by Linda Feinholz · 0 comments

© 2008 Linda Feinholz.

This past week I spotted a trend among my clients. You might call it the ‘dash’… everyone is sprinting to prove they’re making changes in their business’s productivity as if that is a badge to earn all by itself.

And too often they are speeding down a track that is taking them to actions and solutions that will cost a lot of time and money and not even solve the issue at hand.

You may be caught in the same sense of urgency, starting an unnecessary race. So I thought I’d share the steps I use with my clients to get them focused at the right pace so that they get the full result they’re hoping for to grow their business.

Step 1 – Define The True Issue

One of my largest clients asked me to sit in during the first presentation by a tech team to address improving the Customer Services function at their company. Sure enough, the team ‘presented’ the issue by quoting back 35 interviewees’ concerns and then went straight into the proposed solution. Fortunately the COO paused the conversation and identified that he hadn’t heard the actual ‘need’ for which the proposed project was a solution.

Make sure you’ve defined exactly what is being ‘fixed’ and be sure the users of the solution are at the table defining what is needed.

Step 2 – Research the Options for Solutions

We all fall in love with our area of expertise. And the tech team members showed it clearly. They were proposing ‘web based’ technology and mega databases to gather all the interactions with clients… and they completely neglected the more familiar automated phone options and even email exchanges. Not to mention the non-tech solutions that could be created by realigning customer service personnel roles.

Take the time to flush out at least three options and run those ideas past the potential users to see if you’re staying on track.

Step 3 – Check that the Solution Matches Your Business Model

For this particular client, the end user will never be the person contacting Customer Service. Their distributors are the ones who will report issues and 20% of them are not computer users. That doesn’t mean they might not find technology solutions useful, but it won’t be sitting at their desk. They need solutions they can use when they are standing on site at a client, or get a phone call while driving between appointments.

All the technology in the world won’t solve your key challenge: make it easy for your customers to communicate with you the way they are ready to today. OR make it even easier!

Step 4 – Double Check That The Solution Works ‘Inside’ AND ‘Outside’

Not only does my client need to make it easy for their customers to be heard and responded to… They also need to capture the information so they can check internally to identify trends in their products and services and decide what may need to be redesigned. The tech team will need to design a system for gathering information easily, and passing it to those who need to know immediately, and summarizing it in reports for periodic trends analysis. At each stage, the information may look very different to each audience.

Sort out how you’ll store information over time so that you can be sure it serves improving your customer’s experience AND your own organization’s performance.

Step 5 – Design How You’ll Test And Adjust The Solution

Just like a rubber band springing back into place, changes in systems and people’s behavior can melt away when you assume it will all come together as needed. Nothing takes you off track more predictably than designing and instituting changes and then walking away from the project. Never assume the ‘design’ is the solution.

Before you invest time and money in permanently changing processes, and policies, and roles and responsibilities test the proposed system with all the users.

Commit to the project’s long-term success by assigning responsibility for testing your chosen solution and evaluating how it’s working… AND commit to adapting it as you learn what is working well and what needs to be tweaked.

Step 6 – Test And Adjust, Test And Adjust

My client is bringing together a task force of six disciplines to talk through all of the steps above. They’ll be guiding the tech team’s focus to be sure it meets all the users needs and stays on track with the Issue identified back in Step 1.

Now it’s your turn on the track.

Previous post:

Next post: