Think of the last interaction you had with a business – maybe a local restaurant or shop, a medical facility, a call center. No matter the business, was it a pleasant experience or a less than ideal one? Given the choice, is it a business you’d interact with again? If you were satisfied with the level of customer service you received, most likely the answer will be yes. If you were not satisfied with the level of customer services you received, chances are the answer will be no.
Businesses are constantly striving to improve their customer service because happy clients mean repeat business and referrals. The old adage than an unhappy client will tell seven people about their experience is true. And in this day and age of digital connectivity and social media, one bad review can have a detrimental impact.
Successful businesses know that people are their greatest asset. They also know that these people need to be equipped with solid processes, systems and workflows to manage every aspect of the customer experience each and every time. An organized business operates consistently and more seamlessly than one that is constantly recreating the wheel.
In many businesses however, the business organization foundation goes overlooked. Team members get busy, each working in their own silo. Turnover occurs and training is inadequate. Though owners and managers may set out with the best intentions, time constraints and day-to-day client demands often derail even the best attempts to standardize. Businesses that do not take a step back and commit the time necessary to standardize and document operations with careful thought to each client interaction will have an infinitely harder time getting ahead.
Start by mapping each step of a customer’s journey interacting with your business. No piece is too small or trivial to document. From lead through initial and ongoing outreach, to order processing/service delivery and follow-up, write down scripts, IT steps, etc. Document how new team members will be recruited, hired, trained and evaluated. Work piece by piece until it’s all in your Operations Manual.
It will never be possible to standardize every possible interaction and plan for every contingency. Customers are unique and different requests/challenges come up over time. This is why the Operations Manual should be a living document where the name of the game is implement, test, refine. When you develop a new process or refine a stale one, document it. And hold yourself and your team accountable for following the documented process each and every time.
According to Michael Gerber in The E Myth Revisited, “The purpose of a system [is] to free you to do the things you want to do. The System produces the results; your people manage the system.” Organizing and documenting your operations gives your team a manual by which to operate, where the rules of the game are known, and continuous improvement is embraced. It also gives your customers a consistent experience each and every time, so they know what to expect when they work with you. A consistently positive experience keeps customers coming back and telling their friends about you.