Manufacturing is tough during the best of times and, let’s face it, these certainly aren’t the best of times!
So many new challenges are coming our way … maybe you’ve found yourself where Murphy has struck and you’ve got to deal with the situation and, more importantly, your customers.
From your supply chain getting out of whack, to lead times are longer than originally expected, to your Team making a mistake that screwed up the production, there are lots of ways we can get derailed these days.
- Let Them Know NOW! – Most of us hate to call customers with bad news. The conversations are awkward, at best, and it’s never a fun talk. We tend to delay or avoid making the call, but unfortunately, the situation only gets worse as we give the customer later and later notice of the issue. Getting them the current facts right away at least gives them as much time as possible to adjust their plans. Waiting for “more complete information” or a specific plan is a convenient excuse to stall … but it ends up hurting both our customers and ourselves.
- Make No Excuses – It would likely be very easy to cast blame for the situation you’re facing. Don’t do it. Own the situation. Making excuses won’t make the situation better for your customer. Nobody likes a complainer. The situation is your responsibility — even if it wasn’t your fault. Taking ownership of both the problem, and the work to solve it, will show your customer that you’re committed to their success in spite of the current challenge. Let’s not kid ourselves, if our vendor messed up, it’s our fault … we chose that vendor. Just own it and start to work the problem.
- Look From Your Customer’s Perspective – Explore options that could be helpful to your customer. Start without limiting your thinking based on dollars … just try to solve the problem as best you can and as quickly as you can. Even if that option isn’t practical, affordable, or likely, it still shows your customer that you’re thinking on their behalf and trying to help solve the problem that you helped cause. There may not be many options besides waiting to do what was originally planned, but talking through it with your customer will let them know you are invested in their success and solving this issue.
- Set Up Consistent Follow-Up Until the Situation is Resolved – It’s never a good time to keep your customer in the dark, but it’s even worse when they are dealing with a problem you helped cause. Setting up a rhythm of reporting to them — at least daily — will help them manage the situation without having to ask for updates. Hitting them first thing in the morning with the latest update will:
a. Let them to know you’re staring your day thinking of them and their problem
b. Give them a current update to provide to their boss or their customer that day
How we respond to problems can mean a better opportunity to distinguish ourselves from our competitors. We don’t want to cause issues for our customers, but guiding them to the solutions can grow the relationship and make the best of a challenging situation.