Sunday, March 16, 2014

Strategic Error: Satisfying Your Customer

You're in  line at the drive through at (pick some fast food chain) Taco Bell. You give your order, make your way to the window, pay, and drive a few feet away. Grab the bag and look in. 2 Steak Chalupas, 1 Volcano Taco, 1 Chicken Quesedilla. Check. Consider yourself satisfied. Drive off.

I don't believe it is a good strategy to satisfy your customer. We need to delight them. The goal of a lean strategy is not to cut some waste. It is to use operational excellence as a strategic weapon to create market disruption. I interpret market disruption as that condition when your competitors are scratching their heads, your customers are OK with paying more, and your employees seem to high five each other fairly often.  If your goal is to satisfy your customer, you are putting your business at risk.

Let's not confuse satisfying with delighting. Let me give you some examples of just how different they are.

1. Quality is merely satisfying. Every company on the planet claims great quality. Yippity doo. What do you think customers are paying for? A defect every once in a while? You don't get a cookie for not doing things you're not supposed to do! I don't shoplift. Are you all delighted?
2. Same with Safety....satisfying, no more. We ARE SUPPOSED to not endanger our customers by providing products and services that don't put them in harms way, or at least communicate the best way possible how to use our products safely.
3. Getting your customer what they want when YOU told THEM they could have it. Merely satisfying. Again, no cookie here. As a matter of fact, if you miss the date YOU told them, they shift from satisfying to a condition called peeved.
4. Getting your customer what they want on the date THEY told YOU. OK, now we approach delighted. But you have to do it regularly, without mistakes, over time. If you couple this with #5, now we are bathing in delightedness.
5. Customer calls in a panic. They are in trouble. They need your stuff really fast. Usually they ask for it in 4 weeks, they need it by the end of this week, or they will be shut down (or something else bad). Your great team pulls together and does it, to the delight of everyone. Have you ever done this? That, my blog-reading friends, is LEAN with a capitol L. Unadulterated value-added work without muda. Do this for every order and consider yourself at FLOW.
6. The customer is our King. When the King calls us, the least we can do is keep him from holding for too long. Or waiting too long to call him back. If the King gets what he needs in a "reasonable timeframe", without too much runaround, he will be satisfied. Nothing stupendous here. The King just might shift to peeved if he has to wait too long for answers.
7. What if the King NEVER, ever went into voicemail?. The King would feel like the most important King in all of the lands. What if he got to the exact right person when he called in, not bounced from person to person? If the customer is King, the least we can do is make our customers feel really important.
8. Do we only talk to our customers when they want to buy something, we're trying to sell them something, or if they are in a state of peeved? Do we ever call to thank them, or find out if they like our stuff? Especially new customers? (I'm not talking about just the sales staff). Disney calls this "listening with many ears", and again, it goes to making the King know he is important.

Satisfying vs. Delighting. Work hard at delighting your internal and external customers. Or somebody else will.

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