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Monday, April 15, 2013

What's Wrong with this Picture? Part 2

This post may sound like I'm hating on automotive employees and truly, that is not the case.  (I am hating a little bit on auto executives....)  With only a few exceptions, the people I've worked with just want to do a good job and feel like they make a difference - to the company and to their customers.  Somehow, the corporate machine gets in the way and they get managed to death until they can't think outside of that culture anymore.  This is an example.

When we last left off, we saw automotive employees concentrating more on self-preservation than getting the job done efficiently.  In this post, we see them so intent on pleasing and impressing their superiors that they completely lose sight of the customer.

Pop Quiz on two real scenarios:

1) An auto parts manufacturer and their Distributors are hosting a customer appreciation event for the Installers who buy their parts. Who would you expect to see inside of the roped-off VIP area at this event?
a) the Installers
b) the Distributor principals who were hosting the event
c) head honchos from the parts manufacturer flown into town for the event

2) An auto company is taking a group of their top customers on an incentive trip.  Who would you expect to see in the first class section on the plane?
a) the customers who won the trip
b) executives from the company hosting the trip
c) executives from supplier companies exhibiting at the event

In my small business world, the correct answer to both is A) the customer.  In the automotive world, the answers to both were B and C.  I did not see any interaction at all between the "VIPs" and the customers.  Exactly how appreciated were those customers supposed to feel?

When I mentioned this to some of the people hosting the event, they looked at me sadly as if to say, "Poor misguided Barb, there you go again applying logic and real-world rules to the auto industry."  They would never hear the end of it if their boss didn't have a first class seat or wasn't met by a chauffeur, or wasn't otherwise treated like a VIP.

And by the way, if two auto execs are arriving within 20 minutes of each other at the airport, we cannot ask one of them to wait 20 minutes for the other - two cars and two drivers must be sent to meet these executives and take them to the same hotel.  Are the auto execs really that entitled and just don't get it, or could it be that no employee has ever dared to ask them to wait 20 minutes in the name of efficiency?

This is exactly the thought that crossed my mind when the 3 auto CEO's were sitting in front of Congress taking a beating for flying there separately in private jets while asking for loans.  Set aside the rationale that their time is valuable and better spent working on the plane than cooling their heels at DTW waiting for a commercial flight blah blah blah.  I'm guessing that someone on their staff knew this was a bad idea and didn't have the balls to suggest that the CEO think about the message that flying separately on corporate jets to this particular meeting would send.

A culture where your staff can't tell truth to power:  that is what's wrong with this picture.

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