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Fundamental #5 – Demonstrate your customer focus through response time and follow-up

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Fundamental #5 – Demonstrate your customer focus through response time and follow-up.  Our customers expect us to respond to their questions and concerns quickly.  Whether it’s in person, on the phone, or by e-mail, be a fanatic about response time.  Keep customers, including internal ones, continuously updated on the status of outstanding issues.  Getting back to people promptly is one way to demonstrate your passion for quality.

I spent the first 22 years of my career in the Automotive industry in operations and quality.  The Automotive industry can be a pretty stressful place – building thousands of cars a week at each plant, with thousands of parts per vehicle, any one of which could stop the processes.   Mistakes in this environment are disruptive and can be very costly.  Stopping a production line can run upwards of $5,000 a minute.  In this environment, survival is 100% driven by response time and follow-up.  Customers demand immediate action and constant follow-up to ensure disruptions are handled as quickly and efficiently as possible.  Why are response time and follow-up so important? Quick response tells the customer that they are important, that their issue or request is as well and that we are working hard to provide them what they need.  Follow-up is the additional step that ensures throughout the process the customer’s expectations are clear at all times.  Together they say to the customer, “We Care.”

In our business, it is critical that we understand the answer to the question “Who is our Customer?”  Our customers are first, the people who buy our products.   However, our customers are also found in our building.  They are the people to whom we deliver information and product in our daily processes.  Order entry is the customer of our sales and estimating team.  Programming is the customer of engineering, lasers the customer of programming, and so on throughout the entire process.  For the company to be successful, our internal processes must work flawlessly.  In order to do this, we must elevate our expectations of ourselves and our departments.  Demand excellence of yourself and your suppliers in our process and deliver that same excellence to your customers.  Get jobs done safely, with exceptional quality, ahead of schedule, and follow-up to ensure that your customers (internal and external) are satisfied and we will win.

In the coming months, we will be working to provide some structure around creating expectations of ourselves and each other.  This process will help ensure that our customer focus remains high and that we can ensure success by responding quickly and communicating regularly.

Always remember the following:

  •  If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.
  •  “It’s not the employer who pays the wages.  Employers only handle the money.  It is the customer who pays the wages.”  –  Henry Ford

– Scott Marshall