Years ago, my moving and storage company set up a highly successful continuous quality improvement program (QIP). It turns out that our ability to distinguish between the symptoms and the actual root cause of a problem was key to having an effective QIP.
Complaints are opportunities
And at that time, I remembered hearing complaints from our suppliers (Local moving companies in markets servicing our national long-distance moving business.).
They complained that we were not consistently picking up the customer’s household goods (HHGs) at the residence on the agreed date.
This meant that our traditional padded-van truck driver was not arriving on-time from out-of-town to pick up the customer’s HHGs at the residence.
It also meant that those suppliers had to stand-in-the-gap and quickly:
- Pull a moving crew together,
- Put them in a truck, and
- Rush them out to the customer’s home after they had already performed a full-day’s work to pick up the customer’s HHGs (the symptom).
The cost reimbursement for this activity by my company to the supplier really was not adequate, compared to their actual cost (the symptom).
Then later that night the supplier had to unload their truck and place the HHGs into their storage warehouse (without any reimbursement for storage, the symptom) waiting for the out-of-town padded-van driver.
This doesn’t sound like a highly successful quality program, does it?
If it is true that the shortest route to higher quality in business is to identify and eliminate the root cause barriers to quality, then why was my company having such problems to arrange for a padded-van driver to arrive on-time and avoid all this “monkey motion” by the supplier?
Every leader can better identify and address root causes for continuous quality improvement by using measurable performance goals/feedback.
Solving the mystery of quality improvements can be challenging. And often, we are distracted by the mere symptoms of our problem.
In my blog post Watson, The Secret to Quality is Elementary!, I shared a simple way to get to the root cause of the problem by using a technique called “root cause analysis”.
Twenty years ago with the type of moving job mentioned above, the customer booked their moving job directly with the supplier. And the supplier would register the customer’s moving job with my company.
When we set measurable goals and began to give suppliers measurable feedback, we discovered when the supplier had to pick up the HHGs at the residence and hold them at their warehouse the additional following symptoms surfaced:
- The shipment of HHGs consistently arrived at the destination city on a date later than agreed to with the customer.
- Cargo damage claims dramatically increased by 82%. WOW!
- Customer satisfaction surveys had poor scores.
But the greatest symptom discovered was…
- When we began to compare the customer agreed pickup dates to the dates my company received the notification registrations on these moving jobs from suppliers, it average only two days before the agreed pickup date. WOW! WOW!
Once we started to give our suppliers measurable feedback on the number of days it took for us to receive their registrations, it was amazing how quickly the average number of days significantly increased.
This positioned my company to logistically and successfully arrange for a padded-van driver to arrive on-time for the customer’s agreed pickup date.
The root cause
Our suppliers found through our measurable feedback and through a root cause analysis that the missed agreed pickup date (symptom) was not due to poor planning on our part, but that the customer’s booked moving job was just setting on someone’s desk waiting (sometimes as much as two weeks) to register (the root cause).
Using measurable performance goals to understand a root cause and it’s symptoms enables you to use measurable feedback to solve a complaint/problem or even learn of an opportunity can drive successful financial results for your business.
And best of all…the customer wins!
Tip: Use measurable goals/feedback to un-emotionally highlight problems and motivate those involved to provide the solutions.
Would you like to be more effective in solving complaints/problems? How about learning of opportunities? Are you using measurable goals/feedback? Please leave your comment <here> and share this blog post.