I recently bought a new toaster. Bright, shiny, plenty of buttons to press and an ejection mechanism that launches the toasted slice of bread into the air at a speed to rival the best efforts of a North Korean missile test.
Only one problem.
A standard sized slice of white loaf is too large for the toaster.
There is an annoying inch or so at the top of the slice which sticks out above the machine – never to be grilled to a crisp and juicy pale brown where butter will melt and marmalade will play lasciviously with my taste buds.
Always destined to be pale and limp this annoying and now very distracting sliver of bread is fit only for the bin or the birds. Admittedly, it makes for happy pigeons but I didn’t honestly buy the toaster for them – I bought it for me!
So I have to ask myself, why is my toaster too small? Or perhaps (as any good consultant must consider) the bread is too large?
In a world that is dominated by talk of everything being ‘customer-centric’ it is clear that something has gone seriously wrong. The manufacturer has failed to consider the size requirements of the standard white loaf as sold in Tesco (and other leading stores) whilst no doubt proclaiming to all those willing to listen that the ‘customer is at the heart of everything that we do’.
Sadly for them, this particular customer does not want extraordinary service, I do not especially want competitive pricing (within reason), or a branding campaign to make me marvel at the creativity of the TV advertising. The after-sales product guarantee proffered by the store salesforce desperate to earn commission falls on deaf ears, and the so-called ‘free’ delivery options had I bought it online fail to win my undying loyalty as a customer.
What I want is a product that does the job it is designed to do – brown the entire slice of my slice of bread, on both sides. A product that is lovingly crafted by purpose-built machinery that never goes wrong. A product that sits nicely in the corner of my kitchen, often forgotten but always there when I need it. A product that sings with joy at the opportunity to perform the task for which it was designed.
You may be wondering why it matters so much and, in truth, with a local pigeon population destined to grow fat on the discarded remains of my breakfast repast perhaps I should be grateful for this unexpected functionality.
However, as I wander around the insurance claims and supply chain sectors which is where I choose to ply my trade I often hear the phrase ‘customer centricity’ peppering the conversation. Demands for a customer-centric approach dominate the agenda and to such an extent that people who should know better lose sight of the main goal – which is surely to deliver a core service that meets real and genuine customer need.
So my advice to any claims or supply chain manager out there that is looking to improve their operation is actually very simple (and, in this instance only, completely free of charge).
Make sure the toaster fits the bread!