Making Your Systems Employee & Customer Friendly (338)

Oklahoma Sooner’s head football coach Lincoln Riley has a reputation as a quarterback whisperer. His two previous QB’s are Heisman Trophy winners. Part of his claim to fame is the ability to simplify the position. He installs game plans and plays that QB’s can more easily execute. It’s what he should do as a head coach. Put players in the best position possible so they can succeed.

What about YOU? Are you making your systems easy for customers and employees?

Simple. Easy. Straightforward.

Those are appealing to customers and employees. It creates an atmosphere where sustainable success can be more easily repeated. Predictable. That’s what customers want, provided that what can be predicted is GREAT.

So many companies get skewered by their customer base for frequent and aggressive price hikes. Or for nickel and diming customers. Or for making the experience awful for customers (and likely employees, too). Lots of businesses are out of touch with how their employees and customers feel. Profits are first. That’s fine. You can operate like that. It’s not the ideal long-term play, but you can do it that way.

Or you can build a culture that will sustain high-performance year after year.  That means you put people ahead of profits. Employees and customers. In that order. For good reason, employees deliver the experience to the customers. Create an atmosphere where employees are miserable and you’ll fail at making the experience for customers much better.

Operations get clogged up with non-sense. It’s not unusual for the clog to be prompted by the owner or top leadership. Nor is it unusual for the clog to be the result of some quirky reaction to a single act of idiocy. For example, a business owner discovers one person has figured out to take unfair advantage of a promotion that is working insanely well otherwise. Armed with this single instance of the violation he cancels the entire promotion. Proving true the phrase, “Cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

Friction in these instances isn’t your friend. Customers hate it. Enough of it and they’ll leave you. Ditto for employees. Put enough friction in front of your employees preventing them from achieving their personal goals and they’ll leave, too.

Here’s the secret. Think like an employee and a customer. Stop thinking like a business owner. It’s counter-intuitive but it works. It’s the only way you’ll get your systems right.

Look at the casual dining landscape as proof. The superstars have good food that is consistently predictable. It’s always good. But they have something more. They’re also predictably fast and clean. They go out of their way to soar above the competition. The atmosphere is inviting. The staff is always helpful. The service is always spot on. So you continue to go back. And they continue to have the best employees. Everybody involved is proud to be part of it – either providing the service/food or providing the purchase to keep the place going.

Have you ever gone to a casual dining establishment and thought (or said out loud), “They do business in spite of themselves?” I sure have. Until I eventually refused to go back.

Find the friction in your business. It’s time for brutally honest candor. I’ll give you just two suggestions.

One, huddle with your employees.

One on one. In groups. Figure out the best way to get the truth. Do it in as many ways as you can.

Question: How can we become the best in class as a place to work?

You’re afraid to ask, aren’t you? Don’t be. The truth will set you free. More importantly, it’ll set your employees free to become world-class. Until you get that right, you’ll never get the customer part of the equation right.

This isn’t about blindly accepting every suggestion you hear. It’s about listening and taking meaningful action to build a culture that promotes individual and team success.

Warning: Do this only if you’re serious about acting on it. Otherwise, you’re going to make matters worse.

Two, work out all the kinks that create friction for your customers. The employees will help.

Question: How can we become irresistible to our customers?

Scrutinize every process and system. Every single one. Turn over everything that impacts customers. Guage the friction on whatever scale you want. I like a simple 3 point scale.

1 = The lowest friction possible
2 = The friction is moderate
3 = The friction is high

Identify the points of contact and score each of them. Now single out those that score 3. Bust them vigorously until you drive them down to 1. Think about forming small teams to tackle the processes with which they’re familiar. It’s ideal to involve the employees who deliver that process to the customers.

Hint: Speed matters. Unless we’re talking about a complete computer system overhaul you should be able to reconstruct a process in a week or less. Accept no excuses for delays.

Next, tackle the items that score 2. Same process.

Once you’ve got no processes that score higher than 1, now install teams to keep a watchful eye on ways to drive the friction down even further. This is a permanent business operation. It’s not a fad you’re going to move past. Make sure the company knows this is a permanent fixed part of the operation from now on.

Weekly you and your team should question everything that impacts customers.

Weekly you and your leadership should do the same thing with everything that impacts your employees.

If you’d like to be world-class or best-in-class, this will be some of the most exciting work you’ll ever do. It will also improve your revenues, profitability and help cure your challenge to find great people to help you.

Be well. Do good. Grow great!


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