• Michael Brandt

Is the result all that counts or does the journey to get there matter also?

Updated: May 3, 2020

Some years ago, I was responsible for a service sales operation for large equipment used on diesel engines. Routine service on larger products was generally planned well in advance, however for smaller products the demand for service was often more immediate, i.e. a phone call from the customer saying "When can I bring my equipment in for a service?". We had a very successful operation and we expanded quite quickly. We hired more engineers and they were working at capacity virtually immediately. But, despite our success, there were grumblings in the market place from dissatisfied customers and we were unable to pin down the reason. Or product was good, our service quality was excellent and availability of spares was second to none. Generally we were able to give customers service dates with little lead time. So what were customers unhappy about?

We had a workshop bringing all involved together. We dissected the whole process inside-out and back-to-front. What we discovered was that our service sales staff, when responding to service requests for smaller equipment, were playing it safe, looking on the board and sometimes giving customers dates 3 weeks or more away. Naturally customers were unhappy about having to wait so long. After they had hung up, they would have a word with the workshop manager who, more often than not, would tell them that they could get the smaller job done much sooner as they would have a down time between larger jobs that wasn't necessarily on the board. The sales person would then call the customer back with the improved date. Naturally the customer was delighted, but the aggravation of having initially been given such a long wait tended to linger. 

As a result we instructed sales staff to take note of the request and inform the customer that they would get back to them shortly with a date. After consulting with the service manager they would then give the better date immediately, avoiding the customer being initially frustrated with a long delay. Not surprisingly the grumbling in the market ceased virtually over night. 

On a personal level, some time ago, I had to return a product to a well-known Swedish retailer of flat-pack products. The product quite clearly had a manufacturing defect. I was told to go and eat a hot-dog or have a coffee while the customer service representative spoke to the supervisor. When I returned the CSR gave me 15 minutes of hell, telling me all the reason why I was probably to blame for the defect. I was getting exceedingly angry. Then, out of the blue, the CSR told me that I was getting a refund! I was still exceedingly angry, very surprised and actually, not quite sure how I was expected to react (other than take the money and leave before the CSR found more reasons to blame me!). Looking back, the fact that I got a full refund is secondary. What I remember about that incident is the CSR making me extremely angry. 

Both these anecdotes demonstrate clearly to me that the result is one thing, but the journey to get there is far more important. Even a good result is not effective if the journey to get there is bumpy as hell. 

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