Customer Service

Jim Womack, acronyms, and Japanese words, oh my!

If you found yourself walking into a room full of lean thinkers for the first time, you may think everyone was speaking another language. And you’d probably be right. Amidst some recognizable English, you’d probably hear a smattering of acronyms and Japanese words that would probably sounds somewhere between Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam and Klingon.

Jim Womack (Lean Enterprise Institute) introduced a new one to me a month ago and it just today gained some relevance in my life: RFTOT. Over the last couple of days I have been trying to work through and issue with my web hosting company that has resulted in a combination of emails and phone calls that have still not satisfactorily resolved my quandary.

RFTOT to the rescue! What the world needs now is probably not another acronym, but Jim Womack introduced a new one to me in his February newsletter (found here, login required but free). RFTOT is “right the first time on time”. Here’s an excerpt from what he has to say about servicing products:

My conclusion: There is a missing link between the world’s brilliant objects –- now cheaper and better in many cases because of lean thinking applied to their design and manufacture –- and support for these objects through their lives. And Lean Thinkers now need to bridge this gap.

RFTOT is a measurement to determine how frequently customers are serviced right the first time on time. A great metric to solidify trust with your customers…and of course this could be both internally and externally. In my case current issue with my hosting company, my belief is that their focus may be on another metric, which is strictly response time to the concern.

Jim expanded my Japanese vocab today with “yokoten” which is “the term Toyota uses for the horizontal transfer of information and knowledge across an organization”. Jim states that “From the beginning I have wanted LEI to be a force for yokoten”. To back this up, today he announced the launch of a non-profit Lean Global Network at For great resources and information, check that out and check out his main site at as well.

By |2008-03-06T23:10:23+00:00March 6th, 2008|Customer Service, Manufacturing, People|0 Comments

Taco Bell versus US Bank

…in a showdown of customer service.

People talk about empowerment. And I was surprised to see that a Taco Bell franchise in Bloomington, MN is actually empowering their employees. After eating my meal there, I was still hungry and noticed on the menu: “Caramel Apple Empanada”. I went back to the counter and asked, “What is that?”. The employee explained that its kind of like an apple pie. I said I would like one, he told me it would be a dollar, and I was going to pay, and then he said, “I’ll let you try one, and if you like it, you can get it again sometime.” Wow! This is Taco Bell! Can he do that? Not charge me? Only mom-and-pop stores have that kind of authority, right? He actually is thinking about future business and customer service. Incredible.

So, the antithesis in my realm of experience is US Bank. Granted, I’m going to describe my only encounter with US Bank, and probably countless people have positive experiences with them, but mine was an example of a non-empowered employee to make a decision that might impact someone’s impression of US Bank and the potential for future business.

So I was in West St. Paul, MN and needed my car washed. I did not have any cash, and needed cash (and of course, quarters) to wash my car. So I went to the cash machine at a US Bank a block from the car wash. I got $20, which of course was in the form of a twenty dollar bill. The quarter-changer at the car wash only took $5-bills or smaller, so now I needed smaller denominations. I pulled forward about 30 feet from the US Bank cash machine to the US Bank drive through teller. I explained I just wanted to change my twenty-dollar bill for some fives. The teller said, “OK, just a minute.” A moment later she returned at the window and said, “Are you a customer with US Bank?” I said no. She said she could not make change unless I was a US Bank customer. I told her I just got the cash from their cash machine (where I paid a $2 service fee to US Bank) and just wanted change. She said she couldn’t do it. Now that is first of all, a poor policy in my mind, and also an extreme lack of empowerment for the employee to be able to make a decision about assisting a non-US Bank customer, who will probably now never become one.

I proceeded to pull in NEXT DOOR to the TCF Bank drive through teller, who proceeded to give me the change I wanted. Can you believe that he did that? I wasn’t even a TCF customer and he gave me change? Notice also that I did not even pay a TCF ATM charge. He just gave me change. Amazing!

By |2007-09-20T10:19:49+00:00September 20th, 2007|Customer Service|Comments Off on Taco Bell versus US Bank