Sometimes risk management is as simple as listening to your customers

February 28, 2012

Recently I’ve seen a financial company misplace $30k, a health care organization twice have a patient end up back in ER and a manufacturer face a class action lawsuit. These are all the sorts of things that risk management and quality management tools and techniques are used to mitigate and avoid. However, each of these cases didn’t need such tools; they just needed to listen to the customer or rather not ignore them.

The financial company didn’t even apologize to the client for misplacing the money, didn’t seem concerned about potentially losing their business, nor did they seem to think that considering how this could have happened and how it could be avoided in the future was worth the time. 

The health organization staff twice didn’t listen to the patient or their family about concerns rather they cited policy and downplayed their concerns. In both instances they were wrong both about their own policy and the symptoms, resulting in the patient having to be rushed back to ER. Even after the second situation no one thought that narrowly avoiding ‘losing’ a patient (in the most permanent manner) and a lawsuit worthy of ‘evaluating the situation’. 

Finally, a manufacturer for years ignored feedback about defects from a key client. The client was viewed as being bothersome rather than the canary in the mine! Eventually they were faced with a class action lawsuit for those very same defects on a national scale.

Each of these cases involved serious issues and yet all could have been easily avoided or reduced in severity. In each case employees did not perceive any of these issues to be of real concern NOR did management! Just what would raise a concern for these organizations?

I know, I know, it would never happen with your business. But by saying that, aren’t you now doing what they were doing? 

Denis Leonard has a degree in construction engineering an M.B.A. and a Ph.D. in quality management. Denis is a Fellow of the American Society for Quality, a Certified Quality Manager, Auditor, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He has been an Examiner for the Baldrige National Quality Award Board of Examiners a Judge on the International Team Excellence Competition and a Lead Judge on the National Housing Quality Award. A former Professor of Quality at the University of Wisconsin, he has experience as a quality manager in the home building industry as well as construction engineer, site manager, and in training, auditing, and consulting with expertise in strategic and operational quality improvement initiatives. His work has achieved national quality, environmental, and safety management awards for clients. 

Denis is co-author of The Executive Guide to Understanding and Implementing the Baldrige Criteria: Improve Revenue and Create Organizational Excellence.


Related Categories

PB-Best Practices