An Example of Why Standard Operating Procedures Should Be Simple

The weather is warming up here in South Africa, and I really feel spring fever approaching.  I love gardening, and decided that this year I’ll fertilize my lawn and garden beds with organic manure.

I contacted various places for prices on their sifted manure, and decided to buy from a company not too far from my house.  Their prices were reasonable, and their only requirement was that I fetch the manure myself.  I have a trailer, so this arrangement suited me, even though it meant several trips to get the amount of manure I wanted.

The procedure at this company is that I ride over a weighing bridge before and after loading the manure in order for them to calculate exactly how much cubic meters I was liable to pay for.

On the first day, I loaded 650 kilograms, and paid R260 for it.  The second day I went, I loaded 600 kilograms and paid R375 for it.  I was quite shocked at the price difference, but didn’t have my first invoice with me to query it.

The third consecutive day I went, I took the invoices with me and asked for an explanation, because I felt certain I was overcharged the second time.

The explanation was that on day 1, one cubic meter was equal to 400 kg.  On day 2, one cubic meter was equal to 500 kg.  The relationship between the cubic meter and kilograms all depends on the moisture level inside the manure.

I felt quite stupid and more than a little confused.  We have not had rain for months.  I’m loading from the same heap of manure each time.  What can cause the moisture level to differ so radically?  I also could not understand that I pay more when there are more kilograms in a cubic meter.

At the weighing bridge I again asked the attendant to explain how they calculate the moisture in the manure.  She launched into a lengthy confusing explanation which can be summarized this way:  Although she is very sweet, she does not exactly understand how it works either.  There seems to be no specific time or set method for determining the moisture level in the manure.  From what I can gather it occurs at the whim of the person responsible.  Other clients also complain, because it is too confusing for the average person to understand.  All I could understand is that on some days I get more manure for my money than on others, even if the capacity of my trailer stays the same.

This time I paid R225 for 600 kilograms. Although I’m delighted to have paid less, I feel cheated.   I don’t feel inclined to support this company again.  I certainly won’t recommend them to anyone.

I would have been a very happy client if I had been charged the same amount for each load.  I would also have been very happy if I had been given a quotation per kilogram, which would have made more sense to me.

What complicated procedures are turning your clients away from your company?  When last did you do an audit into your standard operating procedures to see whether they are meeting the demands of your day-to-day interactions with your clients?

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