Personal supply chain management: rants and raves

This blog usually addresses supply chain management. This time, we address personal supply chain management. How have your personal suppliers performed this past year? By that I mean those companies who supply you with goods and services for your personal and home life. As 2012 draws to a close, I was thinking about my personal supply chain. Who are the keepers and who need to improve their performance or get ditched? In 2012, some suppliers were quite impressive. Most were fine. One sole-source personal supplier, however, seems on the glide-path to self-destruction.

Let me start with the suppliers who exceeded my expectations. Two who come to mind are an electrician and a refrigeration company. The electrician and the refrigeration company responded quickly and solved the problem competently, cheerfully, and for a fair price. And they were excellent communicators. The electrician troubleshot and repaired a very obscure problem that involved a corroded outdoor connection to the house that was causing flickering lights in one bathroom. The other issue was our ancient and beloved Traulsen refrigerator. One of its two compressors died. Traulsen’s supplier no longer makes a compatible compressor. To make a long story short, the refrigeration company spec’d and outsourced the manufacture of a compressor to fit our refrigerator. It turned out to be much cheaper than buying a new, equivalent fridge, which, “they don’t make like they used to”.

Now the rave about a customer service disaster. And this time I’ll name the company, since they are global: iFit, the fitness software provider whose subscription-based product powers a lot of bikes, treadmills, and elliptical trainers (made by divisions of their parent company, Icon Fitness). iFit provides the ability to create workouts on Google maps and then simulate the terrain on the equipment (i.e., you feel the hills).  At the same time, one can watch a street view of the route. I own a Tour de France workout bike, and have enjoyed scenic rides everywhere from St. Petersburg, Russia to Hawaii without leaving my house.  Little did I know what a supply risk lay in store for me.  An upgrade to their website in November left all of its customers unable to use their equipment. At first, iFit posted customer service updates. Then the status updates stopped. No status updates, no working software, nothing, and, according to angry customer posts on their support site and elsewhere, hours of waiting on the customer service line. At the same time, they keep using social media — Twitter and Facebook — to post formulaic happy updates about working out, the holidays, and good nutrition, which has only exacerbated the problem and resulted in a torrent of angry customer comments and threats on Facebook. Still, radio silence. iFit has violated every rule of customer communications. You’ve got to wonder how poorly run and self-destructive a company has to be to implement a major software upgrade during its busiest equipment purchasing and usage season of the year. (Did you ever hear of a software company upgrade all its customers in the 4th quarter while trying to close year-end sales books?) And, even after failing miserably, the company is still not able to fix the problems nor give customers any idea of when their fitness equipment will be operational again. Kind of a corporate death wish. But they are a sole source supplier. Their customers are over the proverbial barrel with no other options and are hoping that iFit somehow stays in business. Otherwise thousands of customers will be stuck with very expensive clothes racks.

How did your personal supply chain perform in 2012?


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