Using ALL CAPS does not make it more important.



To make a claim, I called the 800 number in the instruction manual of my coffee machine. A small fastener has broken, resulting in the machine being useless. I went through the web of “Please say or press 1 if…” to finally end at a voice. “Hello, my name is Caroline, how can I assist you?” Knowing my heart rate had increased and it's not “Caroline’s” fault my machine is broken, I dig deep to find what Christopher Voss would call the late-night DJ voice. "Caroline, I can't make coffee at the moment because a fastener broke on my coffee machine. How can we solve this together?” Caroline responds, “Oh no. Let’s solve this.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant. He showed me. He got his voice about half an octave deeper and he slowed down a bit between each word. - James Altucher interview with Chris Voss on the Medium

As we went through the details of the problem, I had a new coffee machine being mailed to me in exchange for boxing up the faulty one and sending it back. This is a fairly expensive coffee machine that my family saw as an investment in our family’s adoration of coffee and a reduction in waste generated from other coffee machine options. Combining the type of machine with my elevated tone in the automated steps, I thought about how Caroline knew how to approach me? Did she have any insights or data points that guided her to understand the criticality of the call and how I interpreted the priority? It wasn’t just my late-night DJ voice, was it?


I want to assume that the coffee company utilized some form of artificial intelligence listening to my voice to capture my tone to create a priority. This type of technology exists and I want to imagine it was there during my call. As I sequenced through the seemingly endless series of “Please say or press 1 if…”, I know my tone had to of been changing in how I said, “two” the first time versus how I said, “TWO” the fifth time. In manufacturing, we often allow the submitter of a work request to indicate the priority of work from their perspective. But the receiving end, the end that receives the requested work, has to see where the work lies against another variable. I was the submitter of work here for my coffee machine, but where was my problem compared to others?


In the call, I had to tell the automation the type of machine I had. I want to assume that this allowed the automation to capture the “criticality.” Imagine this criticality is a ranked index within the coffee machine company, ranking the machines from least critical to most critical. A $20 coffee maker might have a significantly different criticality compared to a $2000 coffee maker. There are most likely other influencers that impact the criticality than just the price of the coffee maker. Things like how many I have purchased in the last year or recalls on a certain style. In manufacturing, influencers comprised of detectability and redundancy routinely adjust the criticality.


With these two variables derived from my input provided to the helpline, the coffee maker company automatically had a work priority index in front of Caroline. She was able to compute the product of criticality and priority. Caroline was able to prioritize me alongside the others that were calling. She was able to react systematically and establish continuous improvement that embedded trust by me, the customer, from the experience.

A work priority index is a method used in maintenance and reliability to determine the proper allocation of resources. Determining a work order’s priority index is based on a combination of the criticality of the asset and the importance of the work being performed. - Prometheus Group

Within manufacturing, many organizations might prioritize work by who yells the loudest or who has the highest clout within an opinion. However, the organizations that succeed are those that evaluate their backlog of work against criticality and prioritization, so that the available energy can be distributed most effectively. Not having the ability to sequence work this way creates misalignment.

These tools are extremely useful for prioritizing work. However, the value and power of knowing exactly how to deploy maintenance resources for maximum impact will end up improving many business processes that fall outside of maintenance. - Prometheus Group



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