Customer experience cannot be casualty of your lean efficiency

Last week I had two contrasting experience of how people misinterpret lean thinking.

Case # 1

Last week visited a neighborhood medical clinic with a friend for his doubtful wrist fracture situation. From my previous bulk billing medical centre (BBMC) experience we were sure to spend at least an hour however the operating process at BBMC took way long. As usual common steps followed were:

  1. Patient form filling
  2. Medicare card data verification
  3. Wait in queue for general practitioner (GP) call
  4. GP review meeting
  5. Recommendation for X-Ray
  6. Visit to X-ray lab and medicare card data review
  7. Wait for X-Ray machine operating person to snap X-ray and give X-ray film
  8. Visit BBMC GP again for X-Ray results interpretation
  9. Deliver X-Ray film to GP for his opinion
  10. GP review X-ray and lab report for his interpretation
  11. GP recommendation for plaster and follow-up physiotherapy activities
  12. Visit hospital with GP letter for plaster casting
  13. Listen to Do’s and Don’t while plaster is applied on wrist
  14. Return back to office / home

My value stream map for above process steps showed more wait time than work time. All we wanted was to get an X-ray and fracture casting if wrist fracture was proven however it took almost 2 days for entire process to cast fracture plaster on my friends’ wrist.

From lean processes perspective this is a classic case of:

  • 30 minutes of work and 300% waste
  • Monitory loss from resources blocked perspective at BBMC and X-ray lab
  • Residue loss as patient and me investing time at BBMC rather than working at office during office hours.


Case # 2

On weekend almost similar situation repeated with another friend. This time it was ankle twist and we presumed chances of hairline fracture due to swelling. With private insurance cover we visited hospital and was assuming similar experience repeating from Case # 1.

However to my surprise entire end to end activities of X-ray taking and cast plaster completed in 1 hour and we left the hospital.

I was highly impressed with fast pace of customer service so left a note at information desk to re-visit them future to study their processes efficiency.

Unfortunately very next day had to revisit the same hospital as my friend complaint about severe pain in fracture area.

During second visit I felt their processes were much efficient and customer turnaround time was looking healthy however my friend’s fracture problem was not solved after consulted same doctor thrice besides meeting outpatient department doctor.

My friend asked multiple times the pain root cause however was always told not to worry as he is fully covered under medical insurance so hospital will not ask for any extra payments. However he was losing patience due to repeated multiple visits in a week and no clue or information about what was the real problem for pain.

At office I discussed both this cases with colleagues and interesting found how people are misusing lean tool without applying lean thinking and lean philosophy.

Case # 1 is classic example of more sympathetic and less efficient process which gave some level of better customer experience by involving customer in incident journey however the drag due to operations efficiency lost customer patience and faith in overall process. Worst turn-around time and resources wastage added delphi effect to customer dissatisfaction.

Case # 2 is example of how operating customer services processes with merely metrics can sustain weekly processes efficiency scoreboard however will undoubtedly lose customers who should have been at the heart of company business.

Customer service domain such as healthcare, hospitality, retail, etc demands priority to customer experience journey compare to processes efficiency. Customer experience journey always win trust of customers rather than handling customers by metrics and numbers. Often lean is misinterpreted with more efficiency however lean philosophy and lean thinking is all about better customer value by involving customer along the journey.

Often I find customer in hurry visiting retail merchandise showroom or hospital don’t mind spending little extra time if service provider involve them in the process and share information transparently rather than treating customer with volume business with transaction oriented approach. Efficiency metrics with maximum waste reduction can win managers and upstream holder trust however customer will be casualty and business value + reputation is lost forever. Understand lean thinking and philosophy as a whole prior to applying and stop misuse of lean tools for waste reduction and efficiency at the cost of losing customer trust and loyalty for ever.



Engineer by training; Business value advocate by choice. User, Coach, Trainer and active promoter of Business Model Innovation and Design Thinking. (after all its moral obligation when you learn from the best - Stanford Uni) Pivoted from merger and acquisition to digital transformation to defining innovation strategies to building startup to lean and agile delivery. Always inquisitive by nature and creative thinker in action believe in continuing life long learning journey.

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