Source: Boardroom report, as published in Mortgage Banking magazine (June, 1987). From my collections
Story Line: The above survey was done over 20 years ago, but the underlying key message about customer orientation holds true 20 years later. Here are a few real life experiences from two industries:
1. Just a month ago, there was a conference in a five star hotel, attended by people from many companies around the globe. During the lunch break, I joined visitors from another company on their dining table. Noticing that there was no napkin in my dining spot, I requested the waiter to bring me one. The waiter replied, “Sir, there is a napkin on another table (pointing at that table). Why don’t you move there?” Everyone on our table was stunned. I even got a guilty feeling that it must be me until the visitors shared their similar encounter at the breakfast time.
2. In 1985, the company I was working for made a change in the process (called marking) that printed our company name and product identification on the top side of our plastic packages. We had moved from white ink marking (printing) to laser marking (etching) process.
On one summer Saturday morning, some members of our Laser Mark team (Engineering and Quality Managers.) received phone calls from none other than the CEO of the company. During his visit to a major customer on the previous day, he had witnessed first the legibility problem on the laser marked plastic packages supplied by our company.
After informing his managers about the problem, the CEO patiently listened to their explanation about the merits of the laser mark process and how it had resulted in substantial increase in the output; in our quest to be "The World Class Manufacturer". The managers emphasized that the manufacturing group had bought magnifying glasses to read laser marks and the benefits of output increase had far outweighed the cost of magnifying glasses. One of the managers even offered to call the customer and assist him in procuring magnifying glasses.
The CEO, in his normal soft voice, told his managers, "Effective solutions do not create problems for customers. The previous process of Ink Mark created perfectly legible prints and it was OK with the customer. Our process change had slowed the customer's manufacturing line and he should not have to buy magnifying glasses to compensate for poor quality of our laser marking." The awakened team spent next few months to improve laser mark legibility.
Reflection: So many times, people make decisions based on what is good for them and fail to understand the impact on the customer. My collection book is full of many such real life experiences. In most cases, customers had made a choice to stay with or choose a supplier that was easy to work with. This was particularly important in industries which were pushing the envelope every day to create breakthroughs and innovation.