As I opened the eating room door, there sat Ben Brandt, who was our section quality auditor on that night shift. An adult man, probably in his late 50s already, enjoying the contents of his lunch box in the early hours of Monday during a 11pm to 7am shift. “Is the job running alright?”, asked Ben, “Yes Mr Brandt, we still looking good and it looks like we will be on that track for the rest of the shift”, I responded with a smile on my face. “Yes” he replied, “because quality production is of critical importance, we ought to always make our customers happy”. “Yeah Mr Brandt what you are saying is true” that was my response just before I took a bite off a slice of bread that made part and parcel of my “midnight lunch”. A short moment of silence prevailed as we concentrated on the food we were each having. “You know what, let me tell you a thing or two about quality” reiterated Ben, I nodded my head in acknowledgment, making a humming sound as I had food to chew in my mouth at the very same time.Ben began to tell me of his experiences in his career as a quality practitioner. I listened to him all the way as he highlighted events and scenarios to his exposure during his tenure at Consol Glass, a sub Saharan Africa’s biggest glass bottle manufacturing company that proudly owns 7 plants on the continent with four of them being in South Africa. Little did I know that the bottle we were running on my production that night was the first Coca Cola order, the company had clinched, years after they previously lost the client due to poor delivery. Mr Brandt quickly brought me up to speed with all that history and went on to highlight several issues that summed up his experiences. Promptly I decided to convert this conversation into a lecture for my own benefit and of-course which turned out to be. I managed to take with me a number of lessons which I decided to document for my own benefit and for the benefit of all relevant players, stakeholders and other interested parties/readers.
First lesson: The customer is always right.
I know this has been a common phrase chanted by a substantial number of organisations, coupled
with other phrases like, the customer is always a king, our customers are our business etc. All these
are absolutely true, and I am in 100% concurrence with them. There however is a statement that
Ben Brandt uttered that got me to think a little bit deeper about this issue. Ben mentioned that even
though sometimes the customer is perceived to be “wrong”, in that sense of “wrong”, they are still
right. After giving him an incredulity look, he then went on to elucidate that sometimes the
customer might issue out an order that you can, from an experience point of view, perceive the
specs not to be suitable with their business. That “wrong” is what you have consider as the right
that you should deliver to them.
Even if the customer is “wrong” sometimes, “they are always right”…. never argue with a customer.
This is the first lesson I learnt from Ben on that early morning.
Second lesson: Customers are marketing tools; Bad delivery is like a dominoes to your business.
So, dominoes is like a game where one piece pokes the next piece down which also pokes the piece
next to it down and so the pattern goes on like that until all the pieces have been knocked down. To
cement his claim, Ben gave me a real-life illustration that he himself experienced. One day as he was driving, he stopped at some robots where a young man who was selling packets of bananas was
standing. Wanting to offer business to the young man he hooted, calling for the young man to come
to his car window. He then paid for one of the bananas pockets the young man was holding. Upon
trying to open the packet and get one of the bananas he realized the bananas where over-ripe and
called the young man back so he could choose another packet, the young man decided to ignore and
even increased his pace away from the car as he had already benefited from the transaction.
According to Ben, he meant that if you deliver bad to one customer, the experience spreads out so
rapidly and wide that by the end of the day every potential customer or client will have fall victim of
that one negative perception about your deliveries resulting in some serious loss of business.
The best way would be to treat every piece (customer) on that dominoes cluster (market place) with
care and diligence.
Third lesson: Quality is the only aspect that will make you survive in the middle of a storm.
The other day I had a conversation with an industrial engineer friend of mine, I presented to him a
case in which I complained regarding the events that were happening at my workplace. I uttered a
statement that he promptly objected. I had had a bad day fighting with the quality controllers at
work and as soon as I got a glance at him after arriving at home I said to him, “It looks like Consol
glass has shifted business to making gold and not glass bottles anymore” he laughed and asked the
reason why I angrily spilled that out. And I explained the fight I had had the whole shift with the QC
department. Later, he responded to all that I had explained by a statement in which he said, “quality is
the only aspect that will make you survive in the middle of a storm”. The marketplace is influenced
by several forces from economic, technological, global prices, threat of new entries, demographic,
environmental to mention just but a few. When any of these storms rise, quality delivery is one of
the greatest cushions that can make you “the last man standing”.