“Escalate, Only If Absolutely Necessary”

Jon Pederson by Jon Pederson 5.12.2009 3 comments

Escalate, Only If Absolutely Necessary

Broken Leg

Last summer one of my dining room chairs had a leg break off, half way down (a very odd location), but it looked like it was just a weak spot in the wood. Because it happened under normal use I felt I could go to the manufacture with a clear conscience and ask for it to be fixed. The manufacturer did replace the leg of the chair, but before I tell you how let me fast-forward to the present.

With my chair luck I broke a second chair, only this was a wheel off a rather expensive office chair. In this case it was entirely my fault. In a rage, I threw it out a second story window where it landed on the street and was hit by a tanker truck carrying cranberry juice… ok, so I may be exaggeration a bit. I wasn’t in a rage, and I didn’t throw it, and there was no truck, but I did have cranberry juice with breakfast that morning. Regardless, in this case the manufacturer (a different one from the first chair) also replaced the wheel.

Now let me tell you how these two different chair manufactures (we’ll call them Company 1 & Company 2) went about replacing the broken parts:

Company 1 (Dining Room Chair)

  • First they required several phone calls from me, then emails with photos as evidence, then review by their upper management.
  • I then had to follow up three times to find out the progress, which each time I called they realized they still needed to figure it out, and that I was not going away.
  • Finally, they ordered the chair from the retailer’s Website (where I ordered it from), waited for it to ship to them, opened the box, took a leg off the chair, put it in another box, and shipped it to me.
  • Time it took: 5 months

Company 2 (Office Chair)

  • I called the manufacturer and gave them my name, phone number and address.
  • They shipped out a complete set of wheels (not just one) that day.
  • Time it took: 1.5 minutes on the phone

In both these cases the broken parts were close to equal in cost to the manufacturer, but how they handled it cost the difference of several hundred dollars; between the cost of the chair from the retail store, shipping both ways, and the astronomical amount of time communicating back and forth with me, and internally. For Company 2 it still cost them the wheels, shipping one way, and a few minutes on the phone, but in all it probably didn’t exceed the cost of a few latt├ęs.

TIP: Go above and beyond immediately to fix the situation quickly. It will save you tons.

These two experiences made me think about how our company handles troubles that might arise. How do we create processes for handling simple support issues, and know when they need to be escalated? The answer I came up with is that we don’t know when to escalate them, but instead of making processes for escalating issues, we’re creating the means to just go above an beyond right off the bat. Escalating only if it’s absolutely necessary.

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