Christopher Lentz | November 21, 2013 10:25 AM
Staying on top of customers is a critical task for any small business and one that deserves a great deal of attention to detail. Quoting the wrong products to the wrong client can show you are not prepared and likely not ready for the sale. Perhaps you have experienced a situation where somewhere along the line, in your business interaction with a customer, where for one reason or another the ball was dropped and no one in your office knew what happened. If you know this all too well, it is time to think about your business processes and how they determine the outcomes with your customers.
There is a common saying in business, "What gets measured, gets managed" and the same applies here. Though we aren't really measuring anything, we are calculating it, and at some point we will be refining it. The why of keeping your processes in a documented form has two keep components: 1) So you don't lapse an important piece and regret it later 2) So you can easily train a new employee to follow the protocol. The time saved by having a documented process is tremendous. In IT, there are several ways to add a new user to to Active Directory, however some take longer than others. So if we have all our techs performing it the same way we can save time over the long run, and so can you in your business.
Determining what to create a business process for is another key part of the battle. It can be a daunting task to think through all the things your company does and write down that process. However, that is exactly what you have to do. Even if you only document one process per day, at least you will know that process will always be completed the same way every time. No more worrying about whether Jim in marketing remembered those flyers in his packets or Judy in accounting processed the payment correctly. Now that you have that process in writing, there can be no refuting a mistake. This helps keep your staff accountable and helps you determine where there may be a need for change in your staffing. It can also help highlight areas of improvement for the overall process.
Once you have a process in place, you will begin to notice small places where there might be a better way to accomplish a task. First though, you need to have a baseline of metrics to go off of. For example, you might measure the time it takes to go from the sales transaction to the implementation stage. Another metric might be customer satisfaction levels, where you give your clients a survey that rates your performance from one to ten. Whatever metrics you choose, create a baseline after you create the process to help you see how far you have come.
After you have that, it is time to work on improving those numbers by revising your process and looking for ways to make it better. One example of this might be going to a cloud based CRM instead of that clunky ACT software you have been using (and hating) for decades. Maybe you have been using paper statements that require postage and you decide to switch to email statements which are faster and cheaper. Whatever you decide on should help make the process either faster or cheaper without sacrificing quality or service level.
No matter what business you are in, creating strong processes can mean the difference between success and failure, especially in a tight economy.
"A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him." -David Brinkley