March 14, 2008
So, I sit today in TGI Friday’s at the Pittsburgh airport. Readers might ask “Brad, we thought you were supposed to be in Iowa at the end of the week. What are you still doing in Pittsburgh?”
Well, that’s a long story. Luckily, I’ve got time!
On Monday, just as myself and the regional sales manager (RSM) were arriving into town, we had gotten calls that one of our key accounts was having issues. Not good, and it was definitely a high-priority issue. But it seemed to be okay… We were already planning to visit another group at that customer on Tuesday, and the issue they were having appeared to be similar to something we’ve seen before (and had a known fix). So we scheduled a meeting with the 2nd group, went up there, and got a plan.
It was simple: get them a sample of the fixed part, so they could test it, and get their stock sent back to our factory for updating (pending their validation of the fix). We got all this done in record time, and we flew out of Pittsburgh on Wednesday while HQ was working hard to get things taken care of. Wednesday night we found our way to Iowa, and Thursday we went visiting all the other customers we needed to talk to.
Well, on Thursday, the fit hit the shan! It turns out that when the fixed drive arrived, it didn’t fix the problem. And the problem was about to get pushed right up the chain of the command. We’re talking CEO-level here. Tell someone that a part comprising 0.0005% of the cost of their multi-million dollar piece of equipment may stop them from delivering to their customer, and they get a little bit upset. So we were in a bind.
The original plan was to have more account visits in Iowa today (Friday). Then to drive to Chicago (where the RSM lives) so that I could fly back home to California. That didn’t happen. Instead, the RSM and I left Iowa, to drive to Pennsylvania. We would have loved to fly, but the cost was prohibitive and the flight schedules simply didn’t work. So we drove through the night, arriving at the customer’s site by 7:45 AM (surprising a few of them, I’m sure!) ready to get down to business. In a matter of a few hours, we managed to defuse the situation, although it’s still not perfect. We have a plan in place, some things to test on our own end as well as for the customer to try. Better yet, our CEO didn’t get an angry phone call! And best of all, I’m still on my way back to California this evening!
Driving 11 hours overnight, frantically altering flight schedules and plans; some people might call us crazy. But when you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, you wedge yourself between them and start pushing. At the end of the day, we did what had to be done, and we’re doing right by our customer. Sleep be damned!
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