Flush The Systems: It’s Time To Make Things Simpler – Grow Great Daily Brief #211 – May 22, 2019

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How old is your business? It’s only relative to how bloated your systems may be. But maybe not. I’ve seen start-ups with bloated systems, too.

Over time things tend to get more complex, not simpler. We have to be very intentional to keep things simple, clean and straight-forward.

I once took leadership of a company to get it to the next level. Shortly after I arrived it was apparent there were lots of procedures and systems that had been implemented to fix a problem. The problem is you could tell the company was doing something to fix one problem, but unwittingly the company had created multiple other problems. It’s that whole law of unintended consequences thing. Fix one thing and create about three new problems. Then, some system or process is put in place to try to fix those.

One day I began to gather all the forms used by the company. Forms that involved customer interaction. Forms that directly impacted the customer interface.

At first there were 6, then 9, then 16, then 27. The number kept growing. Everywhere I looked there were systems on top of systems. Processes for other processes. The business was bloated with systems.

It frustrated me because I have an obsession with being nimble. Moving quickly and efficiently is just how I prefer to roll. All this hoop jumping was anything but nimble.

I ditched them. All of them. We burned them to the ground and started from scratch. Turns out about 3 systems took care of it all. Three.

Because we’re focused on the customer experience it’s time to take a look at the systems that may be getting in the way. Some companies put things in the way intentionally. These are the worst companies on the planet when it comes to customer happiness.

Some companies bet on breakage. That is, they make things difficult because they know a big percentage of people will just accept the status quo. Take cable or satellite TV providers, notorious companies for inching up the monthly expense for their customers. By implementing invoice creep these companies make millions in extra profit. You’ve experienced this.

Your invoice goes up. You don’t notice. Until you do. And when you do notice you’re faced with, “What can I do about this?” Only one thing you can do…enter the system designed by the company to make it as difficult as possible for you. They want this to be so difficult you give up and just accept the escalated rate.

If you are brave enough (and determined enough) to make the call, then you have to endure a long-winded wait, followed by a long-winded ordeal to get the bill down. But you’ll likely be offered a new lower rate only by agreeing to a 2-year extension to your contract, where you’re agreeing they can change their pricing at will.

It’s a pathetic business model that in time will lose because customers won’t tolerate it as better options are offered. Streaming TV services are disrupting the cable and satellite TV industry. The customers are going to win because they’ve got the power.

The companies that cater to the customers are also going to win. And big.

Wal-Mart began the trend in modern business by giving the customer what he wanted at a price he could afford. By making things straight-forward and easy Wal-Mart exploded in the ’80s and ’90s. With world-class logistic and buying power, they changed the landscape of retailing. Along the way, they made customer returns easy. Before Wal-Mart, very few retailers had a liberal return policy, but the folks in Bentonville led the way with “bring it back for any reason.” Today, it’s just how things are with nearly every retailer.

Amazon took things to a whole new level by having a focus on the shopper unrivaled in the history of retail. Nobody – NOBODY – does it better. Amazon is world-class because of it. They’re the easiest company on the planet to do business with. Nobody is easier. They’re determined to make sure of it. And they’ve got the success to prove it. And to keep it going.

Simpler for whom? That’s the issue.

You already know the answer: the customer! It’s all about the customer.

That’s not how things used to be. Businesses imposed on customers to make it easier on themselves. Otherwise, they had to sacrifice some profit. That’s AT&T’s problem. And DIRECTV. And all the other mammoth companies who think they’re too big to fail. They’re wrong. Nobody is ever too big to fail. Nobody.

If you believe customers should be squeezed for every bit of profit potential available, then you’ll design systems to accomplish that.

If you believe customers are the foundation upon which your business will rise or fall, then you’ll design systems to make their lives vastly easier.

I was quite young when I first heard a business guy talking about customer happiness versus satisfaction. “Do you want your wife to be happy, or satisfied?”

Nuff said. Flush the systems that make your customers lives miserable. Stop getting in the way of your own success.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!

RC