Engineers have a lot to do, even after they've solved a customer's complaint.
Diary of an Engineer: A Dubious Inheritance
Our company redesigned a valve that was giving us constant manufacturing problems. Having inherited the project from an engineer that was leaving, The first priority became redesigning a valve that would operate reliably at all times. After completing the drawing, the valve was built and tested. I was told the only work still needed was a-single drawing. But shortly after receiving the new valve, an overseas customer complained it did not shift reliably.
After reviewing all the project information, it became clear the valve did not meet customer specifications. The first priority became redesigning a valve that would operate reliably at all times. This involved spending a week with the customer.
After the redesign, I thought about my actions that had let this happen. My major error was taking the project without doing a review of my own. Instead, I took the project further down the-wrong path. In particular, I did not double-check with the marketing department for all known critical specifications, and this project certainly had some.
Upon closing out this project, I issued a memo to all departments regarding mistakes and out-lined steps I felt necessary to prevent similar problems. I also made sure everyone in my department was briefed on this informaton. Although laying out one's own errors for public consumption is scary, often it is the only way to let the lessons shine through.
KEEPING IN TOUCH
After an engineer helps resolve a customer complaint, it's customary to move right on to the next. So if an engineer doesn't hear from the customer, he assumes no news is good news. Why look for problems? But follow-up calls can be critical. They let companies:
- Maintain a positive, professional image.
- Reinforce customer confidence in its customer-service commitment, technical abilities, and ethics.
- Demonstrate that its products are high quality.
- Cement relationships with the customer to increase the likelihood of future sales.
- Get feedback on what the customer thought of the process used to solve his initial problem, making note of areas that can be improved.
- Intervene early to prevent new problems for the customer.
- Gather information to improve employee training in best customer-service practices.
- Uncover new sales opportunities.
Follow-up calls should follow a script to ensure all necessary information is gathered. It should go something like this:
- Establish human contact with your customer. Depending on your relationship with the customer, ask about family or hobbies. Be sure to ask how business is going and take note of new projects in the works.
- Ask about the past problem. See if it has returned. If so, go back into "fix mode." Follow through by getting details, then work with your team to thoroughly solve the problem. If everything is fine, ask about the status of other equipment your company supplies that he uses.
- Ask if your company can help on any new or ongoing projects.
- Ask if there is anything else your company can do.
- Confirm that it's acceptable for you to call back and check in again. If not, ask the customer to initiate the call, stating that their feedback is important to your company.
- Always end the call by thanking the customer sincerely for their time and business.