This post may sound a little off topic, but there’s an important manufacturing angle. So bear with me.
I’m mad as Hell. I’ve been dealing with my insurance company for the past two days, but don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with what happened when I dialed the 800 number, and how, once they e-mailed me the forms, blah, blah, blah. Still, the experience made me reflect on my most recent post about manufacturing “idea guru” Doug Hall, and what he had to say about the corporate mentality.
One component of that mentality, in my own opinion, is what I call the dominance of “good enough.” What follows is some insider information about how that mentality works in the insurance industry. Then we’ll see how it applies – or doesn’t apply – to manufacturing.
One of the hottest buzzwords in insurance, as well as banking and financial services, is what’s called “business process automation” or BPA. The goal of BPA is to eliminate as many human beings as possible from the process of adjudicating an insurance claim, issuing a credit card, etc.
For reasons that aren’t relevant here, I became somewhat of an expert on BPA a while back, and here’s what the insurance companies don’t tell you in their advertising. Their systems are not designed to handle exceptions very well. Anybody who’s waited half an hour after dialing the 800 number may already suspect this. But, the fact is, those long waits are a conscious decision.
It’s more profitable, the thinking goes, to have the system fail for a small percentage of customers, if it works in an automated fashion for the majority.
In other words, large corporations are buying information technology systems to handle their customer interactions that fall into the “good enough” category.
It doesn’t matter how poor customer service may tarnish their reputation or infuriate their customers. The only thing that matters is what can be expressed in numbers.
In my view, that’s exactly the kind of thinking that got the Detroit 3 in so much trouble. And maybe, in huge bureaucracies, “good enough” thinking the only kind of thinking that’s possible.
Small manufacturers have another option. Their companies can stand for something. Like quality.
The fact of the matter is, “good enough” isn’t good enough for American manufacturing companies. Low wage countries are gradually cornering the “good enough” market. We have to do better.I’ll get off my soapbox now. Thanks for listening