The Voices of Quality
A recent car-shopping experience provided a good illustration of two Six Sigma concepts: the voice of the process (VOP) and the voice of the customer (VOC).
Scenario: Winter rains have wreaked havoc on our already pathetic rural road in the hills outside of Santa Maria, Calif., making our daily commute a white-knuckle adventure (not to mention a chiropractic experience). While our AWD SUV has served us well over many years, we’ve come to the conclusion that it’s definitely time for something beefier. After weeks of research, we basically narrowed our search down to two potential 4WD vehicles.
VOC: My wife and I require a highly-capable 4WD vehicle that will meet our basic transportation needs despite inclement weather.
VOP: Dealer will provide a vehicle that meets the requirements of the VOC.
Vehicle #1 Dealer
Although the online research we had done on vehicle #1 was impressive, our initial live encounter was not. A young, inexperienced salesperson with little knowledge of the vehicle took us on a lackluster test drive, an experience that left us underwhelmed with any sense of the vehicle’s off-road features and capabilities.
Vehicle #2 Dealer
A highly knowledgeable and experienced salesperson spent two hours educating us regarding the vehicle’s off-road features, including an impressive off-road test drive demonstrating the actual capability of the vehicle. We almost bought one on the spot.
Vehicle #1 Dealer, Take Two, Three…
Still wanting to compare vehicles, we made several subsequent attempts to find a knowledgeable salesperson to help us sort through the myriad of 4WD features. We finally connected with someone who intelligently answered all our questions (minus the sales-pitch). Satisfied, we were ready to take the next step and purchase vehicle #2. A few days later we get a call from the dealership informing us that their inventory system indicated that a vehicle that matched our specifications, would be arriving in two weeks, and could be reserved with a deposit. We made an appointment to close the deal, but while we were signing the documents we were informed the vehicle had already been spoken for two days ago! We were stunned speechless, no one bothered to check the inventory before making the appointment with us. After a cursory apology, our salesperson immediately re-directed the conversation to pricing, assuming I guess, that we would order one – a three to four month wait.
The dealer for vehicle #2 was able to meet the VOC; the dealer for vehicle #1 was not. Because of its defective inventory process dealer #1 failed to meet the VOC, resulting in the subsequent loss of the sale. (We eventually bought the car from another dealer in our area.) Remember, the only basic requirement for the VOP was to provide the vehicle. Before we can attempt to meet the VOC, the VOP must be consistently reliable. Indeed, most of our quality nightmares are the direct result of poor process control.
Over the next few blogs we will unpack the importance of defining the VOC and performing the VOP through the examination of the Breakthrough Formula.
Gordon Rivera is a graphic communication lecturer at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo and is the supervisor of Campus Graphics, an in-plant provider of traditional and digital media for Allan Hancock College, a community college in Santa Maria, Calif. He is a certified G7 Print Professional and has successfully completed both Lean/Six Sigma training and a Black Belt level project. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org regarding your print experiences in the pursuit of quality.