January is the month we vow to make positive changes in our lives. Yet, change is difficult for most of us. It takes determination and willpower to change habits, even work habits. It’s easy to simply leave things as they are, so we won’t have to go through the pain of changing systems, people and processes. The problem is, if we don’t change our way of doing business, treating customers and relating to employees we could stagnate technologically and eventually fail to keep up with innovative ideas.
It all goes back to figuring out what makes your customer buy from you. How does Jane Doe decide to choose your dry cleaning location over your competitor? Have you ever asked your loyal customers this question? You may be surprised that the answer is not about price but about trust. Will you do what you say you’re going to do, when you say you’re going to do it? Can Jane Doe depend on you to follow through on your promises of excellent quality and great customer service? Or is it merely lip service?
Realize that customers measure your performance both on how well you keep your word, the atmosphere of your physical plant and the front counter people they meet when they first walk in. What changes need to be made in these departments to make 2015 a better year than 2014? What promises and guarantees can you change to meet or beat your competitor’s challenges. Many times, simply offering something which is standard in the industry can set you apart and give you a remarkable advantage, by mentioning it in your advertising and in-store displays.
According to Jon Katzenbach in Real Change Leaders, “It’s all about getting people to do things more effectively. It’s all the same stuff; it’s just a matter of scale and scope.” For owners to create lasting change they have to raise expectations among employees and get their recommendations about how to do their own jobs more efficiently. This not only makes them part of the change process; it encourages them to meet the challenges and feel like they’ve accomplished something positive.
You can guide them along by focusing on four major areas of reengineering.
1. Eliminate unnecessary steps: Examine the work flow in your plant and figure out how to make it more efficient while maintaining quality.
2. Combine Steps: Where in your work flow can you combine steps to speed up the process or improve quality? By combining steps which may be overlapping, you can achieve quality results.
3. Reducing, speeding and smoothing out wrinkles in processing: What steps can you reduce or eliminate to improve efficiency? How can you incentivize employees to speed up processing while maintaining quality?
4. Identifying and fixing problems: Find out where in the production line are processes slowing down and fix them. If you’re not using advanced technology, inquire about upgrading your equipment to meet the needs of your customers.
I have thrown a lot of questions for you to ponder in this article. I hope you will take them to heart and use them as an impetus for change and growth in your business. The bottom line is to create a customer experience which is unique to your style and personality while communicating those preferences to employees on a regular basis. Couple this with a more efficient plant operation and great customer service and you’ll be on your way to make 2015 your best year yet.