Staying Lean and Customer Focused

In any business it is critically important to adopt a mindset of continuous and never-ending improvement. No business is ever “done”, as in it has perfect systems that never need changing.

In practicing continuous improvement, the focus must be solely on one thing – what your customers value; what they truly value.

And the best way to find out is as follows….

Pay Close Attention to What They Say When Upset

The complaints from your customers should be monitored carefully for systemic issues that can be corrected and even used to wow customers in the future.

In fact, how you deal with breakdowns can be huge opportunities to delight your customers.

Think of those times when something went wrong with, say, a restaurant meal, and the restaurant employee handled it in one of 3 ways.

The first way is to ignore the problem and just say, at best, “I am so sorry your meal had a fly in it”.

The second way is to acknowledge the problem, yet offer only a small solution, “I am so sorry your meal tasted bad and had a fly in it. How about we give you an appetizer for free?”

The third way is to apologize profusely and then go overboard with your correction, “I am so terribly sorry a fly ended up in your stir-fry. This is so awful, and to make up for it, we are offering you this entire dinner free for you and your spouse. We would also like to offer you any bottle of wine on our menu on us as a way of saying ‘sorry for this’. And, not only that we would like to invite you to come back again on us with a gift certificate for you and your spouse? How does that sound?”.

Can you see how the third way at least as a better chance of creating a raving fan, as the restaurant did not just apologize, it over-corrected!

Pay Close Attention to What they Acknowledge You For

When you get things right, what are they saying?

Does it arise from a particularly exceptional member of your Team, and the extra service they give?

If yes, then look at embedding the specific things they are doing as Performance Standards and elevate that Team Member to a Team Trainer for new recruits.

In other words, what you are doing right must be systematized.

Ask Them Directly How You Are Doing

Another way to get good feedback is to hold a Client Advisory Board (we used to do these for our clients) and find out (when the actual owner and Team are not present) how the business is doing with their customers.

We find that people are much more forthcoming when the company Team are not involved so really honest suggestions can be uncovered.

Again, once you find out what you are doing right, embed it in systems.

What you are doing wrong, get rid of those habits immediately.

An example of this could be a professional firm that charges their clients by the hour.

In a private Client Advisory Board, the clients of the firm say how much they hate hourly billing, because they never know how much the bill is going to be.

That firm must get rid of the hourly billings soon after the Client Advisory Board or it will make a mockery of listening to your clients and then not acting.

You would be better off not asking in the first place!

Design Processes That are Lean and Customer-Centric

Every few months, if not even more, you need to re-examine how you are doing what you do.

We are all creatures of habit and we make two mistakes in this area.

Firstly, you may be doing things that made a lot of sense when you started doing them, and then later on, in looking at that same process objectively you realize it is either redundant, inefficient, or totally wasteful.

Secondly, new technologies, or re-design of best practices can make an overall efficient system even better.

Here is a very small example of that in our own firm. We have a terrific 1-800 line. It is a triple repeating, easily remembered number. (1-800-465-4656).

I really don’t want to let it go. Each Team Member has an extension of the 1-800 line connected to their cell phone.

The trouble is, none of our clients actually uses the 1-800 line. They just call each Team member directly on their cell.

So, I am paying too much on Ring Central to host that 1-800 line. My solution is to add it to my own “YouMail” voicemail account (I am already paying for that service). In this way, I keep our precious 1-800 line and any website prospects will then get me directly on my cell when they call our 1-800 line, and I will stop using Ring Central and save money.

If our clients loved using the 1-800 line then I would, of course, keep it with Ring Central.

Get Rid of Everything that Doesn’t Matter

Based on your examination above, get rid of everything that doesn’t matter to your customers.

Everything. Make yourself lean.

Ask these questions for every process – why are we doing this? Does our customer even care?

If you come up with a great customer-centric reason for why you are doing a particular step or process, then ask this question – can we do this more efficiently, or even better?

The above steps need to be scheduled and looked at quarterly as a Team so that you can keep improving and getting better – for your customers!

Thanks for reading…