Is true customer service dead in our fast-paced, smart phone, web-driven society? Is it one of those company policies or mottos, but not part of the culture? The best answer is that it doesn’t have to be.
Over the last twelve months my boss and I have been the driving force behind a project that was birthed from true customer service. A thirty-eight year customer has purchased one of our products for the last twelve years, and they seem to consistently find room for us to improve it. This same product is sold to more than twenty other customers without any major issues, significant RMA’s (Return Material Authorizations), or complaints. The key difference lies in what this customer’s application requires of the product: that it be pushed to the absolute edge of its physical and electrical capability. Numerous experiments, seemingly countless hours, and many incremental changes have been made over the last 7-8 years to meet the changing requirements and needs of the customer. At the end of 2012, we qualified the latest revision. Both HSI and the customer felt that we had arrived at the end of the journey; we had developed a solution to one of their major concerns, and they were happy. But last fall we got the call…once again they needed it to do more, to be better.
Considering the historical investment of time, effort, and capital, and the fact that this product was often shipped to the customer at a loss to HSI over the last five years, we could have been reluctant to rise to this latest challenge. No other company in the world offers this product, so we could have said “Tough. You can take it or leave it. We’re done.”
We could have said no…but that’s not what HSI is about. We’re not a mass producer, and we’re not a distributor. We are a custom company that provides what others will not or cannot. At the core of HSI, we’re proud of what we do, who we are, and we’re typical Midwest Americans…we don’t like to back down from a fight or leave a problem on the table.
After some straightforward discussion over a few charged conversations, we developed a TRUE team approach with this customer, and we started to really dig in. They came and met with us face-to-face every couple of months and brought in a consultant for additional support. We also visited their facility. We developed a plan and moved forward by running the tough, detailed experiments, gathering the hard-to-get data, hiring an engineering intern to expand resources, redesigning key process equipment, and examining all the physical characteristics and process factors. We mounted a concentrated effort through sincere collaboration between both organizations.
The outcome? HSI final test yields are up by 25%, final process yields at the customer’s facility are up, and more importantly, their yields have stabilized. We are in the final stages of implementing some other critical changes, and all preliminary results indicate improvements to FPY (First Pass Yield). Reductions in scrap are also on the horizon. We are going to get it done and maybe, just maybe, reduce the overall cost in the process.
In the end nobody knows our products better than we do. It just takes a dedicated team effort, a strong conviction to push through, and time that we’re more than willing to give to find the right solution for the customer.