Appointments and Wasting the Customer’s Time


No, I'm not complaining about the old “4 hour window” for service appointments. I ran into a new type of waste this morning.

I had a plumber appointment, with a 10 to 12 noon window (which I am OK with). I was on the phone already and missed a call that was coming in. Turns out it was the plumber (through a national brand name) calling to confirm I would be home. So, I called back 10 minutes later and was told the tech was now busy because I didn't take their call. It's now probably going to be another hour before they get someone out here and they'll miss their window of time.

I told the phone rep that this practice of their was irritating, that I was here when I told them and they didn't tell me I'd have to answer the phone before they sent a person out. She said basically, “well it's policy because sometimes customers aren't home when they say they will be.”

So, they are wasting my time and punishing me because of what other customers do to them. Nice, huh? Ironically enough, when I missed the plumber's call, I was on the phone with a different contractor, a guy I hired to put up Christmas lights for me (because I'm gone from home too much) and he had broken a front window and he's working to get a repair job lined up. The waste of “defects” leads to other waste for me, the waste of waiting, as a customer.

This reminds me of healthcare, where everything is oriented around not wasting the doctor's time. Here, the plumber is inconveniencing customers in the name of not wasting the plumber's time.

That's wrong. That's not customer focused. I should send them a copy of Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth Together. I guess next time, I'll use a local plumber so I don't have to deal with rude call centers and silly processes.

I do realize, that if this is worst thing I have to complain about today…. my life is very fortunate and cushy. A good thing to remember and to be thankful for over the holidays.

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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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