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The Little Supply Chain That Almost (Chugga, Chugga) Could

By Art van Bodegraven | 05/06/2012 | 10:04 AM

We all remember the inspiring kid's story about a little engine that defied the odds and succeeded. This is about a somewhat bigger engine that failed to understand the context of customer service, supply chain execution, and the totality of the customer experience.

Recently our fairly large (and costly at the time of purchase) flat screen TV began to entertain us with the spontaneous appearance of little dots of light sprinkled across the screen. Amusing once; maddening as a permanent attraction. A little stroll down internet lane with Google showed that the manufacturer, Mitsubishi, was experiencing this problem way too early in the life of sets featuring their marvelous DLP technology.

Further research disclosed that the company, recognizing responsibility for a defective, and mission-critical, component was replacing the offending part at no cost. No cost, that is for the part, with replacement service and labor costs the responsibility of the owners. And, replacement was definitely a "kids, don't try this at home" exercise.

Sound fair on the surface? Not really. Mitsubishi had who knows how many defective products in the field, and made the decision to not issue a recall, which would have been the responsible thing to do.

To be even-handed, their physical supply chain execution was flawless. The part arrived, they scheduled the service call, and the process was relatively fast, even though the on-screen starburst display continued to grow. But, the entirety of the customer experience was not at all satisfying.

In my professional life, I contend reguarly that customer service functionality and supply chain execution are - or should be - inextricably entwined, hand-in-glove in the total solution, contributing as one to great experiences and very satisfied customers. That contention should be true in both b2c and b2b relationships.

It is the laggards who separate supply chain from customer service, who look at customer service as an annoying cost of doing business, and cannot conceive of the value of investing in service, support, and delighted customers. Clearly, in this case, someone made a cost/benefit decision to find a balance between doing the right thing and the money involved in doing so.

It did not help that the customer service rep made Tilda Swinton's evil queen in The Chronicles of Narnia sound like a flower child of the 70s, breaking another cardinal rule of satisfying customer service. So, Mitsubish saved a few bucks by making me pay for their problem.

That's their right in running a business. But, literally the next week, we bought a 70-inch flat screen set for another application. Guess who was not even on the short list in making the selection? if you said "Mitsubishi," go to the head of the class.

Now, I know that the TV folks aren't the same ones as those making Mitsubishi automobiles. But, do they come from the same gene pool? How would they handle - or not - a recall? Could I run the risk of customer dis-satisfaction (and a failure to fairly correct a product defect) when we consider our next car? Would you?

Ahh, the power of cost savings when measured against the value of satisfying customers . . .





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About Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven

Art van Bodegraven (1939 - 2017) was Managing Principal of the van Bodegraven Associates consultancy and Founding Principal of Discovery Executive Services, which develops and delivers supply chain educational programs. He was formerly Chair of the Supply Chain Group AG, Partner at The Progress Group LLC, Development Executive at CSCMP, Practice Leader with S4 Consulting, and a Managing Director in Coopers & Lybrand's consulting practice. Concentrating in supply chain management and logistics for over 20 years in his 50+ year business career, he has led ground-breaking strategic, operational, and educational projects for leading US and global clients. Art was principal co-author of DC Velocity's Basic Training monthly column for a decade, and was the principal co-author, with Ken Ackerman, of Fundamentals of Supply Chain Management, the definitive primer in the field. His popular blog, The Art of Art, has been a staple of DC Velocity's web site since its inception.


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