When we wanted to close a sale in the early 1990s, there was an important factor in getting someone to sign on the dotted line that you might not expect: Our customers requested all of the details for their contact partners in the logistics and production departments, including their personal telephone numbers. Why? Well, it’s simple really: The concept of just-in-time was still new 20 or 30 years ago and the necessary processes and structures were not yet fully refined. As a result, automotive industry manufacturers wanted to play it safe by having the relevant contact partner only a phone call away in the event of any issues. This wasn’t so unreasonable, as if any goods were delivered too late or a delivery was incomplete then production would halt entirely and, just like today, that could quickly incur six-digit costs – whether in Deutschmarks or Euros.
In my former role as Production Manager for Air Filters at the Ludwigsburg location, I too was in the phone book of one of our major customers. In case I was ever called upon, I kept a little notebook in which I wrote down all of my MANN+HUMMEL contact partners so that I could react quickly and appropriately in the event of a call. I even made my family aware of just how important this was, so if a customer ever called me at home, we all knew the drill to the letter.
Of course, it was inevitable that it had to happen: One weekend, while I was away with my wife, our phone rang at 23:00. 13 years old at the time, my daughter Stefanie was still awake and answered the call. It was a customer: They were missing a delivery and needed to speak to me urgently. Easier said than done in those days, before the whole world had their own mobile phone! But my daughter knew exactly what to do to help. She grabbed my notebook and found a name that she recognised: my former boss. She passed on the number and my customer thanked her before hanging up to call it.
Unfortunately, there was something my daughter didn’t know: By this point, my former boss had already retired and so would not be able to solve the problem either. But he did know the number of the Chief Scheduler in Ludwigsburg, which he was more than willing to pass on. But what he didn’t know was that such person had also just reached retirement age and was already enjoying his new life as a pensioner. But he still got on the telephone and found a solution that simply could not fail. He gave our customer the phone number of our CEO at that time, who reacted exactly as you would expect a manager to react. Based on the part numbers, he immediately realised that the goods in question must be in production at the Sonneberg plant. He called the plant’s manager from his bed – it was now past midnight after all – and filled him in on the details. The plant’s manager then made his way to the plant, assembled the missing parts and even organised an HGV and a driver to get them on the road immediately. The goods would be with the customer in time for the start of the morning shift.
Finally, everyone could go to bed satisfied – and they all did just that. But the icing on the cake of our story is that plant’s manager received another phone call shortly after the HGV departed: “We have just found the missing parts in our warehouse,” declared the customer. “You can cancel the delivery.” Of course, this was not possible without mobile phones, but everyone was aware that we had significantly strengthened our relationship with this customer. With MANN+HUMMEL, they could rely on faultless customer service – even in the early hours of the morning.