08 jul ‘Genchi genbutsu’, Japanese for Customer Safari
For decades it is normal in manufacturing, that the employees improve continuously. More and more we also ask this from customer service representatives. Besides this, there are more methods to improve. One of the methods for convincing managers to improve and to show what are the real problems, is to ‘go and see for yourself’. In Japanese this is ‘genchi genbutsu’. Business decisions can be based on deep firsthand knowledge. Get out of the building is an advise that comes with this approach. At Toyota, the founders of Lean Management, they know this really well. In 2004, the Toyota Senna needed improvement and they wanted to sell more of these cars in America. The owner of this process and head of the design and improvement department, Yuji Yokoya, undertook a road trip through Canada, US and México, driving 53,000 kilometers. He talked to customers at car rental agencies to find out what was good and could be improved. He experienced what is needed to drive on a highway and in cities. We are talking about the head of design and development of a Toyota model. Can you imagine the confidence when coming back to HQ’s and explain what needed to be done? And the employees responsible for designing and implementing the improvements? You think they would listen and accept his ideas? Of course they did! The car sold in 2004 60% more than in 2003, point made.
(story taken from: The Lean Startup, Eric Ries)
We know that in the past mystery shopping was a powerful way of infiltrating in the real world and evaluate the actual service and quality. A customer safari is nothing more and nothing less. You go for yourself or someone you hire or instruct, to experience the experience themselves. You can give them a diary or notebook, a camera and backpack and let them go through a process that shows problems or has a negative customer evaluation. Based on this experience you can double check if these problems are also problems in the real world. But more important, you let the employees and manager ‘feel’ how it is to be a real customer. Being sent away before closing hour, sent to the call center when trying to complain in a store or being told that the information on the website is not correct because of marketing purposes, on the phone there are much better offers. True stories.
Genchi genbutsu is not a term you are going to remember, I guess. But a ‘customer safari’ you will, right? It’s the same. If you are a responsible for customer contact or you are a manager of a customer service department or you are a shop manager, please do the following: be a customer at least once a month. Experience the experience and go through a process in your own company. Make sure you have a real question or case. You can ask the CRM team to create a file or problem. Make it as real as possible. Then ask your colleagues to do the same. After the experience, discuss the outcomes in your team or management meeting. Just share the experience and talk about the good things and the bad things. Repeat it and check it with management information, marketing metrics, reporting, KPI’s and the word from the floor. Then you will get closer to solving real problems, problems from the real world. Like the Japanese are doing for decades.
Send me a message for a standard diary to use during the Customer Safari, I will send it to you.
Danny Peters is Customer Experience consultant at Conexperience, specialized in Customer Journey Mapping and Customer Experience Management. He works mostly for large companies in Customer Experience projects and is exclusive partner of Touchpoint Dashboard in The Netherlands. Touchpoint Dashboard is online Customer Journey Mapping software.