Business Process: Only as Good as the Weakest Link

I recently had the opportunity to experience getting my smart phone repaired by the manufacturer.  The manufacturer of my smart phone is regarded as the premier design and manufacturer of high end Android smart phones.  Despite their high technology reputation and my high level of smart phone satisfaction the repair process had a very weak link.

I reported my repair need on the corporate web site and within minutes I received a acknowledgement and ticket number to use in contacting the repair facitiy at the phone number provided.  I called the number and was able to talk to a real person who registered further information about the repair and told me I would receive an email with a FedEx label to use to ship the phone back to them.

As I ended the phone call I thought to ask how soon I would receive this shipping label email.  I was told no longer than 24 hours.  Huh?  Everything up until now had been a matter of minutes.  The customer service agent politely told me that it rarely took that long and in fact it would be “much” sooner.

The next day at the 20 hour mark I called the service repair number again to see if I could get a label before the day expired and not miss a ship,ment window.  I was told that they would now “expedite” a label to me.  Assuming that I would get it “soon” I asked when that afternoon I would get the  expedited label.  The representative politey told me that it could take 24 to 48 hours to receive the expedited label.

The day passed with no label received.

The next morning at 8 am (36 hours later) I received the label.  I put it on the package and rushed it to the FedEx pickup point where the agent told me that it was a two day shipment label which I had not noticed assuming it would be a one day delivery.  Oh well It was finally shipped!  I returned home to then receive a few hours later a second label (the expedited label?) which was a one day delivery shipment.

I tracked the phone into the repair facility on the second day of shipment.  Received an email that same morning indicating the phone had been received.  Later the same day I received an email that diagnostics had been performed on the phone and I if I accepted the repair quote I could pay for the services over the web.

Due to a web error with the payment page I ended up talking to an agent who quickly connected me with someone who processed the payment.  On day two I was notified that my phone was repaired and was provided the FedEx tracking number (over night shipment).

It was obvious to me that a lot of energy and money had been invested into the repair operation – competent operators available 24/7, competent technicians to process the repair in less that two days after it was received, a tracking system to report status (receipt, diagnostics, quote for repair and shipping status).

However, what was the lasting memory of this experience – the unexplained delay producing the shipping label, which should have been a trivial process available within minutes if not more than an hour and certainly the same day.

I am sure the manufacturer did not design this process to create this experience.  However, the reputation of a valuable business function and an expensive investment is tarnished by a dysfunctional process that someone did not care enough about to manage to make sure it would perform at a level consistent with the rest of the process.

Business Lesson

The lesson from this story is to make sure that your process is balanced and that all nodes in the process are able to perform at a consistent level that meets the overall specifications of the process.  If you integrate tools from business partners then provision must be made for them to perform at an acceptable level.

Don’t let a weak link overshadow the other high performing steps in your process.

Here are a few examples of other business processes with weak links.

  • Washington DMV – enough said.
  • Retail furniture outlet that promised a first week of March delivery only to have that moved out three weeks because no one thought to track the orders.
  • Supplemental Medicare Insurance: Received letter with ID number 10 days after applying but ID card would be another 6 to 8 weeks????

Review your processes to make sure they are not producing unexpected delays due to under performing operations.  Monitor all operation steps and manage your customer experience to predictable levels that meet and exceed customer expectations.

Personal Lesson
A final “personal lesson” is to make sure that when I am taking pictures of ocean waves on Maui, at the shoreline, that I make sure that all valuable devices in my pant pocket are water protected – either with my wife or in a plastic bag –  in case a wave comes in behind you and washes over you in seconds.  This did happen, killed my smart phone, which resulted in this experience.

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