With so much going on in business, it can be a daunting exercise to know what to work on first to create improvements. Everyone is busy doing their job and trying their best to deliver good service to customers, but it’s not quite working the way it should and the business isn’t generating good enough profit.
Methods evolve over time and different people do things their own way. Before you know it, the business and customers are at the mercy of the mood of the person delivering on the day. If you want to create a better outcome for your customers and your business, here are some high-level points to consider.
1. Focus on customers
At the end of the day this is what counts. What your customer perceives as valuable is what you must deliver. If your service is delivered faster, cheaper and better than your competitors you will have the ‘edge’ on them. Word soon gets around that you can be relied upon to provide good service and you will get more work.
2. Work out how tasks gets done
When you’ve been in business for a while it’s common to hear things like “This is the way we’ve always done it.” In order to implement improvements, you need to understand exactly how things are being done now.
Get someone to work with service people and document what is being done and how. Get them to write it down in a way that creates a procedure, so that someone else could do the job without help.
3. Get rid of inefficiency and waste
Follow the procedure documented above in point 2 and consider what time is being wasted on activities that don’t deliver value to your customer or, worse, create hassle for them. Work out ways to eliminate inefficiencies e.g. wasted time, movement, inventory, delays, unnecessary steps, duplication of effort, errors and rework.
4. Report on numbers and manage by evidence
Once you’ve worked out what the key steps in delivering your service are, decide which are the critical ones that need to be measured and reported on. This will help you to see where improvements are being made and how you can continue to improve. This delivers clear proof that improvements are being made and removes assumption.
5. Empower your people
Usually the best person to work out how to improve processes is the person doing the job. By involving them in the improvement process they deliver better motivation and input. This creates more time for them to perform other potential higher value and more enjoyable tasks.
6. Set up systems to manage
Any process works best where there are clear guidelines on how to perform tasks. Systems allow for key staff absenteeism, to ensure the work continues to be done in a methodical way and to an agreed level of quality. The last thing you want is to lose a big customer just because someone was off sick the day their service was delivered to a poor standard. Systems create an environment of continual improvement and allow for improvements to be incorporated easily. Systems also improve business value, because they allow someone else to come in and run the business easily.
CFO On Call recently helped a client in contracting to turn around a loss-making job to three subsequent profit-making ones. Often it’s only small and inexpensive changes that are required to shape up your systems and improve processes and outcomes.