$2 MILLION SUCCESS SALE PARTY. It was Friday evening, I needed stuff myself with booze and appetizers (the spiciest and cheesiest ones) and let go off from two weeks of hectic audit and monitoring. It was crowded with employees from an e-commerce industry from various functions starting from programmers, developers, delivery managers, chief officers and other support functions such as HR, Training, Quality and many more. First week involved a 5 days sale from the e-commerce industry providing heavy discount prices for each category of product each day. The next week was to ensure the spike in delivery has reached the customer’s hands.
The music was loud and the appetizers in the table kept on refilling, exactly what I wanted. I was standing with few of my colleagues and their families sharing pleasantries ensuring that I don’t get drunk. At this time, I happened to notice a familiar face in the group. I had a tough time picturing where I know that face from, going through my mental facial recognition diary trying to match the face from a huge directory starting from high school till my last place of work. Completely in vain, I confronted the person asking where he knows me from. He happened to be, Ashwin Kumar, who I should have known from a college symposium. He was in the IT department and was presenting a paper “Market research by Pattern affiliation of customers using their history of purchase”.
I introduced myself, “My name is Avinash, I was part of a team from another college and we participated in Robowars competition. I think it was 2008. Long time huh?”.
He replied “Of course, so you work here. I haven’t met you in the headquarters.”
“I actually don’t work in the HQ as my work requires a lot of travelling and I report to office in Chennai.” The headquarters is in Bangalore, India and I happened to work and stay in Chennai, another city belonging to a different region.
“Oh, I see.!! Which team do you belong to?” he asked sounding curious.
“I’m from Quality function and had to travel about 10-15 days a month. Last two weeks were tremendous hectic for me as I was in constant travel” signed finishing off my glass of Jack Daniels whiskey requesting for a refill.
“So, what do you do? Do you happen to check the products before delivery?” he asked sipping his glass of beer.
“No. Kind of yes. But it’s a lot more than that. It quite complicated and not in a mood to discuss about that at this point of time. I’m pretty much sure that you are in IT field. What do you do? “I badly need to change the topic. Really not in the mood to talk about work currently. Specially today and given the alcohol content in my body.
“You guessed it right! I’m working on the pattern identification of customer, suggesting customer products to buy. I happened to write a paper on this during my college times.” he boasted.
“Oh I see. Happy for you my friend. How long have you been working here?”
“For about three years. Hoping to get promoted this year during PDR which is due in another 3 months.”
I really wish I could get promoted, it’s been 2 years and I have been working on several fronts of Quality functions from auditing, to monitoring, to metrics development, to process development and almost everything including vendor onboarding and development. I wished him luck.
“What do you do exactly?” he came back to the same point which I’m trying to avoid.
I explained what I did to him, hoping that he would understand. From his reactions, I was able to understand that he was puzzled.
I had to debrief “See quality function, has several fronts, starting from process development which requires mission, vision statement of the company, to mapping process, followed by process audits and finally to metrics”.
So, briefed it further to saying, “So you write procedures on what to do?” with a pinch of disregard.
I figuratively threw my hands in the air convincing myself that it is hard to convey the message across. I accepted my defeat saying “Yes. Ok.”
He happened to bump his colleague and introduced me to him saying that where and how we met the first time along with what I do. He happened to be his team leader, Arun.
“So, you write procedure and how does it work?”. I could sense a sarcastic aura coming out of him when he asked me this question.
“Not just that, we do audits too. To ensure adherence.” trying to defend.
He went for the kill by asking me “So writing procedure and checking the procedure by audit. Where do you use them?”
I put up the index finger in front of me signaling wait. I took about 10 seconds trying to figure out what to do and ended the 10th second with a burp. Excusing myself, manners.
It my time, “Do you know what our company does?”
He said, “It’s an e-comm industry. What DO WE DO? Sell products online. Hence the “E” infront of the commerce.” like a Mr.Know-It-All.
“Could be mention the business plan, briefly?”
“Customers order online, the order goes to the warehouse or supplier and it gets delivered to the customer at their doorstep.” I was hoping that he would also mention “Does that sound brief for you?”. I was pleased that he included vendors for sources of shipments.
“Could you also tell me how it gets delivered to the customer?”
“That’s why we have delivery people.” I felt like I was a kid who asked his/her parents about how babies are made.
“How does the delivery people get the shipments for delivering to the customers?” I’m not getting out of this place without teaching them a thing or two.
He stuttered and then replied “That’s why we have the logistics team. They deliver it to the delivery people.”
“How does the logistics team operate?”
“They have their own systems. You know, the supply chain department.” trying to move away from this topic. I don’t want to badger his on this topic. Need to take a different route.
“Moving away from this topic. Where do we get money from the business?”
“From customer who purchase the products and also from suppliers who sell the products in our website” Arun replied cautiously.
“From what you replied, who are our customers?” from now on, my questions need to be clearer as I have got his attention.
“People who purchase products from our website. Of course,” he replied.
“What about sellers?”
“Them too” Ashwin mentioned. For a moment I forgot that he was present and listening to this.
“Yes. You know that we have a customer service department. Do you know what they do?” I’m reeling them in.
“They take care of customer compliant about products, service and other stuff.” Arun replied.
“Can you give me some examples of the complaints. For example, not received before promised date.” I gave an example expecting to say damaged shipments, mismatch, wrong shipments, frauds or anything.
As expected, he replied saying, “Damaged shipments, ordered A and received B, rude behavior of delivery person, mismatch etc.,”. Rude behavior was a bonus point for me.
“How do we correct these issues?”
“Find who did it and warn them or fire them.”
“What if it happens in another place? Say another region or city.” I really had to ask. I’m in the final sprint of my questions. I need to hit the nail exactly at the middle of the head. Probably his head, so that it reaches his hypothalamus.
“Ah… say like.. Ha.. letting them know this happened somewhere else through e-mail. Like giving them caution.”
“What you are suggesting is a solution temporarily and not permanent. It is bound to happen another time. We can’t keep firing delivery people.”
“They have to figure out a way. That’s what management is all about.” Exactly where I want him. At this moment, I have both of their attention.
“This is where we come in. We as in Quality. The procedure I was talking about. We change or modify or alter the procedure to give a permanent solution to these issues. The audit is for ensuring that they are complying to the changed process.” I was just getting started. Had to take a sip of whiskey. Most of the ice in the whiskey diluted the alcohol.
“Metrics that I talked about was to reduce the customer complaints. We source money from both customers as well as sellers. We are just a platform who earns by connecting the product to the customer. But we also need to ensure that we don’t lose money for their mishaps or frauds. There are frauds in both sellers and customers as well as our delivery people.” I paused to ensure that they are still listening. They are calm and no intention to interfere.
“We ensure that the hard-earned money doesn’t actually be lost in fraudulent activities. The process we write ensure permanent solution rather than temporary to cut the problem at the source. The metrics that we calculate are to ensure that new activity is healthy. We keep on changing because there are always ways to bypass an activity. You mentioned earlier that supplier and people are our customers. Loosing either of them will have an impact on the business. Complaints loses the customers and no sales affects the suppliers.” I want to finish off with a kill. Luckily, I happened to find a paper cup filled with water and pen in my pocket. I recollected an episode from “Two and half men” where the auditor or accountant of Charlie Harper tries to explain what happens to his money and why he is bankrupt.
I picked it up trying to explain the same thing but different reference. “Imagine, this is the money, the company gets from the business, is the water in the cup.” Ashwin interfered as he found where the reference is from. I told him, that’s where exactly I’m going to. “We need to raise the water level to succeed in the business. All the complaints and no sales will ensure that it is not happening. To top it off, the fraud activities, ---” started poking smaller holes at the bottom using my fine tip pen. Water started to drain, “will cause losses and doesn’t allow us to grow further.”
“I get it. I understand now. Man! It sounds interesting.” MESSAGE CONVEYED.
Finished off diluted drink in an instant saying, “Everyone here participates in the organization well-being. This company was founded 5 years ago, and my function was active for 3 years now. Every team has its own significance and every activity everyone does contributes. IT is the front end of the company. I could say that you play an important role because your profile is in the shelf, but my profile isn’t.”
“Sorry, if I was rude.” I apologized because I felt I was rude.
Time for me to hit the dinner buffet followed by peaceful weekend of ZZZZZs.