Are your processes infuriating your customers?

"Go see, ask why, show respect." The words of Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho are now famous as basic lean principles.

This concept is all about going out and observing what is really happening at the ‘gemba’ - where the work takes place. The respect element refers to showing respect for the people involved, those who do the real value-creating work of the business.

Based on my recent customer experience, I think this should be extended to include respect for your customers as well. 

It’s only when you see a process in action, in a real environment, that opportunities to improve it become apparent.

I needed to renew my driver’s license today.  This should have been a pretty straight forward process. All I needed was a form with updated details, two forms of ID, a quick eyesight test, to have my photo retaken and to pay the fees. The form took less than 2 minutes, the process at the counter, less than 5.

So why did it take me more than an hour?

Only when you go out and observe can you experience the real process from the perspective of your customers.  In this case, the process resulted in customers, including me, standing in line waiting for one person to assist more than 20 people.  More frustrating than the delay, was having to watch two other agents with a different sign above their counters serve new customers as soon as they walked in, sometimes even waiting for a while for their next customer to arrive.   

As the frustration grew, polite feedback began to be passed on to the agents.  The line up slowly progressed with only a few customers being processed by the other agents.

There must be rules involved, and the staff did mention that there was an earlier situation that had contributed to today’s delays, but the fact remains that as a customer, I have a choice.  They’ve just lost a customer, and I’ve lost more than an hour of my life – over something as simple as sharing a queue between agents in a slightly smarter way, especially when one queue is much longer than others.

Customers vote with their feet and their wallets.  It is as important to show respect for your customers as it is to show respect for your teams. 

"Go see, ask why, show respect." And don’t let your processes infuriate your customers.


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