In the utility industry, lack of concern for the needs of the internal customer can be disastrous. Failure to inform any of the internal customers in "the grid," or the transmission and distribution system, of scheduled maintenance affecting power production could mean a loss of power for thousands of external customers. The transmission and distribution providers that buy and sell electricity to keep the electrical "pipeline" filled and pressurized, much like maintaining the water pressure in your home, are dependent upon the main power stations upstream to generate power. Interruption in this power generation does not allow them to service their internal customers, the regional substations. If these substations cannot receive enough power for their end customers, the result is brownouts or complete power loss for some sectors. Each of the players in the electricity distribution system relies upon the others to keep them informed and on the same timetable so that
power is available to any external customer requiring it.
The Chrysler Corporation views dealership service quality as essential to its reputation and profits. Its new Five Star dealer quality program uses common measurement, quality, and participation methods with its dealerships in an attempt to enhance the corporate reputation and focus the dealership on the external customer. In addition to all the measurement going on, this program uses the services of numerous field representatives to work with dealers and teach, train, encourage, and coach the dealer managers and staff. A validation team then comes in to determine if the dealer is ready to be certified as a Five Star dealer. If the validation team feels the dealer is ready, the certification team comes in (after a three-month "cure" period) and certification is either granted or the dealer is recommended for further training. As you can see, Chrysler has invested a great deal of time and money in this program because it believes
that increased staff participation will lead to successful continuous improvement within all dealerships, especially Five Star certified ones. Chrysler's attempt to improve service to its external customer through improved service to its internal customer is unusual in that its internal customers consist of a diverse group of independently owned businesses.
Norman Clark, an attorney and principal of the international consulting firm of Altman Weil Pensa, Inc., asserts that every law office is a web of internal customer-supplier relationships. He uses the diagram in Figure 2 to illustrate these relationships. Clark states that the internal customer is not exactly like a client, but needs to be treated as if he or she were one. This is because failure of a law firm to deliver quality to its customers is rarely one person's mistake. The failure can usually be traced to a breakdown in the internal customer-supplier relationship. He affirms that poor client service is almost always a systemic problem, not an individual one, and the waste created by breakdowns in the internal relationships can adversely affect profitability. Examples of internal customer-supplier relationship breakdowns in the law firm include legal research time
wasted because the issue was not clearly defined for the paralegal, documents created in the wrong format that have to be redone, two associates doing the same work on the same matter, rescheduling meetings because an attendee was not made aware of the need to prepare materials for it, and errors that could have been avoided with adequate training.
To Be Continued
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