When we think of customer value, many of us think of improving our customer service representatives—invest in more conflict management training, have them be a little friendlier…everything will be great! But according to the lean manufacturing philosophy, the idea of customer value goes far deeper—to the very roots of your company’s organization and processes.
What is Lean Manufacturing?
Lean manufacturing is a set of principles designed to help your business provide maximum value to your customer with the minimum amount of resources. In short, it’s a technique that allows you to identify precisely what your customer wants from you and figure out how to bring that value to them more quickly, while eliminating anything in your processes that doesn’t directly contribute to that customer value.
Lean manufacturing first became popularly associated with Toyota and their new production system in the 1980’s, “TPS”. Toyota had set out to become more successful than Ford and their other counterparts despite a lack of infrastructure and resources. They achieved this through the application Lean principles and manufacturing tools.
Even though lean manufacturing has commonly been associated with literal manufacturing environments, it is just as applicable (and potentially even more so) to customer-facing and service industries.
Regardless of your industry, every single function of any business has a customer and purpose. What does that customer want, and how you can deliver it to them when they need it in an efficient way every time?
How to Implement Lean Principles
“Awesome”, you’re thinking, “clearly our company could be leaner. But where do I start?”
Never fear! Here are some tips for successfully launching a lean take-over, along with a few actionable examples of small steps you can take today to improve customer value with lean principles.
1) Have a Plan
Lean principles can’t take hold without a clear strategy. After identifying spots in which your company could be leaner; prioritize them. Decide as a team which to attack first. Be sure to anticipate problems along the way by strategizing recovery scenarios and allowing needed recovery time.
When prioritizing your projects, be realistic about your timeline. By choosing a huge project off the bat, you are risking a lot if it fails on the first try. Choose a mid-sized project that will have a clearly measurable effect, but won’t bring your business crashing down if it bombs the first time out.
2) Bring Your Entire Team Onboard
You must enlist the help of coaches and mentors. If the desire to shift towards a lean philosophy is not shared by members of the organization at all levels, it will fail. It must be a top-to-bottom cultural shift. It is especially important that you enlist the support of respected, passionate, and powerful team members who hold some sway over the team. Everyone is resistant to change, no matter whether positive or not. Ease the pain by getting a few of your biggest cheerleaders on board.
You must also be sure to engage all of your employees. The people doing the real day-to-day work of the company will typically have a much clearer picture of where corners can be cut and value increased. If you leave them out, and instead make your Lean Plan a management level discussion, you risk your plan bottoming out without the necessary information and commitment.
3) Appoint a Scrum-Master
If you’re in the software development space, adopting the Scrum Methodology can deliver leaner results. The Scrum philosophy is all about having your team each attack small-picture pieces of the project, working towards a deadline where each small piece will be put together to create the big-picture product.
This focuses on real-world results rather than sitting on a product forever, relying on speculation. It saves time, energy, and resources to look at the real world application of a product and then fixing bugs, rather than sitting on it for months only to find there are more issues anyway (there always are).
4) Keep Meetings Small
We’ve talked about the love-hate relationship we all have with meetings before, but let’s revisit it to discuss meetings from a lean and cost effective point of view.
You are paying for every person sitting in that meeting to be there. Is this meeting truly the best use of time for each of them? Ensure that every person at your meeting has a tangible reason for being there. “Just to stay in the loop” isn’t enough anymore. There’s email for that, bro.
According to an infographic by Atlassian, $37 billion is the estimated salary cost for US business. How’s that to scare you into some Lean Principle implementation?
5) Simplify Video Chatting Technology
Imagine you’re a vendor asking a prospective new client for twenty minutes to give a sales pitch over video chat. Except, the video chat service you’re using requires a download, and the prospective customer doesn’t realize until the moment that the virtual meeting is meant to start that they need to download a new software in order to view the presentation. The process of downloading and installing the software takes nearly 15 minutes, by which point the prospective customer is stressed and annoyed, and you’ve lost valuable time that you could have spent pitching your product. That’s no way to gain a new customer!
It has been projected that live video chat will be the wave of the future, particularly for companies with Customer Service departments, necessitating that sleek, efficient options be found to ease instantaneous troubleshooting for customers.
By switching to a sleeker video chatting option like Sococo, customer representatives can eliminate the need for the client to download extra software or spend time dialing in. Sococo users can simply send a link to their virtual cubicle, and with one click, your prospective customer has access to instant video, audio, and screen share technology. Simple!
Stay Focused On the Customer
While cutting costs and avoiding wasted funds is a benefit of the lean philosophy, remember that the point here is to improve your customer value. If you are enter your lean manufacturing make-over focused solely on internal costs, you will lose the end-goal, which is customer value.
Yes, you may cut costs by eliminating waste in the company’s processes, but you will not increase demand or customer satisfaction. And what’s the point of producing a more cost-effective product if nobody wants to buy it?