Don’t Waste My Time

One of the main principles of Womack and Jones’ “Lean Solutions” book is “don’t waste my time.” I had to teach a local company that principle yesterday.

Long story short: home contractor company had set a 5 PM appointment and called the day before to remind me…. not a window of time (5-8) but, “5 PM.”

So, 5:15 comes and the owner calls and says “the guy is running a few minutes late, he’ll be there at 6, is that OK?”

I calmly told her, “Actually, no. You said 5 PM and I scheduled my evening around that. You calling at 5:15 doesn’t respect my time, and an hour late isn’t a few minutes. From my experience, when a contractor can’t be on time for the sales call, that doesn’t bode well for the project itself…”

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At this point, she realized she wasn’t getting the job and said “Ok, bye” and basically hung up on me, which confirmed my suspicion that their customer service wasn’t top notch.

As customers, we need to reward companies that respect our time, whether it’s a doctor’s office or a contractor. Rather than just choosing on price, think about how much they value your time and how easy they will be to work with in the “consumption process.”

From a business standpoint, think about the expectations you are setting with your customers. If you can’t hit an exact time, don’t promise an exact time. I would have been more forgiving if they had said “Between 5 and 6.” When you know of a “defect” in the process, notify someone ASAP. Had the owner called at 4:45 PM, I could have re-arranged my schedule to go to the gym before the contractor arrived. With the 5:15 call, I would have missed my workout if I waited for the late contractor.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Mike Lopez says

    I’m sure that the CEO/Owner of that company would be very interested to know that his or her people are missing appointments and hanging up on customers. Business probably is not good right now.

  2. Mark Graban says

    I know for a fact is WAS the owner that I talked to and it was the owner who hung up on me. Bad sign.

  3. curiouscat says

    It wouldn’t suprise me that business is good now. So the good business conditions hide that poor systems in place. It is very easy for companies to lose customer focus in good times – many seem to even do it in bad times :-(

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