What Customers Really Want And How You Can Give It To Them

Posted by on Sep 5, 2021 in Lean | 0 comments

All customers want the same thing when it comes to purchasing a product or service.  They want one that performs the tasks they need to be done works when it is supposed to, and costs as little as possible.  They want the product or service now and do not wish to wait.  They want their questions answered promptly and correctly.  They don’t really care about guarantees or warranties; what they want are no problems.  They don’t want to return to have something fixed; they want zero defects from the outset.

In Lean, we call this value and define it as “anything your customer is willing to pay for.”

When assessing value in your organization, you need to evaluate three dimensions related to your customers. They are:

  • The external end-user customer.
  •  The downstream customer of any internal upstream process.
  •  Your organization is the customer of external suppliers. 

You should ask your customers periodically how your products and services compare to their expectations in terms of:

  • Price
  • Quality
  • On-time and reliable delivery
  • Rapid response to changing needs
  • Other requirements

To create value for your customers, you must conduct a series of steps properly in the correct sequence. These steps collectively are what are called the VALUE STREAM for each product. 

Ask the following fundamental questions about each step:

  • Is the step VALUABLE? Would the customer be equally happy with the product if the action could be left out? If the latter is the case, the effort is, at best, what we would call “incidental work” and what we call Waste. You must get rid of it as soon as you can! 
  • Is the step CAPABLE? Can it be conducted with the same result every time?
  • Is the step AVAILABLE? That is, can it be performed whenever it is needed? Or is the step subject to breakdowns and varying cycle times, so you are never sure what will happen?
  • Is the step ADEQUATE? Is there capacity to perform it exactly when the value stream requires it?
  • Is the step FLEXIBLE? Can it shift over quickly from making one type of product to making another type immediately? And can it change over without compromising capability, availability, and adequacy? Flexibility is the key to rapid response to changing customer desires while avoiding the inefficient production of big batches.

If all the steps in your value streams are valuable, capable, available, adequate, and flexible, you are well on your way. What remains is to perfect the linkage between the steps.

  • Does the product FLOW from one step to the next with no delay? 
  • Does the product only FLOW at the PULL of the next downstream step? The commodity should only flow at the command of the next step downstream.
  • Is the flow LEVELED back from the customer to the extent possible? Leveling permits every step in the whole value stream to operate smoothly while still satisfying the customer with exactly what they need when it is required.

Continually asking and addressing these questions will help you provide the products and services your customers expect and deserve.

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