Archive for February, 2011

Justified Versus Unjustified Complaints

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Has your organization decided that it’s a good idea to classify customer complaints according to whether they are “justified?” This occurrence just took place with a client of ours that received a complaint due to using a product beyond its capability and felt it wasn’t necessary to utilize their corrective actions system for identification and resolution.

This may make some logical sense, but it’s the worst thing a company can do for building customer satisfaction.  Take all customer complaints seriously!

Craig Cochran recently wrote an article for AIAG Quality Standards which highlights ways to ensure your customers are satisfied with how you handle their complaints.

If I’m a customer, all my complaints are justified. If you try to tell me that my complaint is “unjustified,” it’s only going to make me angrier than I already am. Once the customer experiences a problem, it becomes the company’s problem. Regardless of the fault of the problem, customer satisfaction has been affected, and action must be taken.

Consider these scenarios:

(1) The customer used the product incorrectly, and the performance was adversely affected; the complaint is deemed unjustified. But why did the customer use the product incorrectly? Was the application known prior to the sale? Were the instructions unclear? Is there any chance that the customer was misled, even unintentionally?

(2) The customer says the product was damaged, but the type of damage described could only have happened at the customer location; the complaint is deemed unjustified. But should the product’s packaging be improved? Should you provide guidelines for proper handling?

In each of these cases, an argument could be made that the problem was the customer’s fault. Taking this position, though, does nothing to enhance customer satisfaction, nor does it further the organization’s long-term objectives. Savvy organizations will look for ways to error-proof their products with customers. Of course, some problems are truly the customer’s fault. When these situations occur, the organization might not be obligated to replace the product, provide credits or refunds, or accept returns. In all cases, however, customers must be treated in a diplomatic, cordial manner.

Reporting Back to Your Customer. Customers want to know what action has been taken. After all, the customers had a negative experience related to something they spent their hard-earned money on. They even took the time to tell the organization about it. Now they’re curious. What are you going to do about it? If your organization is interested in turning the negative experience into a positive one, someone must take the time to report back to the customer. The communication should include three key elements:

  1. The results of the investigation into the problem;
  2. The action taken; and
  3. A statement of thanks for reporting the problem.

Reporting action back to the customer closes the loop on the issue. It also lets the customer know that you take his or her feedback seriously and are committed to making improvements. In some cases, it can determine whether your organization remains a supplier to this customer.

The following steps represent implementation guidelines for an effective complaint system:

  • Determine what information is needed in order to investigate and take action on customer complaints. Build your complaint form/CAR around this information.
  • Establish contact methods for customer complaints. Remember that voice contact is preferred by most customers.
  • Appoint someone as the complaint administrator. This person will be responsible for the entire process.
  • When a complaint occurs, use structured problem-solving techniques to address them in a systematic manner.

Complaint information should be one of the most widely disseminated topics in an organization. Trend data should be posted on every departmental bulletin board, along with the details of relevant complaints involving that department. Complaints, their root causes and eventual corrective action must be made topics of any regular communication that takes place throughout the organization.

Does your organization neglect unjustified complaints?  Give us an example and we will provide a direct response to your input with suggestions for improvement.

Employee Creativity Over Capital

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Sustaining Edge Solutions, Inc. Newsletter )
Performance Improvement Solutions for Your Business Needs February 2011
In this issue

  • Employee Creativity Over Capital
  • Justified Versus Unjustified Complaints
  • Free Webcasts by AMA
  • In The News
  • NIST Software Tool
  • Training Courses
  • Greetings!

    Welcome to Sustaining Edge Solutions Performance Improvement Newsletter

    Our newsletters provide information on Business Management Systems ISO 9001, AS9100 Aviation, Space and Defense, ISO/TS 16949 Automotive, ISO 27001 Information Security, ISO 13485 Medical Devices, ISO 14001 Environmental, and others. This includes process auditing techniques and process improvement methods Six Sigma, Lean Enterprise, and other topics of interest to our readers.

    Have a topic of interest for a 2011 future newsletter? Please let us know.

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    Employee Creativity Over Capital

    Cust Sat

    In nearly every organization, there are opportunities for business process-related improvements. Kaizen, or rapid improvement processes, often is considered to be the “building block” of lean methods. These methods focus on eliminating waste, improving productivity, and achieving sustained continual improvement in targeted activities and processes of an organization. The strategy aims to involve workers from multiple functions and levels in the organization in working together to address a problem or improve a process.

    Even though it originally gained popularity within the manufacturing sector (similar to Six Sigma), Kaizen can also be applied to the service industry. In a service environment, variance is natural and often the result of customer irritations. Because Kaizen is focused upon producing small improvements over time, the effects can be observed quickly. Rather than conducting a large-scale project that seeks to realize substantial process-related improvements, Kaizen attempts to resolve a wide range of small problems. As a result, the effects of implementing the methodology are nearly instant, especially within a service environment.

    Last month our focus was on Kaizen Activities, this issue we will discuss some metrics and results. For example, let’s look at a piece of the Kaizen Pie with a project we recently did with a medical communications center. The wait time a customer must be put on hold or having to go through multiple phone functions or personnel will cause the customer to be dissatisfied with the wait time, and complain. This occurrence can also have a negative effect on customer call “drop rate” where the customer hangs up and goes elsewhere for service, and worse tells everyone they know about the poor service. This often can’t be measured and is known as the “unknowable cost of poor quality.” Kaizen can be used to identify ways to reduce the wait time. Doing so reduces the number of customer irritations, thereby saving time and improving the level of satisfaction among all customers.

    During a Kaizen Event, it is necessary to collect information on the targeted processes with key metrics – lead time, process time and percent complete and accurate.

    1. Process Time (PT) is the true time it takes to perform a task if the person could work uninterrupted and all waiting from the process was removed. This includes the time it takes to “touch” the work, and the “talk time” for clarifying or obtaining more information to do the task, and the “think time” to perform any analysis and/or any review. A helpful question to ask the workers “How long would it take you to do all the activities of this step, from beginning to end, if you could work uninterrupted?”

    2. Lead Time (LT) is the time when work is available to be done through completion of that work and delivery to the downstream customer, including all delays. It is also known as throughput time or turnaround time. A helpful question to ask the workers “What is your typical time for this activity, from the time the work is available to you, until you have completed it and passed it on to your downstream customer?”

    3. Percent Complete and Accurate (%C&A) defines the percentage of occurrences of work released that does not require the downstream customer to:

    • Correct information
    • Add missing information that should have been supplied
    • Clarify information that should have been clearer

    A C&A of 80% on a particular step means that a downstream customer had to correct, add or clarify the upstream supplier’s output about 20% of the time.

    In service environments process time is often expressed in minutes and hours with lead times expressed in hours or days which is captured on value stream maps. Value Stream Maps are used in Kaizen Events to illustrate activities within the scope of the event at a process and sub-process level. Most times, Kaizen Events focus on improvements made at the sub-process level-meaning, at the level of a component work process. For example, the medical communications center processes of patient communication. The process of receiving a call – reassigning call to specific skill set – message sent to triage/provider team – team receives message – appointment scheduled. This constitutes the value stream. Our sub process would be the set of operations which could include tracking hold time – call volume per skill set per hour – call time per skill set – availability of provider team per shift – adequately staffing based on specific times and needs.

    This sub process level enables deeper analysis for the Kaizen Team and narrows a defined portion of the value stream for making measurable and lasting improvements. Value Stream Mapping helps us to quantify process performance and make it easier to see waste and identify process disconnects, bottlenecks, delays and redundancies that are costing your organization money.

    With today’s return-on-investment requirements, Kaizen Events are a practical and lower cost method in building a high performing organization. In our newsletter next month we will continue with information on how to identify process waste using Kaizen and describe further client project results.

    Interested in more information or want to conduct a Kaizen Event in your company guaranteed to improve your performance? Contact Us.

    Justified Versus Unjustified Complaints

    Audit

    Has your organization decided that it’s a good idea to classify customer complaints according to whether they are “justified?” This occurrence just took place with a client of ours that received a complaint due to using a product beyond its capability and felt it wasn’t necessary to utilize their corrective actions system for identification and resolution.

    This may make logical sense, but it’s the worst thing a company can do for building customer satisfaction. Craig Cochran recently wrote an article for AIAG Quality Standards which highlights ways to ensure your customers are satisfied with how you handle their complaints.

    If I’m a customer, all my complaints are justified. If you try to tell me that my complaint is “unjustified,” it’s only going to make me angrier than I already am. Once the customer experiences a problem, it becomes the company’s problem. Regardless of the fault of the problem, customer satisfaction has been affected, and action must be taken. Consider these scenarios:

    (1) The customer used the product incorrectly, and the performance was adversely affected; the complaint is deemed unjustified. But why did the customer use the product incorrectly? Was the application known prior to the sale? Were the instructions unclear? Is there any chance that the customer was misled, even unintentionally?

    (2) The customer says the product was damaged, but the type of damage described could only have happened at the customer location; the complaint is deemed unjustified. But should the product’s packaging be improved? Should you provide guidelines for proper handling?

    In each of these cases, an argument could be made that the problem was the customer’s fault. Taking this position, though, does nothing to enhance customer satisfaction, nor does it further the organization’s long-term objectives. Savvy organizations will look for ways to error-proof their products with customers. Of course, some problems are truly the customer’s fault. When these situations occur, the organization might not be obligated to replace the product, provide credits or refunds, or accept returns. In all cases, however, customers must be treated in a diplomatic, cordial manner.

    Reporting Back to Your Customer. Customers want to know what action has been taken. After all, the customers had a negative experience related to something they spent their hard-earned money on. They even took the time to tell the organization about it. Now they’re curious. What are you going to do about it? If your organization is interested in turning the negative experience into a positive one, someone must take the time to report back to the customer. The communication should include three key elements:

    1. The results of the investigation into the problem;
    2. The action taken; and
    3. A statement of thanks for reporting the problem.

    Reporting action back to the customer closes the loop on the issue. It also lets the customer know that you take his or her feedback seriously and are committed to making improvements. In some cases, it can determine whether your organization remains a supplier to this customer.

    The following steps represent implementation guidelines for an effective complaint system:

    • Determine what information is needed in order to investigate and take action on customer complaints. Build your complaint form/CAR around this information.
    • Establish contact methods for customer complaints. Remember that voice contact is preferred by most customers.
    • Appoint someone as the complaint administrator. This person will be responsible for the entire process.
    • When a complaint occurs, use structured problem-solving techniques to address them in a systematic manner.

    Complaint information should be one of the most widely disseminated topics in an organization. Trend data should be posted on every departmental bulletin board, along with the details of relevant complaints involving that department. Complaints, their root causes and eventual corrective action must be made topics of any regular communication that takes place throughout the organization.

    Free Webcasts by AMA

    The American Management Association (AMA) has announced three half-hour webcasts for improving communication within companies. The webcasts are free and presented by business communications experts.

    Empower Your Employees and Customers Feb. 2, Noon-1 p.m. EST. This program focuses on empowering your employees to solve customer problems. Register Here.

    Communicating with Employees Through Change Feb. 16, Noon-1 p.m. EST. This webcast focuses on useful communication frameworks and discusses the change curve, planning for change, motivating staff. Register Here.

    Creating an Engaged Work Force for Exceptional Business Growth March 2, Noon-1 p.m. EST.This webcast explores a new approach-building an “army of entrepreneurs”-that engages and empowers your staff in creating an organization rich with rainmakers, innovators, and creative thinkers. Register Here.

    In The News

    APICS Releases 13th Edition of APICS Dictionary. Advancing Productivity, Innovation, and Competitive Success (APICS) has released the 13th edition of its APICS Dictionary, the standard for core terminology and emerging definitions in the operations and supply-chain management professions.The 13th edition is offered for the first time as an electronic download, which can be printed or viewed on multiple devices. Visit the APICS bookstore to purchase the APICS Dictionary-$50 nonmembers, $30 members.

    SAE International Launches Historical Standards Online. More than 5,000 historical automotive and aerospace standards are now available from SAE International. Now when visitors search specific standards on the SAE website, the results will display all available prior versions of each standard, noting when they were published. Including access to historical standards is part of an overall enhancement of SAE website and online experience.

    2011 ASQ Lean and Six Sigma Conference. Lean and Six Sigma have never been more important than they are in today’s business environments. Whether you’re beginning your lean and Six Sigma journey or you’re a seasoned veteran, this conference has something for you in more than 50 sessions and hands-on workshops. February 28-March 1, 2011 Phoenix, Arizona

    NIST Software Tool

    Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have released an updated version of a computer system testing tool that can cut software development costs by more efficiently finding flaws.

    Catching software bugs is traditionally difficult and time-consuming. According to NIST, about 50 percent of software development budgets go to testing, yet flaws in software cost the U.S. economy more than $59 billion annually. To address this issue, NIST designed the Advanced Combinatorial Testing System (ACTS), a freely available software tool.

    The NIST combinatorial testing for software is based on research by NIST and generates a plan for testing combinations of two to six variables that can interact and cause errors. While studying software crashes of medical device and Web browsers, researchers determined that between 70 and 95 percent of software failures are triggered by only two variables interacting, and practically 100 percent of software failures are triggered by no more than six. In one project, NIST could test all six-way combinations with only 522 tests instead of the expected 17 billion, and yet find nearly 100 percent of the flaws.

    For more information on the Software Tool, visit this NIST web page.

    Training Courses

    training

    To see the course description, schedule, and on-line registration click on the course title below. We do provide onsite and custom training.

    View all our Courses

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    Understanding and Implementing ISO9001:2008
    ISO 9001:2008 Process Based Internal Auditor
    Documenting Your Management System

    Understanding and Implementing AS9100C (9110 &9120) Aviation, Space and Defense
    AS9100C:2009 Process Based Internal Auditor
    Documenting Your Management System

    Understanding and Implementing ISO/TS16949:2009 Automotive
    ISO/TS16949:2009 Process Based Internal Auditor
    Documenting Your Management System

    Understanding and Implementing ISO14001:2004 Environmental
    ISO14001:2004 Process Based Internal Auditor

    5S Five Pillars of a Lean Workplace Organization
    Continuous Process Improvement
    Lean Six Sigma
    8 Disciplines (8D) of Problem Solving

    Understanding and Implementing ISO 13485:2003 Medical Devices
    ISO 13485 Process Based Internal Auditor

    Understanding and Implementing ISO 27001:2005 Information Security
    ISO 27001 Process Based Internal Auditor

    All courses can be delivered at your company. Don’t see a course, location, or date that fits your needs?

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