with kanban/supermarket (replenishment based on consumption) will reduce your raw material and finished good inventory and increase cash. This was fun, but what's in it for your customer besides better on-time delivery and higher quality (which they expect?).

Remember that to get good doing lean requires a LASER-like focus on what your customer needs. My company was like many others. When they called in to place or check on an order, get technical advice, or talk to a salesperson, to my horror, many times they got the run around. They would talk first to the receptionist. Then they would get put on hold for some period of time-I used to call this "getting sent up into the ceiling tiles". While they were in the ceiling tiles, the receptionist would try to locate the person the customer wished to talk to. Sometimes, our customer would get lucky and, after some wait, would get to talk to who they needed. More often, they would get to talk to someone's voice mail. They probably didn't like it, but they would usually either leave a message and hope for a call back, or hang up and call again (particularly if "it" was urgent). Imagine how happy they were when they went back up into the ceiling tiles! One other scenario was going into the ceiling tiles for quite a while, then going back to the receptionist , only to be asked, "who were you holding for?" YIKES!!! If our customer is king, that is some way to treat a king, eh?

The ONLY currency in lean is time. I began to think of customers getting who they need as a process. How much waste can I take out of it? Can we be the fastest in our marketplace at getting our customers to who they need? 

Order entry was first. Don't make people who want to give you their money wait. I made it a goal to make sure people didn't go into voice mail. So we started measuring this, and did plenty of A3s, people brainstorming ways to improve this metric. One idea was to set up the phones so if the phone rang more than 4 times when someone wanted to place an order, it would automatically go the next person, then the next, then to the next, etc. It worked because the "voice mail metric" improved big-time.

Another idea was to set up the phones so our receptionist could direct a call directly to the technical help people's cell phones. You see, THESE people were NEVER at their desk! So why send a customer from the ceiling tiles to an empty desk? The technical people also changed their voice mail messages in case a king ended up there. The message might be, "hello this is Bill, today is Monday, November 5th, sorry I missed your call,  please leave a message and I will return your call within an hour." (I still do this). This creates a sense of urgency. Kings don't mind leaving a voice mail if they KNOW you will call them back fast.

Apply some of this thinking to your customer service process. Remember, lean is simple-a laser-like focus on your customer, and TIME!

1 comment:

  1. Great Article Bill! I like "The only currency in Lean is Time". I think that applies to life too.) Wilkinson Homecoming this weekend! Be well.