With the start of the new year, I polled my followers on Twitter and asked what they’d like to see me blog about in 2017. Overwhelmingly, the answer was “statistics” (weird, right?). However, before I move into that realm I’d like to write about my experiences today as a customer, and how they could have gone better.
So, essentially I’m about to write about how I’ve ignored “the Voice of the Customer” to write about Voice of the Customer (again).
Voice of the Customer is central not only to Continuous Process Improvement (specifically Lean and Six Sigma) but also in any endeavor to sell a product or service. Today I encountered two instances that failed to meet expectations. One was simple and small, the other was nearly catastrophic.
First, Hidden Valley Ranch becomes Hidden Danger Ranch
In her hurry to prepare dinner, my sister didn’t even notice what happened. While squeezing out some ranch dressing for my 3-year old niece, the flow restrictor ended up on the plate. Not just that: it was buried in a pile of dressing. It wasn’t until we saw the difficulty with which my niece was trying to get the flow restrictor onto her fork that we saw what had happened. Luckily we were able to avoid a bad ending to a dangerous situation. I put a second bottle next to the defective one to show what it is supposed to look like (we go through a lot of this yummy stuff).
Second, what color is this?
Ok, compared to the previous issue, this one is minor. I unpacked a phone charger cable only to find that the color didn’t match the box. No big deal (I actually prefer a little chartreuse in my life, kind of like this guy). The cables come in different packaging specifying unique colors. I didn’t get what was promised. Not a big deal for me; I’m just thankful that this wasn’t a gift for a finicky friend.
So what’s the big deal here?
I’ll tell you what the big deal is: At the root, customers have expectations and it is every providers’ job to meet reasonable expectations (and sometimes unreasonable ones). My employers expect me to save them money and improve culture. So I make it my business to do those things. Specific to the two cases outlined above: we all have expectations that the purchased product will do what is advertised… as advertised… safely. Because “Safety” is the 6th (and most important) of the 5 “S”-s, isn’t it?
It all boils down to this: Without customers, we are all out of business. If we can’t deliver what the customer reasonably expects, then we need to either:
Analyze our process and find (and fix) the root cause of the problem
Use one of many available Root Cause Analysis tools. I love the “5 Whys”, and also have had great results using 6M or Ishikawa. 8D is a great tool to reach a deeper level and wider breadth.
Investigate the possibility that a customer’s requirements can be met via an alternative method
If you’re lucky, you just might discover some overproduction waste in your process. Communicate with your customer and learn to see what is an acceptable level of performance.
Consider the possibility that we may be in the wrong line of work and that it is time to move on to other pursuits
Sometimes we’re just in over our heads. When that happens, it is best to admit it and move to improve the situation. Sometimes that includes a new career focus. With any luck (and a lot of hard work) we can grow from the experience and become better than before.
I’d love to hear your thoughts; please leave a reply and share your experiences!