I find reflecting on real experiences can often be the best way to explain Lean Thinking. Having a perspective on when situations, processes go wrong, can we then better understand what excellence may look like. Which is why I have introduced the series “What would I do”.
Those moments where I was the customer receiving less than optimal service, I can’t help but wonder how I would help the team or business improve their service if I was invited to work with them.
Last week was a great example of how the customer experience can be impacted by the ‘system’ rather than the staff.
I was queuing outside of Vodafone - no issue there, this has become the norm for all of us post COVID-19. In an attempt to improve the process, they took my number and planned to text me when they had a free staff member to assist me. Great, off I go and do some window shopping, only to come back 20 minutes later, still no text. Staff were calling out names, but people at the front of the queue just took the next space - system one wasn’t working.
I finally got inside - getting a new phone, the last one was five years old, so I was due for an upgrade. I make it easy (well I thought I did) the order is a simple request - Iphone 11 with 128G memory, I am not worried about colour. Surely this was a case of grabbing the box, adding the details to my account, automation would do the rest, this is a worldwide tech company after all.
Nope, I had to relay the price from the shop floor model, 10 minutes later I also give them the payment figures. What were they needing to do on their system that would take all this time, to this day I am still curious. Another five minutes past, then I signed the contract - yep, done - now I can go…… nope, another 15 minutes later, I was given my new phone.
In the end I didn’t take the option of trading my old phone in for two reasons - their system was down. I asked if it could be put on my account afterwards as a credit - no sorry, but you can use it to buy products in the store at a future date…. Purchasing more overpriced items I really don’t need, mmmmmm no thank you.
While standing there for just over 30 minutes to do what I would have thought was a simple purchase, all I could think about was the poor customer experience. What were the added value to the customer could all the processes they were made to do, because I certainly didn’t experience the ‘wow’ factor.
So what would I do?
First, get the team together to set up a game plan, with the text call back system broken - allow them to come up with another process. Spend a few extra minutes at the start of the day and put together a game plan. I am confident that this had never occurred. Set a goal of customer experience rating, maybe count the number of people served per hour - the last figure is tough because everyone had different needs, but it is a measurement. You can’t change what you don’t measure.
This is a high customer volume environment - have another reset half way through the day. 5-7 minutes, check in with the team - are we on track or off track, any issues that need fixing. Keep agile, keep improving during the day. This simple change is to start getting the team to communicate, talk and think of excellence. The numbers they are measuring really isn’t that important, what is critical is that they start conversations around improvement - towards excellence.
After all that is underway, get the team together and start thinking about the whole process with a lens of the 8 wastes of Lean. Gradually increasing the elements that make up an improvement mindset. This maybe a few weeks after starting the daily stand up meetings.
Map out the purchasing process - it took 30 minutes where I would set them the challenge to get this down to 5 minutes. What aspects of the process are absolutely necessary, what isn’t adding value. Put a request to automate 90% of the information, after all they have all my details already - use it. Until then, small changes are key. For example, have a laminated document available at every workstation that has price, payment details in a table format so they don’t have to do calculations everytime. Make the process visible to the team, post-it notes across a wall in the staff area, what steps are extra-processing, what is being repeated? Talk about it, challenge it, change it.
Have internal team experts for different tasks, be ok to swap customers to best fit the skill sets of the team - I would have been OK with this. This is how we can apply the ‘Non-utilisation of staff’ waste into a practical solution.
I am sure if we got the team to debrief at the end of the day and start thinking of improvements they can make - ways to improve 1% every time, they will come up with some great ideas.
The people waiting outside should become a motivator to get it to zero wait times - not stressing them out. Get appointments to 15 minutes instead of 30, then reset the goal to 10 minutes - continue to improve and raise the standard.
Create an environment that excels at customer experience.
That is where I would start - this would take place over a few months. Getting the team into the habit of improving, talking, collaborating. It could become an example of excellence amongst a larger organisation - make a difference, stand out. Don’t wait for the engine of a large corporation to dictate change. It is perfectly OK to start change, improving a system from the ground up - in fact I encourage it.
Don’t just turn up to work and try to survive. Work as a team to get excited about achieving excellence.