A Customer Service Story

A funny thing happened on the way to discovering the Lead Time

Dear Customer,

During our phone conversation yesterday, when you asked me how long before we could ship our product to you, I went about researching the lead time for our top selling product. I looked in the system and found that the lead time is 3 days. But then I was told that I was looking in the wrong spot and found a different screen that showed that the lead time is 36 days. My co-workers told me that this is not the number I’m supposed to tell you either. Upon further exploring, it turns out there isn’t a place in the computer system that provides the lead time that I’m supposed to tell to you.

So, I talked to the manufacturing team and they said the lead time was four weeks, which I interpret as either 20 days or 28 days, depending on whether we use 5-day weeks or 7-day weeks. But that also isn’t the number I’m supposed to tell to you.

I checked with my manager and was told that the lead time for this product at this time of the year, due to seasonality and availability of labor is anywhere from 14 to 40 days. This is the number (or more accurately the range of numbers) that I’m supposed to tell to you. And, we’ll let you know once you pay for the parts when you can expect them, with no real commitment from us, just a ballpark – you understand.

But my company wants me to be honest and transparent, so I did some further checking. For a fairly large expedite fee, you can have the parts tomorrow because for a large amount of money, we will delay our commitments to other customers so that you can have your parts first.

However, my parents taught me that the customer is always right. And, with my job being called Customer Service, I take my responsibilities very seriously. So, I walked around the shop until I found the product of which you are in desperate need.

Please find that product (with my compliments) attached to this letter, along with my resume.


John Melbye, FBD (Frustrated, but dedicated.)

P.S. For manufacturers or anyone with inventory, please spend some time researching Demand Driven Material Requirements Planning. There are better solutions to the above scenario that allows you to focus on capability, agility and flow. This leads to better customer service and improved ROI, while reducing overall inventory and changing the game with regard to employee frustration.

Find out more about DDMRP by registering with Become Demand Driven for free or to learn more about the author of this masterpiece, John Melbye.

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