Customer Service

We Thrive. ASSA ABLOY EMS in Phoenix

At Lean Technologies, we are focused on solving customer problems and providing year over year value to client organizations. One such client is ASSA ABLOY where we work with a number of the North America sites. Although the name ASSA ABLOY may not yet be a household name in North America, you are likely to be familiar with one of their many popular brands of entry systems. In fact, you probably scanned an access card, turned a handle, or walked through one of their doors the last time you entered a school, hotel, hospital, or workplace. ASSA ABLOY is the global leader in door opening solutions and a market leader in most of Europe, North America, South America, China and Oceania. The EMS Division plant in Phoenix, AZ called upon Thrive Goal Boards to solve a particular need on the plant floor to monitor production activity, provide real time feedback to the operators, communicate performance to management, and track day to day performance gains.

The operations team leaders at ASSA ABLOY EMS were gracious enough to sit down with a video crew so we could share a little bit of their Thrive experience with the rest of the world. We are thankful for their willingness to participate in this video and continued use of Thrive throughout their organization.


For more information, contact the Lean Tech team at or fill out the contact form on our website


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Not interested in shoes, how about pizza?

This post was inspired by my wife and "On being nimble versus visionary" over at the Learning About Lean blog.

2950127087_d726f8a527_m Now is certainly a time in the business environment to be flexible.  To be adaptable.  To grab opportunity when others sit back and watch.  And the airport shuttle guy in the airport in Mexico was the ultimate example of this.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Me, looking for flight arrival information because we are waiting for passengers on another flight, approaching a man who is clearly affiliated with a shuttle service to take people to hotels:  "Where could we find flight information?"

Him, determining that my needs don’t directly match his services, but realizing there may be an opportunity for a different business opportunity to occur: "Where would you like to fly to?"

Wow.  In a span of about 2 seconds this man determined that although I wasn’t looking for his driving services I had created a market for him to provide other services and he immediately switched his business model to "I am now a travel agent"!  It would have been interesting to see if I had carried that conversation farther how he would have met that set of needs.

As referenced by the "On being nimble versus visionary" blog entry, a financial manager made this comment in an email:

"We stand resolved that the ability to react is now more important than the ability to predict."

The service provider in Mexico certainly realized this.  Without being able to predict what market needs might be walking off the airplane, he was ready to react and grab opportunity.

And this doesn’t have to be limited to small organizations (i.e. the Mexico shuttle service). has numerous stories of delivery exceptional customer service outside of their "core" competency of providing shoes.  Here’s just one where people called customer service looking for the closest pizza delivery service!

Photo credit, Emery Way

By |2009-03-03T11:58:39+00:00March 3rd, 2009|Business, Customer Service, People|0 Comments

Health care: Little House on the Prairie style

Remember when Dr. Baker on Little House on the Prairie went to the homes of the people who were ill?  That would never work today, would it?

Well don’t tell Jay Parkinson that.  When he finished residency, he was determined to revolutionize health care by personalizing it.  Here’s some of what he has to say:

My goal was to just provide a super easy visit for people.

I designed my own web site, people would go to my site, visit my site, see my Google calendar, choose their own time, tell me their symptoms, my iPhone alerts me, I do a house call, and they pay me via PayPal.

Talk about wow (first learned of this “Dr. Wow” video from Jeff Jarvis).

Jay Parkinson at Pop!Tech from Jay Parkinson on Vimeo.

So why is it relevant here?  Jay recognizes the simplicity of his solution and its similarity to another effective, CUSTOMER CENTRIC solution:

Really, it was the Toyota Way.  It was lean.  It enabled me to practice medicine and solve 90% of the problems.

Jay has gotten a lot of buzz, and that’s because he’s delivering a very important value: personalized, easy-to-do-business-with healthcare.

By |2008-12-01T09:43:02+00:00December 1st, 2008|Customer Service, Healthcare, Innovation, People|0 Comments

The importance of customer empathy

An importance emphasis in lean is a focus on the customer.  Dev Patnaik has released a book called "Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy" (web site, book).  I’ve just read one of the sample chapters online (introduction), and in that section highlights how the bigger an organization gets, the more difficult it becomes to maintain the focus on customer empathy:

Simply put, we’re wired to care. We rely on those instincts to help us make better decisions in situations that affect the folks around us. Unfortunately, that instinct seems to get short circuited when we get together in large groups. We lose our intuition, our gut sense for what’s going on outside of that group. Corporations become more insular. Colleges start to feel like ivory towers. Political campaigns take on a “bunker mentality.” That sort of isolation can have disastrous effects because these same institutions depend on the outside world for revenues and reputation and votes.

So what’s the solution?  How do you keep your organization to maintain its focus on why you’re even in business?  I don’t know yet, but you can check out some more excerpts or buy the book!

By |2008-11-24T15:33:00+00:00November 24th, 2008|Books, Customer Service, People|0 Comments

Unto the least of these…

Surprisingly great example of how to treat customers (thanks to Evolving Excellence)…surprising because it is coming out of the airline industry.  Some true servant leadership is being displayed by United Airlines captain Denny Flanagan.  Imagine being stuck at the airport and having the captain buy you lunch?  (insert your own joke about pigs flying here).

An example of un-servant leadership (?) (disservice leadership?) was displayed here.  This is a situation that should have every business saying, "make sure we never put someone through this."  (it’s all about micro-interactions, right?)

And, for more info on how to succeed in providing a positive customer experience, check out this free pamphlet-book-handout thingy (only 12 pages): "The 6 Laws of Customer Experience: The Fundamental Truths that Define how Organizations Treat Customers".  One item author Bruce Temkin discusses in this booklet is the importance of everyone in an organization understanding customers:

Since many of the decisions that impact customers aren’t debated or discussed, they just happen, it helps for as many people as possible to understand customers.

And continuing my stream-of-consciousness, Bruce’s discussion reminded me of this white paper (Zero Time Thinking), which I read nearly eight years ago, about "zero-time" organizations, which are capable (empowered) to bring all necessary resources to bear on any situation to solve problems or customer needs.

How about that for an onslaught of customer experience thoughts!

By |2008-07-25T06:30:29+00:00July 25th, 2008|Business, Customer Service|0 Comments

Small is a weapon, not an excuse

Seth Godin posted that on his blog today.  It may become my new mantra.  When I first started Lean Technologies, I was nervous talking to people because of how small we were (are).  Eventually I realized how smallness is part of my advantage.  In fact, it was the "largeness" of other software companies that got me into this in the first place.  The "largeness" that: couldn’t give me personal service, didn’t know how customers actually used their product, couldn’t implement new features quickly, and couldn’t even understand the problems with their own applications.  All of these are things that are easily accomplished when you’re small.   I realize now how much my customers value these items.  If you want pre-packaged solutions with impersonal service, there are plenty of choices.  If you want someone to build an application who understands your situation, small may well be your best choice.  Check out these guitars, that Seth also refers to, for an example.

By |2008-07-15T09:19:28+00:00July 15th, 2008|Business, Customer Service, People|0 Comments

Micro-interactions with customers

David Armano has an excellent post on "micro-interactions" with customers on his blog.  I am often amazed how companies and/or people do not realize the impact their encounter with you, even a small encounter, will have on gaining your trust for further interactions.

My friend recently took a coupon to a franchise restaurant to buy his family a meal "to-go".  Although the coupon was valid for each paying customer, they would not honor the coupon because the rest of his family was not present (they were at the park waiting for Dad to bring the food).  My friend proceeded to cancel his order and will now not be eating there ever again.  Should remind you, on a smaller scale, of the Disney story above (go read it if you haven’t already).

On the positive side of things, I always take my car to Pella Car Care.  Why?  Because every time I call, they know when I’m calling what cars I drive…when I have my car serviced, they take detailed pictures of what they saw as they repaired my car and explain the service they have provided…and they smile when I walk through the door!

By |2008-07-06T21:05:53+00:00July 6th, 2008|Business, Customer Service, Life, People|0 Comments

Value your customers…and mean it

I just received an email in my inbox regarding a (complimentary) magazine subscription that states:

You have been part of a select group of senior IT professionals who rely on [Magazine Name] to bring them 50 issues per year loaded with unique editorial and in-depth analysis for business technology buyers.

Okay, so how big is a "select group"?  Let’s imagine it’s 100.  So is there really a company that’s willing to produce 50 complimentary issues of a magazine that is "loaded" with stuff for only a select group of people?  C’mon.  I will continue to subscribe to this complimentary magazine, but not because I feel like I’m in a "select group" of people who are receiving it.  If I were really in a select group, would I receive an impersonal email about my subscription?  Don’t associate the wrong kind of value with the message being delivered.  There is nothing "select" about being on an email blast.

If you truly value your customers, that’s great.  Then make sure the delivery method and message match appropriately.  A phone call makes me feel a little more select (unless it’s coming from a hired call center, of course).  If you are going to throw out a mass email, don’t try to persuade the recipient that they really are special with your words.

What you are shouts so loudly in my ears that I cannot hear what you are saying. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you are an email, you’re not fooling anyone with your fancy wording!

By |2008-06-23T10:24:15+00:00June 23rd, 2008|Business, Customer Service|0 Comments

Customer Experience Rant

I’d better take a deep breath. And before I go into my experience, suffice it to say that I did fill out a feedback form on the company web site, so I am at least trying to do due diligence in giving them an opportunity to improve. But some of these opportunities for improvement seem so obvious, I can’t believe I have to write about them.

Yesterday, I went to renew my McAfee product. I’m going to bullet this to try to keep myself brief:

  • Initial renewal screen offers me new products, but no comparison to my existing product
  • “Comparison” chart is two links deep, and only offered in a small link that you have to search for on the right side of the screen called “Product Comparison”
  • “Product Comparison” screen provides me zero detail, or even a link to detail, about the individual components of the products (what is “Improves PC Health” exactly? and what is “Site Advisor Plus” and why does it not even show that some of the products come with “Site Advisor” and what’s the difference between the two?)
  • I had to call sales to get a description of the detail
  • Finally, I decided on my product, and conveniently in my shopping cart for me was a $12.95 recovery CD, even though I’m pretty sure I could always download the product if I needed it.
  • Made my purchase, and then viewed my products available for downloading (see pic below).


  • Clicked the “Download/Install” button and the installation process would begin.
  • Installation would be about 95% complete when I would receive a cryptic “Download error: 12002”
  • Spent 40 minutes in two separate online chat conversations with tech support, and at least an extra hour on my own fiddling with stuff trying to get it to install
  • Finally found out from tech support that since my new product subscription doesn’t start until 5/2/2008, that the installation won’t work until then…well why even have a download button!? Why even get me 95% through the installation and then provide a message that amounts to “something’s broken”!? How about a message that says, “This won’t work until your start date.”

And how about actually talking to someone, rather than on online chat. Which reminds me of an interesting thing I learned from Fast Company’s Bill Taylor a couple weeks ago at the Advance conference (put on by Maximum Impact). There’s a web site with “codes” for many companies to get past the phone menus and talk to a real live person! Wow! The site is

By |2008-04-29T08:30:59+00:00April 29th, 2008|Business, Customer Service|0 Comments
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