In business, the difference between a young upstart company and a seasoned organization are often the key processes in place that guarantee success….
Quality processes are universally recognized as the single most important factor in building customer loyalty and delivering a consistently positive experience to the groups you serve. These business challenges are common for successful growing companies and you need to find a way to solve them in a way that increases you customer experience.
A department without processes will drift aimlessly like a ship without a rudder, while a freshly implemented process that works can be like waving a magic wand that improves everything around you. Good, robust, processes are the key to keeping customers happy, to making sure employees know exactly what to do and when to do it, and to keep your business growing successfully year after year.
But what do you do about a process that works perfectly only 99% of the time? Is it still a perfect process? Some would say such small margins of error are negligible… and maybe in your business as it is right now… they are. But what happens once you grow and an issue that came up every other month now happens twice a week?
Murphy’s Law and hard experience guarantee that if something can go wrong- it definitely will go wrong- and further, it’s going to go wrong for your best customer at the worst possible time.
So how do you wipe away a lingering asterisk from an otherwise “perfect” process? You do it by paying attention to the subtle and not so subtle clues, by capturing the information needed to formulate a fix, and most important by deploying an appropriate addition or correction to the process that doesn’t make it too unwieldy to meet the original purpose.
By taking time to truly perfect a process you can transform 1% of error into a differentiator customers will notice. Business challenges can often be turned into competitive advantages if you create a process to solve it and enhance customer service.
Pay attention to small signals and loud voices
Often, a challenge that seemingly comes out of nowhere can be brewing beneath the surface a long time before it becomes suddenly and urgently known. As an owner or manager, it’s difficult to divert attention to monitoring the functionality of a process that seems to work well. Likewise, employees responsible for performing a process need to be focused on doing it right and cannot reasonably be expected to step outside of it… although often they will.
Pay attention to small diversions your employees make on a case-by-case basis. If they modify in a way that makes sense to them it isn’t necessarily causing your process to fail, it’s more likely the reason it doesn’t fail more often. Question employees and investigate anything that is an exception to the rule. Schedule time to sit with star performers and observe the process through their eyes. A great employee can help make a process great. Be careful you don’t let a great employee become the process itself.
Pay attention to customers that make a lot of noise. It’s easy to form an opinion of people that make your job harder. Do so at your own risk. We should all be so lucky to have a perfectionist evaluating our work. Avoid the temptation to write a person off as picky.
Instead, take their feedback and realize that you are receiving insight that the majority of your customers will either not take time to notice or to communicate back to you. Demanding customers are a gift. Build your business around addressing their concerns and you’ll not only have a loyal customer but a superior process.
Create a natural way to study the issue
A methodical and structured approach to documenting issues in your process is key to identifying its cause or fix, especially if the issue is remote. Create a way to visualize each instance of the issue that works for you. I like a whiteboard but almost anything will do. Write the date and time each issue happened and the date and time it was discovered. List every customer and employee that “touched” the process.
Interview your customer about what happened. Your customer will appreciate knowing that you take performance issues seriously and will remember it. Ask them about anything they can relate from their perspective. Do the same for your employees. List any relevant factors. Keep your ears open and the data easily accessible as new clues emerge. As you gather new instances and new types of information a clear picture will present itself before long.
Be cautious in jumping to conclusions with human error. Even star players make errors far more often than 1% of the time. The goal is not to assign blame. The goal is to improve the process so as to make human errors far more unlikely.
Apply the “minimum effective dose”
Improving a process that already works well is equal parts science and art. It is very easy, with good intentions and desire for excellence, for a process to become too burdensome to function well. Be cautious not to do more harm than good. If your fix includes a vast increase in the documentation it can become slower and more frustrating for the end user.
Focus on the minimum amount of change necessary to reach your objective. Many processes can be greatly improved with a single question at the proper point. Checklists can work wonders. What is the smallest bit of change you can introduce? Also, if possible, be slow in rolling out change. Do a limited trial. Be sure of the results. Sweeping changes can wreak havoc if they require a learning curve or have unintended results.
Turning challenges into processes can become your secret weapon in building a strong organization. What minor change can you introduce to build out maximum efficiency?