The idea of Quality is based on customer satisfaction. But sometimes the systems that we set up to satisfy our customers end up getting in the way. It's scary to think that your QMS might end up decreasing customer satisfaction, but when organizations get large and complex these things can happen.
|My mother's yard wasn't nearly this bad!|
But she still wanted to be careful.
They scheduled a day for someone to come take care of the problem and asked her to stay home all that day, so she would be there when the technician arrived. My Mom made arrangements to spend the day at home ... and the service technician never showed up.
This happened several times.
But each time, they had given her a Work Order number. So finally when she called them back she asked, "What's the status of Work Order #1234567?"
The agent looked it up and told her, "That was closed in our system the next day."
"Can you tell me how it was closed? Because no technician ever came out here."
"Let me check. Hmm ... according to our records we forwarded the call to a contracting company that handles service work for us. And as soon as we transferred the call to them we closed it in our system so it wouldn't be double-tracked."
"How can I talk to the contracting company?"
"Hmm. I don't know if I have a number you can call...."
In the end, she never spoke to the contracting company. Before she had time to follow it up, the Phone Company had come out on a totally unrelated issue. When he was done with his work, the telephone technician told her, "By the way, ma'am, I found there was a downed line in your backyard. That was a telephone cable related to a service you don't have anymore, so I just cut it off so it won't be in your way." And—just like that—her problem was resolved.
Why could the Electric Company never resolve it? One answer is that the downed line wasn't an electric line, but there's more to it than that. Another fundamental issue is that their Service department was clearly organized around closing out trouble tickets rather than around solving customer problems. When my Mom told me about her conversation with the Service department, I could see right away how someone could have set up this system:
Let's see .... We need a procedure to take calls, to record calls, to assign calls, and to track calls. Then we can measure the efficiency of the department by calculating how fast calls get closed out. If all calls are closed fast enough, our metrics will turn green and we will be doing a good job. Hooray!
It all looks very logical until you put it in practice and realize that the cycle doesn't include a step to check with customers whether their problems have actually been addressed. Also there seem to be no fail-safes to protect against information getting lost when tasks are passed from one actor to another (in this case, from the Service department to the contractor doing the work).
This is why you have to ask yourself, every step of the way, "What does my customer really want?" It's not easy. In complex organizations, it is only natural to fall back on trusting the systems and the metrics. But systems can fail, and metrics can lead you astray.
Don't let them. Remember your customer.