Solomon Bruce Consulting Blog

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Breakdowns-- They ARE Preventable!

  I was visiting with a client this afternoon and he told me that "we had a breakdown".  I thought, "Ummm-- what is a breakdown?"
  The client told me that his store has had some customer service issues for the past few weeks.  In fact, I have noticed that was the case when I was in the store last week.  Interestingly, the client has two different facilities and his office is in one facility, where his retail space is in another facility, approximately 5 miles apart.  The key problem with this client was focused customer service.  When the client maintained his office in his retail space, he was always on the floor helping provide good customer service and teaching his staff what he expected with how his customers are treated.  When the business grew to the point where he had to move to the other facility, he was unable to provide the constant day to day supervision and thus, relied to a greater degree upon on his management team.
   As we discussed his breakdown, he identified to me that he had to "shake up things" a little and get everyone focused, once again, on their number one priority, the customer-- the individual who buys the product and pays the salaries.
   When I asked why the breakdown occurred, the client told me that he had not spent enough time reinforcing basic principles with his management team.  I asked if there was a policy and procedures manual, he told me that there was and that the management team knew about it and were familiar with it.
   Interestingly, another client  this week shared a very similiar story-- this client also had a "breakdown".  Surprisingly, the fact pattern is very similiar, client/owner geographically separated from the retail location, failure to follow policy and procedures by staff, serious embarrassment and loss of customer good will by the firm.
   In each instance, policies and procedures were in place, documented and understood by management personnel.  However, it appears that lack of frequent emphasis and reminding allowed the staff to "forget" exactly what was expected of them and they "took shortcuts".  Unfortunately, in each case, the shortcut ended up being the wrong way and problems occurred.
   We are all humans-- we all make errors.  However, as the business owner, you have a duty and responsibilty to constantly re-enforce all of the policies and procedures that define and characterize your business.  It makes no difference what kind of business it is, a breakdown is a breakdown.
   Make sure that you frequently, weekly, if not more, state and restate the policies that your firm has established.  Once a quarter, you should have an "all hands" meeting, going over not only the successes of the firm during the last quarter, but areas where improvement will allow the firm to achieve higher goals next quarter.  This is something that requires constant vigilance-- once the policies and procedures are developed, you must continually reinforce the policies with all staff members.  This is not totally goof proof, however, in most instances, the chance of a breakdown will be much less.


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