- This is bullshit! – shouted the customer and suddenly caught the ashtray from the table and dropped it towards my colleague. The massive object hit the head of the guy. Silence spread over the room.
This story happened a long time ago. I traveled to the Far-East to present our actions to the OEM customer. That time I did not understand what happened, how it could go so wrong.
No question, physical aggression is not acceptable, not even from the customer. However, this memory accompanied me over the years.
Why did not the customer understand us? How could he not see that we were explaining the real cause and the effective corrective action?
Indeed, the English could be an issue as none of us was a native speaker. But that does not explain everything.
The first reaction, which lasted several years: the customer did not have the patience to understand us, probably he had no idea about our manufacturing process.
Now I have a different opinion.
I still believe that the customer was rude and behaved unacceptably.
We can not change such people. However, we can change our communication.
I realized that as a quality expert, I only might speak about facts supported by data.
We have to rule out all emotions from our presentations about quality issues and the solutions.
Our intention should be to prove the direct connection between the root cause and the rejected part.
Saying that the root cause is XXX is not enough – we must have evidence about it, the best if we can reproduce the failure. Same about the corrective actions. Have a study behind the correction, which proves its effectiveness.
Use well-known quality tools, e.g., 5Why analysis (for occurrence, escape, and the system as well), fishbone but with verifications behind, capability analysis, MSA studies, etc.
I had customers from the USA, Mexico, Brazil, China, India, South Korea, and many European countries. They behave differently. They have their communication style, English knowledge, familiarity with the process, and product.
Many of them will shout first over the phone, they will explain how stupid and incompetent you, as a supplier are.
Our target should be to improve the relationships with the customer, therefore we must eliminate all emotions and unnecessary arguments without facts, which are not based on data.
They all speak the quality language. Customers will have their confidence in you and your implemented actions if you use the quality tools properly.
Do not try to change the customer. Change your communication.
As always, think in system with Pro Automotive.
If you are interested in reading articles about automotive quality management topics, best practices, case studies, follow Pro Automotive.