What if the Customers Insist on Service that Breaks the Established Procedures?

S

StMichael

#1
Greetings from China!

The community here appears to be active and helpful to newbies, so I am plunging in. I am currently working in an educational service company here, and we have established procedures for claims and purchasing, all documented under ISO 9000.

I face situations where the customer (teachers!) want us to bend the system. For instance, we require claims to be submitted within 90 days, but teachers who submit their claims late insist that we still service the claim. It is similar for Purchasing - we require customers to collect from Warehouse (according to procedures) but teachers want to collect some "fragile" items themselves.

I need to know, if it is okay, under ISO standards, for us to bend the procedures for customers? Have any of you ever encountered similar situations? How do you reconcile the need to follow the system versus the need to please the customers? Thank you so much!
 

Colin

Quite Involved in Discussions
#2
Welcome to The Cove :bigwave:

Firstly, who was involved in writing the procedures? were the people who are expected to follow the procedures involved in their creation, or is it the case that someone has documented how they would like the system to work?

Next, I think it is important to establish whether the 'alternative' procedure is acceptable to the organisation. If so, it should be easy to make the procedure flexible enough to permit an 'either/or' scenario.

On the other hand, the procedure still has to be 'auditable' - in other words, it can't be a complete mixture of ifs, buts and maybes.

Having documented procedures, you will of course be expected to follow them - but make sure that they are 'workable' procedures in the first place. Just writing down what someone would like to happen never works as people will always find a way around it.
 

somashekar

Staff member
Super Moderator
#3
Greetings from China!

The community here appears to be active and helpful to newbies, so I am plunging in. I am currently working in an educational service company here, and we have established procedures for claims and purchasing, all documented under ISO 9000.

I face situations where the customer (teachers!) want us to bend the system. For instance, we require claims to be submitted within 90 days, but teachers who submit their claims late insist that we still service the claim. It is similar for Purchasing - we require customers to collect from Warehouse (according to procedures) but teachers want to collect some "fragile" items themselves.

I need to know, if it is okay, under ISO standards, for us to bend the procedures for customers? Have any of you ever encountered similar situations? How do you reconcile the need to follow the system versus the need to please the customers? Thank you so much!
It sounds to me as the right time to revisit, review and amend the procedures if the established procedures are no more helping the purpose, all within a legitimate and legal boundry. Please look into well and handle any disciplinary matters seperately, when you still review and find that the procedures are fair and can be practised. A quality system must also be able to handle concessions and deviations fairly well after its due analysis and authorization.
 
S

StMichael

#4
Welcome to The Cove :bigwave:
Thank you!

Firstly, who was involved in writing the procedures? were the people who are expected to follow the procedures involved in their creation, or is it the case that someone has documented how they would like the system to work?
To be exact, the procedures as written are so generic that they offer no use for anyone attempting to follow them. I am actually attempting to define and refine the procedures further when somebody protested that this will stop their "flexibility" with customer requests.

Next, I think it is important to establish whether the 'alternative' procedure is acceptable to the organisation. If so, it should be easy to make the procedure flexible enough to permit an 'either/or' scenario.
In other words, as long as I write in a procedure flexible enough to permit an either/or, it will pass the audit, yes?

On the other hand, the procedure still has to be 'auditable' - in other words, it can't be a complete mixture of ifs, buts and maybes.
In other words, if I just have a few subroutines off the main routine, it will be acceptable, but if the main routine has too many (how many is too many?), the auditor will hang me, yes?

Thank you so much for your input!
 

Colin

Quite Involved in Discussions
#5
You've got the gist of it! It is a matter of finding a balance between having enough information in the procedure to guide people as to what needs doing (the process) and on the other hand, not having too much detail so that it a) bogs people down with trivia and b) gives an auditor far too much to hang you with.

There is of course the option to have a 'high level' procedure/flowchart which gives general guidance on 'what, why & by whom' but allows the individuals options on the 'how to do' element. If you felt it was appropriate, you could always fill in the gaps with work instructions.
 

Steve Prevette

Deming Disciple
Staff member
Super Moderator
#6
Put yourself in your customer's position for a moment. Yes, they turn in a claim late, but do you really intend to "enforce" the procedure and not reimburse them if it is late? What is the purpose of the 90 day requirement? Could the procedure be modified to be more customer-friendly? Granted, any system wants claims turned in on time. You could say that if the customer is late turning in the claim they may be assessed a penalty. Or their claim will be put on the bottom of the priority list, with claims turned in that were timely processed first.

Similarly on customer pickup. Is there really a harm in the customer picking up their own order? If not, why not change the procedure?

I hope allegiance to ISO is not turning the world into a Dilbert world of enforcing a set of rules for the sake of enforcing rules.
 
S

StMichael

#7
It sounds to me as the right time to revisit, review and amend the procedures if the established procedures are no more helping the purpose, all within a legitimate and legal boundry. Please look into well and handle any disciplinary matters seperately, when you still review and find that the procedures are fair and can be practised. A quality system must also be able to handle concessions and deviations fairly well after its due analysis and authorization.
Thank you so much! Yes, I am indeed looking into it!
 
S

StMichael

#8
You've got the gist of it! It is a matter of finding a balance between having enough information in the procedure to guide people as to what needs doing (the process) and on the other hand, not having too much detail so that it a) bogs people down with trivia and b) gives an auditor far too much to hang you with.
And that balance is harder to find than I thought! I suppose this is why they hire me into the company, hahaha!
 
S

StMichael

#9
Put yourself in your customer's position for a moment. Yes, they turn in a claim late, but do you really intend to "enforce" the procedure and not reimburse them if it is late?
Not really, seriously, but it does give the service guys at the front desk some breathing space. This happens, unfortunately, very often, and it does make the financial balancing difficult, incurring often the wrath of the board when it comes time to report.

You could say that if the customer is late turning in the claim they may be assessed a penalty. Or their claim will be put on the bottom of the priority list, with claims turned in that were timely processed first.
This sounds like a good idea for me to bring up to the front desk and finance guys, a good reconciliation between the two. Thank you so much for this idea!

Similarly on customer pickup. Is there really a harm in the customer picking up their own order? If not, why not change the procedure?

I hope allegiance to ISO is not turning the world into a Dilbert world of enforcing a set of rules for the sake of enforcing rules.
Hence the need for me to find out more. I am quite new to the world of ISO, but not to the world of procedures (I was from the military, and SOPs are quite normal where we come from). In the military, SOPs can be broken by the appropriate authority, with proper paperwork (and often we kill the bugger first, *then* follow up with the paperwork, haha).

Right now, I see it more as the company not reconciling their service standards to their service cost (it is "cheaper" to service a customer with a 90-day lead, than "immediately"), rather than an ISO issue - but I am hired to deal with procedures and corporate governance, so I have to somehow make the two match. The guys at the board must be happy, but the guys at the bottom must not be squashed.
 

harry

Staff member
Super Moderator
#10
The implementation of a Quality Management System does not changed the reality of business dealings such as the need to pay for goods or service supplied irrespective of when the claim is submitted.

In general, a QMS will have service standards such claims submitted within ninety days will be processed within 'X' weeks. Any claims submitted beyond that may not be promptly processed. This is normally the 'intent' of having service standards. Unfortunately, a lot of systems in the service field do not focus on the service quality aspect.
 

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