Extra-processing: When customer satisfaction hides a problem

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Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

THE young bride just could not live up to the standards set by her husband’s mother. She tried her best to cook like his mother, and he would continually coach her with suggestions. Her constant failures brought her great discouragement. One morning, she was so depressed she just stayed in bed. Her depression lasted throughout the day.

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She finally dragged herself from bed and went to the kitchen. She reached into the cupboard and pulled out a big can of beef stew. She dumped it into the pot and warmed it in time for her husband to have his supper. In utter frustration, she dished the stew from the pan to her husband’s bowl.

Her husband took one bite and praised her: “Finally!! This is it!!! It is just like my mother used to make it!!!

Like our young bride, there is no doubt that everyone in marriage must meet, if not exceed the culinary expectations of her husband. The same thing can happen when doing one’s business–either you meet or exceed the expectations of a customer. If you’re operating a pizza restaurant, your mantra is to deliver bacon supreme pizza to one’s home in not more than 30 minutes. If you’re successful in delivering a piping hot, rubbery cheese pizza in 15 minutes, then you’ve exceeded the customer’s expectation.

In your delightful experience as a customer, you’ve become generous to give P50 to the motorcycle delivery man, while ignoring his untidy uniform, dirty finger nails and sweaty aroma. As a bystander, we wonder how this basic detail was lost in the consciousness of its management.

So while one might wish that the delivery man should have the personality fitting of a tidy person (if not an action star) representing a giant pizza chain, the perverse incentive to cut cost (avoid penalty of free pizza) and ensure fast delivery in this smog-choked metropolis may have been too powerful for its management to ignore the basic sanitary requirements of its personnel.

Let me tell you another story with a new client company. Last week, my colleague tried to approximate the requirements of their accounts payable. To save time and avoid Ping-Pong emails with the customer, my assistant readily sent them our basic registration papers that include our BIR certificate and sample official receipt, even if the new client was not asking for it. Well, at least not yet at that first email encounter.

My assistant knows his job very well. He knows how to anticipate and exceed the client’s expectation, if necessary. Even if the client was not asking for any documents, he’s guided by a mindset to send them right away, while the deadline for payment is fast-approaching.

Technically, the action of my colleague can be categorized as “extra-processing” within the context of DOWNTIME – a memory jogger for the eight types of operational waste or “muda” in Japanese. For the uninitiated, DOWNTIME refers to Defects, Over-production, Waiting, Non-Use of Company Resources (must not be limited to non-use of employee talent as espoused by bestselling author Jeffrey Liker of the Toyota Way books fame), Transportation, Inventory, Motion, and Extra-Processing.

In a Lean Management context, DOWNTIME is used to discover non-value-added things in any situation.

My hardworking assistant did the “extra-processing.” Why would you submit documents when they are not being required by the customer? Imagine the extra effort and time spent for it. Going back to our pizza man, if he has the time to spare before the 30-minute delivery expires, why doesn’t he simply wipe his sweat, put on a spray of inexpensive cologne and change his uniform to something that is more desirable to customers?

The question comes to mind. Shouldn’t we as service providers (or even product manufacturers) be driven by our love of maximizing customer satisfaction rather than pure profit? After all, if you’re doing a good job of serving customers, then money will surely come in without doing a hard sell.

Do we really want our employees to become lab rats mastering a maze to get the cheese? Can we ignore Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs so that our workers can go right away to the “self-esteem” level without completely satisfying the prerequisite physiological needs and job security of people?

The answer can be analyzed based on the employment status of your workers. Are you still in the habit of employing temps or 555 workers who are demotivated by their lack of job security, like what we could imagine in the case of the everyday pizza delivery man? The small salary and lack of job security may be the reasons why they can’t even think of “extra-processing” like taking a bath or brushing their teeth, for instance.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics@gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for his random management thoughts.

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