What Will You Do?
You are the new Vice President of Customer Care. You are responsible for customer service, order management, demand forecasting, and quality systems.
You started 60 days ago and have been busy, getting up to speed, on your company’s products, services, customers, suppliers, production facilities, distribution centers, and administrative offices.
The company has a robust lean transformation program in place. You learned about great things happening in marketing, sales, manufacturing, logistics, engineering, and human resources.
One big concern is how your four departments were not able to share any information on their improvement efforts directly related to the lean transformation. Each of your Directors was able to show impressive improvements in their key metrics. However, you heard more about “I did this” and “I did that” vs. “we ran a kaizen blitz and the team was able to…”
Most troubling is your Director of Customer Service. She seems to be a tyrant and has not demonstrated any traits you would ascribe to the lean principle of “lead with humility.”
Treating everyone with respect, demonstrating quiet confidence without arrogance, and seeking to learn from success and failure.
– definition of lead with humility
Summarizing Your Notes
Before jumping to conclusions, let’s review the notes you have taken.
You have seen how other departments are fully engaged with the company’s lean transformation. You hear them acknowledge they have lots of waste and room for improvement. Others have hinted at how the lack of engagement by the four Customer Care teams has not gone unnoticed. “Why do they think lean does not apply to them?
The key performance measurement for customer service personnel is how quickly they handle calls from customers. A huge display screen in the department monitors all calls and shows the cycle time for each person. The goal is 3 minutes. Those not meeting the goal are listed in the “poor performers” section. You are not impressed with this measurement.
The Director of Customer Service says she has analyzed the reasons for customer calls and has found on-time delivery is the biggest problem. She claims poor forecasts are the reason for out-of-stock situations and wants you to tell the Director of Forecasting to get his team working harder. You suspect demand forecasting is not the root cause for issues with on-time delivery.
During a visit with a key customer, you heard loud and clear that they want to see changes. The biggest issue is getting answers to routine questions. This key customer had minor issues with missed shipments and getting an answer on when the product would arrive was more aggravating than the original missed shipment. Other inquiries such as information on new products, promotions, and specifications went unresolved. Your customer stated “It’s like your customer service people do not want to talk with us. They say they will consider our inquiry and then hang up the telephone as fast as they can.”
Employee turnover in Customer Service is high – very high. The VP of Human Resources has suggested you investigate. There are examples of people crying at their desks, others quit and leave without a giving a notice, and some have applied for lower paying jobs in other departments.
You have attended the weekly staff meetings conducted by your four Directors. Firefighting is the general theme for each meeting. There is never any discussion of lean activities such as kaizen blitz events or value stream mapping. Typical agenda items include:
- Order Management is working with Sales on current promotions and with Logistics on late customer orders
- Demand Forecasting is working with Marketing on forecast errors and with Scheduling on changes to demand
- Quality Systems is working with Manufacturing on defects and with Engineering to clarify product specifications
- Customer Service is making lists of what other departments are doing wrong and discussing how to deal with the attitude problems for those personnel who take more than 3 minutes to handle a customer call
“Humility leads to better listening, increased collaboration, and a more compassionate leadership style.”
– Deanna Debara
You have been here 60 days and have learned enough. It’s now time to demonstrate leadership.
Part of you wants to fire all your directors and get a fresh start. The other part of you knows the person you replaced was not a cultural fit with the lean transformation and did not work well with the executive leadership team.
- Develop a plan for the next 60 days
- You won’t be able to fix everything and need to concentrate on starting a transformation which may take up to 18 months
- Think bigger than just fixing the easy problems – what do you need to do to start the transformation for Customer Care?
“It is important for us to remember, as leaders, that everyone is inherently good, but they may need our help to overcome their adopted behaviours.”
– Sarah Cordiner
Humility in Leadership by Deanna Debara
10 Ways to Lean With Humility by Sarah Cordiner