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Last week I was in San Jose, California. San Jose is a nice enough town, but when the sun goes down, it's hard to believe that that there are somewhere around 1 million people there. It becomes very empty, at least in the part of town I was staying.

While there, I visited several eateries, but one in particular was interesting. It's situated in an alleyway. The weather was cool, and fortunately, it was dry. I was with a group of folks, and one of the tablemates decided to change his order after the waiter had taken the orders. Simple enough, right? He called the waiter over, and explained that he wanted something different, and the waiter went back to the kitchen, presumably to change the order.

After the rest of the table was served, only my friend who changed his order was left without dinner. When he asked the waiter where his dinner was, the waiter gave him a blank look and replied that he had cancelled his dinner, and so why would he expect dinner? Obviously there was a disconnect between my friend's 'change request' and the waiter's understanding. Fortunately, the waiter was able to get the order on the table quickly.

Who was at fault in this little miscommunication? In this case, I'm pretty sure it was the waiter's fault, since I happen to know that my friend was pretty hungry, and it was unlikely he would have cancelled his entire order. On the other hand, it's possible he may not have been entirely clear in his instructions.

That brings to mind, a situation one of my clients has been dealing with over the last few months. Interestingly, my customer wasn't even aware that there was a problem until they were called into their customers office to discuss their fill rate or lack thereof it was only after they started looking at the order process that they determined that their customer had been issuing change orders in the form of cancellation that wouldn't have been a particular problem except that cancellation had been issued at the cool water level rather than at the item level of course my client the supplier to the cancellation to mean exactly that the cancellation of the entire order. Unfortunately, their customer regarded the cancellation and is only for a particular item in the order. In this case, it sounds like exactly what my friend went through at the dinner table.

Because EDI is such a structured environment, it's difficult to imagine that these kinds of miscommunications could happen. The scenario is exactly 1 of those cases. In the communication between my friend and the waiter, it was pretty difficult to determine where the fault might have lied. But in the case of my client and his customer, it's much easier to place the blame on the customer side of the transaction. After all the 860 purchase order has a very definite structure, and following the predetermined structure would have certainly resulted in an accurate cancellation of only the part of the order the customer intended to cancel.

So, was this a case of intentional ambiguity so that the retailer might be able to analyze the supplier for a deep decreasing fill rate, or is it simply a matter of poor follow-up on implementation? The truth is that we will probably never know. But one thing I know, is that when I go to a restaurant, I do my best to let the waiter know exactly what I want to appear on my plate when they come back.

Cecil Last modified on Friday, 17 February 2012
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