7. Time Bombs. The old school thought on growth is that companies need to do things cheaper, faster and better to win business. While a I do not agree with this model for growth, I do agree with the fact that in order for organizations to deliver on the “faster”part they have to build and plant time bombs thoughout the organization. Time is of the essence in today’s economy and a quick response to internal and external issues can make or break a company (ahem – Yahoo! and Delicious for example). Attention-getting time bombs of some type need to go off whenever you are not exceeding the customer’s expectation of time. The entire organization needs to see, hear, and feel the obvious warning signs of impending time problems.
How this is setup is totally dependent on your organization and your customer’s perception of time as it relates to their consumer experience. If you sell a product with a specific delivery terms, ask yourself if you can exceed your customer expectations without producing any negative side effects. Or perhaps you can adjust your organization’s idea on what late means (it could mean the expectation is that the product arrives one day before delivery is expected).
If you are providing a service, it may mean that you start to track the number of times that an employee has to call to inform a customer that she will be late or call to reschedule an appointment. Or another way to look at it is if you are working on a project and the team starts to miss small milestones. Consider how many times do key people find out about a problem after it’s too late to really fix it or at a point where it is twice as expensive to fix it as it would have been earlier? Worse still, when you find out about an issue or problem for the first time from a customer.
The next part is measuring the organization to the new standards and stating explicitly to everyone when they are not meeting the new expectations of the customer and when you are exceeding them. Define key metrics, explain the importance of gathering accurate information with your staff, and ensure that everyone in your organization is aware of the minimum set of expectations that a customer has and how to exceed them.
The idea of planting time bombs within your organization so that key people are aware of issues or problems as they arise also highlights the fact that information that is vital to delivering your product or service has to be aggregated in one spot and displayed in such a manner that people can use it to make decisions. There are a variety of solutions available for this ranging from simple email, project wiki’s, dashboards, the list goes on. Find something that fits the culture and budget of your company.
8. Tractable. Tractable is defined as (adj.) susceptible to suggestion; s personality sensitive to other’s desires [syn: malleable, responsive]. In order to achieve growth as a company you need to be malleable and responsive. Satisfaction is not a continuum. People don’t move along in stages from “completely unsatisfied” to “completely satisfied.” You can grab customers and immediately move them from the bottom of the scale to the top if you can solve that customer’s problem in a way that’s far beyond what they were expecting.
Give everyone in your organization some semblance of power to rectify a situation as it unfolds in front of them. Think of ways that customers have become dissatisfied in the past and how you would have properly solved the problem. Next, consider the implied authority that the staff had who were involved in the situation. What’s the gap between how you as a key decision maker would have solved the situation to your front line staff? What steps could you take to empower your staff to rectify similar situations in the future?
At the very least, be sure that you never hear these phrases uttered by people in your company:
- “I’m sorry, but that’s our policy.”
- “If I do this for you, I’ll have to do it for everybody.”
- “You’ll have to speak to my manager. I don’t have the power to do that.”
- “I don’t know if I’m allowed to do that.”
- “If it were up to me, you know I would do it.”
Take time to give power and authority to any employees who have contact with customers and ensure that everyone in your organization knows to be tractable with your number one asset.