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Richard "Dick" Lange, circa late 1950s


Let me state upfront that my father was a pharmacist and so was my father-in-law. These two men took their jobs very seriously and had incredible attention-to-detail. They weren’t afraid to call doctors if they thought a mistake had been made or make sure their own assistants had verified all information. My father’s been gone these past ten years, but my father-in-law is still around. His insurance company keeps wanting him to switch to mail order prescriptions, but since he does not trust those organizations, that won’t happen any time soon.

Wish I could say that my experiences with our mail order prescription company have proven him wrong.

Even if the company had never made a mistake—which is not true—just their turnaround time alone hardly seems acceptable. I realize my father lived in a different era, but he made sure that the patients got the prescriptions before he went home. My father-in-law even worked Easter, for goodness’ sake. Two weeks after the company receives a prescription, they get the medication into our home? Just in their time, not ours, right?

Slow service seems bad enough, yet that’s not our only problem with them. Apparently their system isn’t set up well to reconcile prescription order forms with on-file records. Because our kids have been in college, their mailing addresses have changed a few times. And some glitch in their system keeps old addresses available on their end even after we’ve removed them on our end.

Twice in the last six months the company has sent our prescription orders to the wrong location, despite having received the proper mailing address on the mailing form. The company employed no heroic methods to get us the prescription at the correct address, even after admitting the errors came on their end. Whenever there has been a problem, I could rely on spending around an hour on the phone discussing the problem before the company took any steps to resolve the problem.

I’m not going to bore you with the details, but I think it’s unacceptable that this company mails prescriptions to the wrong addresses. And, that they don’t seem to have a plan devised for hurrying corrections through their system.

You don’t have to be a pharmacist to read the addresses on an order form, but the pharmacists I knew would be upset that their hard work wasn’t enough to take care of the customers’ health care needs in a timely manner. Does it make sense that I can order a comforter for my bed and rely on receiving it faster than I can get a prescription?

Health care reform needs to start by making sure all providers still care about their patients’ health, whether or not they see them face to face. Tell me we’re not out of time to fix that part of the system—just in time shouldn’t have to be a term reserved for a nostalgic period when providers busted their butts so that patients could begin treatments in a timely manner.

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(c) 2011 Christiana Lambert

I don’t write fiction—yet. OK, since I helped my coaching client write some fictional scenes, I guess I do write fiction—un peu, seulement. That’s about all the French I remember, and for over 30 years I’ve believed it stands for “only a little” or something like that.

Hey, how hard could it be? I can just do as many other newbie fiction writers do and compose a story based around a thinly-veiled version of me and my life. What, you’re not into “little domestic” tales? No drug addictions, no affairs, no edgy lifestyle? Well, I do want my stories to stand out, you know.

Don’t laugh, but Everywoman is mad as hell about companies that don’t think about the customer and she has lots of company. Don’t believe me? Just monitor what some of your Facebook friends are saying.

However, I’ll admit that my conversations with the front line people at these companies are not that exciting. But they could be . . .

Over a month ago I was just trying to have a new dryer that worked. It’s good to have goals, even if they’re only little domestic goals. (Sorry, just gotta’ keep throwing in the snide words from a comment I received from a judge about my “nice little domestic” poem—as if there is no angst in the domestic life.) Only I felt the company didn’t have the same commitment to that goal as I did. First of all, why would a brand new dryer not work? Yes, I bought it at the outlet store, but I presumed it was there because of the scratches and dents and how long it had been on the floor, not because it DID NOT WORK. You see, spending several hundred dollars for a hunk of metal is only valuable if said hunk of metal improves my life in some way.

Anyway, not only did I have to wait for repairs, but also for any parts that the tech discovered needed to be replaced upon completion of the first visit. I’m sorry, but the business concept of Just in Time (only keeping the bare minimum of inventory and ordering in the rest) only works if you can get the necessary merchandise quickly. So then I got to wait longer since their Just in Their Time system seemed more like Just Waste My Time to me. See how much angst a person can feel over having spent money for a product that only complicates domestic life until the customer has spent time sitting around at home waiting, not once, but twice, to get resolution.

So is it wrong that my nice little domestic problem led me to harbor thoughts of creating a character who went straight to the top of those corporations that dismissed the importance of the customer’s time and money—and maybe taught a few CEOs a lesson or two? I’m backing off from the word “murder” for now, but would it be OK if she made the CEO take my, I mean, her laundry to a Laundromat while she waited for her dryer to be repaired?

Just like any other newbie fiction writer, I might include the teensiest bits of my own stories in these tales, but seriously, if a certain company’s CEO turns up missing, it wasn’t me! Really—but check the Laundromat, just in case.

One man’s “simple” is another man’s “huh?”
David Stone

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

My policy: no attacking businesses by name in the blogosphere. Still, I want the business to understand my frustrations. To that order, I’ve voiced my opinions with four representatives so far. I’ve filled out the survey sent to me. I responded to the e-mail asking for contact information and a time so they could contact me—although they didn’t. But, as we all have to remember, e-mail messages don’t always go through, so maybe they thought I didn’t respond.

We promised our daughter she could get certain software as a Christmas gift, once the holidays had passed. Her brother also contributed to the gift. All we needed was for her to figure out the student discount and if she had to order online.

Sunday I let her handle the details of the ordering, using our saved account while I answered any questions she had in the process. She recognized we needed to update our credit card information, but didn’t realize our saved shipping address was for her dad’s old office address—I think they moved almost three years ago.

For legal purposes, I should have placed the order myself because it was with my credit card. Bare minimum, I needed to verify everything with my own eyes first before she pressed the “send” button. Years of working with both circulation and financial data have honed my eyes for errors.

So, when I received the order confirmation e-mail, I instantly noted the incorrect shipping address. Attempts to make the correction through the website, even with online chat feature, showed shipping corrections can only be made with phone representatives. I waited another half an hour to call since lunch would have gone cold otherwise.

I talked with a representative within two hours of the order’s placement. Too late—the order label had already printed. She would try to make corrections through the shipper.

The shipping confirmation I received the next day also showed the incorrect address. Within minutes of receiving the message, I called the retailer again. After fifteen minutes with another representative, I found out the exact time the previous day’s representative had sent new address information to the shipper.

When I talked to the shipping company’s representative, she said they had no record of any other address, plus she told me that, by contract, they were not authorized to accept address changes from anyone but the online retailer.

Back to the online retailer for a twenty minute conversation with a representative who told me the company’s goal is to expedite an order as soon as possible—which is why most packages are ready within three hours of receiving the order. I explained I had contacted them right away and had tried to correct our mistake upfront. He spoke with his supervisor and assured me the new address would most likely get scanned in next time the shipping company processed the package, but he would send another request just to reassure me. Then he mentioned the worst case scenario was that the shipper would attempt to deliver the package three times before it would be returned to the company. The retailer would remove the charge from my credit card and then start over to ship it to the correct address.

Huh?

I explained that their goal of expediting the order was great but they didn’t seem to have a good way to handle any changes in the process, even at the beginning. This customer might not receive the order for an extra two weeks. He was very polite, but hamstrung by the company’s process.

Today I discovered the package is on the truck—for delivery at the incorrect address. The shipper shows no other address. The shipping company tells me it is unlikely they would deliver three times first since the office is not located in the building at all.

Back to the retailer. A very polite representative promises the shipper should have the corrected information, which their system will note once the original address is rejected. If there were a problem I should have received an e-mail. (Not that e-mail message delivery is foolproof.) What should happen is the package will come back today, Friday, to the shipper. The shipper will reprocess based on the updated information, although there will likely be a day hold. Then it can go out on the truck, maybe on Tuesday.

Alrighty then.

I think I know how it works, just not why.

Just in Time is a great idea when a company has designed into the process how to deal with any complications. Designing efficient processes without thinking about exceptions can lead to other inefficiencies.

The retailer could have delayed this process in the beginning, by reprinting the label—and gotten the product to us sooner. They could even have a policy to charge us for doing so since it was our mistake. Instead, now another company has to go through the motions in order to find out there is mistake—despite being told of the mistake twice by the person receiving the package—before any corrections can be made.

Just in time—unless things don’t go as planned.

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