Are You Really Listening to Your Customer or Just Going Through the Motions?
Mark's note: Today's guest post is by Rodrigo Bernal, with the first post on this site contributed from Mexico. Rodrigo uses a lunch outing to raise important questions about customer focus and the voice of the customer. If there is a quality problem, does that feedback get back to the source of the problem for root cause analysis and corrective action? If you're asking customers for feedback, is it superficial or meaningful?
Post By Rodrigo Bernal (@rbernalrod)
A couple of weeks ago, I went out for lunch at a popular restaurant in Mexico, called VIPs. The food there is normal, nothing fancy, more like what you normally have for lunch. Sandwiches, salads, soups, chicken, beef and, of course, the traditional Mexican dishes: enchiladas, chilaquiles, and some other typical foods from the Mexican cooking.
Usually, I bring my own food for work. But, once in a while, I try giving a break to my wife, and, as a standard work fan, I always have the same salad with chicken and Diet Coke, naturally, at the same restaurant. This last time I decided that I would try a chicken breast stuffed with cottage cheese and fresh broccoli, bathed in a rich tomato sauce.
Bad idea! Although the chicken was delicious, and the sauce great, the broccoli was frozen… completely frozen! And as Chef Gordon Ramsay says, having frozen food modifies the flavor and changes the whole dish. Probably not a quality dish. So, even though the broccoli was horrible, I didn't ask for something else, since lunch time is limited and I had to get back to the office. I just told the waitress that the broccoli was horrible, as it was frozen, in contrast to the great chicken and sauce.
As I headed to the cashier to pay, I remembered that there's an electronic touch screen displaying a quality survey. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to test how effective this tool would be (see picture below) and how committed the restaurant is in order to listen to customers and get info for improvement.
The survey, although friendly and colorful, proved to be useless since the questions were completely generic.
When I got to the question of “how was your food?” I chose the worst option (a sad face on the right). I expected that the next question would be something like “please explain further on what was wrong about the food.” But instead the survey went on with the same type of questions about the service (was your service good?), environment (was your table and the restaurant clean overall?) and so on. I thought, maybe in the end. But to my disappointment, I found nothing.
So, basically, this survey will barely give the restaurant a general idea of what was wrong about my food. I understand this is just a survey, but, what's the point of having a survey if you cannot get more information for root cause on what's bothering your clients? Basically, my last hope is that the waitress would have told the manager or the chef that my broccoli was frozen.
I remember that during my years at Ford, was able to deal with lots of different surveys to understand what was wrong about the car. Ford uses J.D. Power and GQRS, along with some events specially planned for the customers. I remember that I even took a trip to Irvine, California in 2010 for a “Quality Clinic” as Ford used to call it, to specifically talk to the customers to get the “real voice of the customer” and get it from the owners. No filters, no interpretations, just the plain truth straight from the customer.
Sometimes, during that period, I used to think that it was too much information, from different sources. Now I see how important it is to really get the point of view from the customer's perspective. Is not enough to know that the customer is mad; it is vital to understand WHY the customer is mad in order to get to the root cause.
I truly believe that seeking and analyzing what caused a problem, requires a deeper understanding on customer's experience, and sometimes going to gemba to get first hand knowledge. Otherwise is just a waste to spend money in a nice looking survey, touch screen and software to barely understand what's going on the business.
About Rodrigo Bernal:
Rodrigo Bernal is a Continuous Improvement Manager for a Logistics Company, formerly known as CAT Logistics, located near Mexico City. Rodrigo was first exposed to Lean, during Y2K when studying the ideas and theories from Goldratt, and later on while working for Smurfit Kappa, one of the biggest packaging producers, being exposed to a copy of The Toyota Way. Later, in 2009 he got the chance to work in a Leaner environment for Ford Motor Company performing diverse roles such as Quality, SPC coordinator and production supervisor. During that period, was able to get a Black Belt certification. Rodrigo recently held a position as Quality Manager at one of the biggest steel producers, where, through the use of Kaizen, and other Lean tools, sought to improve processes and create a culture of improvement. Rodrigo holds a Bachelor´s degree in Industrial Engineering from La Salle University. He also holds an MBA from Unitec University in México City. He invites you to connect with him via Twitter (@rbernalrod), LinkedIn (mx.linkedin.com/in/rbernal7) or at his brand new blog themuda.blogspot.mx.