The day to day transactions of any business enterprise are not easy, regardless of what business you are in. But recognizing the friction points and setting strategies to reduce them, can make your business run smoother; and keep your customers and employees happier. We'll attempt to delve into this strategy in this week's lesson.
There are lots of metaphors like "the customer is king," "the customer is always right;" and "a business is only as good as the people that work there." Yet all of us struggle constantly to keep both our customers and our employees happy and satisfied.
What is necessary periodically and perhaps even on a planned schedule is to step back and analyze what the "friction" points are that hinder your business from running smoother and more efficient. Some time should be taken to observe your operation like an outside consultant would. What do you see that is impeding productivity? How can you get things done faster and better? How can you improve employee morale, while at the same time having them enjoy serving your clients better and making them happy as well? Encourage feedback from your people during this process.
Then examine whether you are you keeping up with the latest technologies? There are technologies that exist that can reduce friction and increase productivity. Perhaps you can cut down your phone bills with VOIP services which allow you more digital options than regular land line services. Or perhaps instead of driving long distances to clients or flying to other states, have you considered using Apple's new Mac Books? You can video conference with GREAT CLARITY with up to four company representatives or clients for FREE. This alone can save your employees the wear and tear of travel as well as time away from home and expenses. You might also try document sharing services on the Internet that allow multiple people to edit a single document, eliminating the friction caused by multiple e-mails and attachments. New technologies can greatly reduce friction points and get things done more efficiently than ever before.
Make sure you identify what processes or events that take place that really aggravate your customers? While it's true that technologies are revolutionizing our world, you must make sure that your customers are not getting pushed aside as a result of some of them. For instance, do your customers like to be put through a maze of "Press 1 for this and Press 3 for that?" Maybe you need to find out? How important can that process make your customers feel? If your customers despise your business systems, they may easily drift away to your competitors without you realizing it.
It's wonderful to cut costs. It's wonderful to increase your profits. It shows that you're allocating scarce resources very efficiently. But, don't make the mistake of letting your customers feel like they must pay a pound of flesh to improve your bottom line. Just ask current air travelers who are paying high fares today for lousier services than they expect?
Next, do your employees like working for you? Do they feel like they are part of a winning team? Do they feel like they have something at stake? Many times, the owners of a company would bend over backwards for their customers, but their employees could care less. What can you do to motivate your employees? Asking your employees and customers some pertinent questions and jotting down some notes, can provide an outline to reduce friction in your business.
Too often we go through life with blinders on and fight the same ineffective habits and procedures every day. It's up to the leaders in every business to constantly try to improve the company's systems and processes to reduce the friction in their business. As a business owner, you can coast for only so long. Eventually, the time comes when a strong competitor will come into town and take away your customers and your most valuable employees. A quick look at the stronger competitor will show that they are technologically advanced, more efficient, and more in tune with their customers and employees needs and wants. Naturally, consumers will flock there. And your employees, who have to take care of their families, will have a strong incentive to work there as well.
Don't wait for the rude awakening. Prevent it! Find the weak spots in your business and eliminate them. If you're running an older Windows operating system that runs slow, aggravates employees and clients and destroys morale, then it's time for an upgrade to Vista. Or maybe even a changeover to Apple whom I believe has an edge over Microsoft in many areas for small business owners?
In the end, what counts is how well you service your customers and motivate and manage your team. By constantly finding your weak spots and eliminating them, you'll take better care of your customers and employees and keep your competition at bay. Begin identifying and removing your friction points today. Everyone will smile more tomorrow!