The Andon Cord and Customer Service

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This week I want to talk about a concept I was reminded of at Call Center Week. I heard it during the keynote address by Tom Weiland, Vice President of Worldwide Customer Service at Amazon. He told a story about Amazon developing their own concept around Toyota’s Andon Cord. If you aren’t familiar with the Andon cord, please jump to the link to review it. I would like to unpack the concept as it relates to customer service.

Increased Quality
This is obvious. When workers identify an issue with the product or service being produced, what has been produced so far can be fixed. Case closed. But it’s not just that.

The larger impact is on the tens to millions of product or services that were following. Had those items gone out the door to customers, a real problem could have ensued – and not just a higher volume of calls to the service center.

Higher Customer Satisfaction
Customers are most pleased when they use your product or service without any issues: it just works as described. While they don’t generally make that unsolicited call to your service center to tell you that, you know this when you survey them about their overall satisfaction with your products and services. When the highest quality is delivered, you achieve the highest ratings from your customers.

On top of that, you also maintain a higher reputation for quality. Beyond customer service, this positive perception by the customer is a large factor in their repeat business as well as referring other customers back to you.

Cost Reduction
Stopping a car production line (or any manufacturing line, for that matter) is expensive. Workers are idled and new product won’t ship out to market. So how would implementing and using an Andon cord reduce costs?

For starters, you avoid the cost of replacement or recall. The time and money involved in filing and verifying claim forms, producing additional product, and shipping to customers could be insurmountable. I don’t know if the automobile airbag manufacturer Takata had their own version of the Andon Cord, but if so it certainly was not employed by their employees.

In addition, you prevent all the future calls, emails, and chats impacting your service center. Those unplanned calls might, in turn, reduce your service quality, and customer satisfaction would be impacted – even with customers that weren’t experiencing the problem with the affected product or service because of the collateral damage that higher volume of requests would cause.

Your Andon Cord
If you search the internet for stories of the Andon Cord, you will find many more examples beyond Toyota. Companies have realized that giving their employees (as well as customers) the ability to “stop the line” is a great opportunity to check quality when things don’t seem right.

Do you have your own version of the Andon cord? If not, isn’t it time you considered developing one?

Paul Selby
I am a product marketing consultant for Aventi Group. Aventi Group is the first product marketing agency solely dedicated to high-tech clients. We’re here to supplement your team and bring our expertise to bear on your top priorities, so you achieve high-quality results, fast.

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