There have been some shifts in responsibilities in the organization where I work, which has resulted in me taking over the Order Fulfilment complaints, as well as the Product Quality responsibilities. We've had 14 OF complaints in the last 13 months, so I figured it wouldn't add much to my workload.
After the announcement, one of our sales reps approached me. She told me that she had been forbidden from reporting any OF complaints, other than the most serious issues. She could write 20 per month if allowed. She says that she spends most of her time cleaning up after these problems.
Then I went looking to confirm that the problem is widespread. Talking to other sales reps, sure enough, it is. Problems have not been reported for years. So the problems seem to grow out of the Customer Service/Orders department. Order entry errors, missed instructions, all sorts of failures. Some appear to be minor or random.
Certainly part of the root cause is systematic - our Customer Service people are pretty new, still being trained (and therefore more prone to make mistakes). Turnover is high. This appears to be due to them being faced with dissatisfaction from customers and sales reps. Vicious cycle in play.
If I go ahead and encourage the reps to freely report complaints, I'm going to be snowed under. And my work on product quality will suffer. I'm going to speak to management (hopefully today) about my findings.
Is the leadership (?) of the organization serious about customer satisfaction? If they are, the order fulfillment problems should NOT BE forbidden from being reported. Who did that?
There are many things we can not guess from your post, but if the organizational culture is one that does not want to hear the voice of the customer, loud and clear, you know that you are in an untenable position.
Talk to your boss first...then up the chain with him behind you.
Something like that is found, something is gonna hit the fan...don't walk it alone.
Once you reach someone with monetary authority...discuss together how to handle all the work that was just found...
Maybe hire someone else who reports to you and you get a promotion out of it?
While waiting for that...start categorizing the findings into buckets, and start finding the root causes (20/mnth, you know there's more than one problem, and more than one cause)...then start rolling up the sleeves.
Funny...those are the situations I like...situations where you get to clean up a mess that everyone else let slide for years. I guess I'm weird like that...
That's an excellent point. Quantifying $$$ spent on busy work done by sales reps so the account does not get lost to the competition could be a very convincing argument that the system has to be improved so the sales reps can dedicate themselves to find new customers, instead of wasting spending their time trying to salvage damaged business relationships...
But, I still believe, the root issue is the organizational culture; if the leadership believes the sales reps jobs is to clean up the mess and do whatever it takes to keep the customers, that won't change.
I would look at the true depth of the problem before I went too far. A lot could be writers embellishment, urban legend, and finger pointed between fiefdoms. I would start by doing a quick Pareto chart for the next month or two. Maybe it's as bad as it sounds, worse, or not that bad with a lot of minor nit picks. Good luck.
Thanks for the comments so far. I suspect (as Golfman suggests) that there is a bit of embellishment. The sales rep that originally spoke to me has a reputation of being a bit of a panic merchant. Nevertheless, there's a lot of smoke, and I think some fire beneath that.
I've spoken to my boss already - it's not his division in trouble here, so he's only slightly interested. I have a meeting scheduled with the regional (Australia & New Zealand) commercial director in a couple of hours to lay it out. It so happens that we're about to launch an ongoing customer satisfaction survey - which might be an ideal way of dealing with this. As you guys have suggested, I can put the data in there - and categorize the complaints, then start sorting out the issues.
I certainly would agree with the proposition that the sales reps are spending a lot of their time cleaning up. So that's some money, but I think the real losses are with trucks having to go off and pick up stock or drop it off, when one trip was all that should have been necessary. Our manufacturing plants aren't in the situation where they have plenty of capacity, so there where we do lose customers, then tend to be replaced. Yes, I know that there's money there as well.
The way I see it, if the problems are confirmed as being sourced in the Customer Service function, then we're going to need extra resources there - I worry that we might make the situation worse by having people focussed on complaints and problems, rather than maintaining the business. In fact I heard a rumour that we were going to put an extra person into CS, but that's going to need 2 new people to be trained, given that we've just had one resign.
I'm not concerned about the top management - the instructions not to report complaints came from the mid-management, and those people are mostly gone from their positions after the merger of a year or two back.
This is very interesting, and no Ninja you are not alone in taking satisfaction in repairing something that has been broken for ages and hurting the company and the customers.
As usual I agree with what has been said previously, and have had similar experiences in my working life, and to permanently solve this you will need a combination of soft and hard skills.
Two things that I found really important when tackling issues of this nature were:-
1.) Promote a fresh start with a no blame culture (far too often I have seen this type of thing created because someone in management made people afraid to bring attention to problems), so the rhetoric should always be “when you spot something is wrong, shout loud and shout early”. This will give us the best chance of correcting things in a timeframe that will least impact us and our customer.
2.) Once you have some control of the situation, make sure you have a robust measurement system with KPI’s that are published regularly, especially to the teams of people involved and to top management, and make sure you audit that measurement system on a regular basis to make sure the rules are being adhered to and the issues are ending up in the correct buckets.