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…”

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
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. 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. 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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