Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.
– Peter Drucker
Often times great quotes work outside their normal confines. Let's rephrase this one for marketing, sales, and customer service.
Most of what we call marketing, sales, and customer service consists of making it difficult for customers to get what they willingly want even with their money in hand trying to stuff it in our cash register.
Have you ever had a miserable experience dealing with a company? You know, where the policies were dumb, the people were idiotic, and the service was slow for no apparent reason.
Ever wonder if your company does stupid things like that as well?
Contemplate this horror. You may be blind to opponents like this because you've been doing your business for 10 years?
If you have not considered that you may be blind … or you want to regain your sight, here's an exercise to open your eyes. The work you have do only takes a big cup of coffee to finish.
OVER COFFEE, OUT OF THE OFFICE
You're only doing two things. First, writing out the process your customer goes through to buy something from you and then the service they get. Second, writing out what the customer is thinking during this process.
Get out of the office, get away from your fires and just do it. Go to a Caribou, a Starbucks, or even a Dunkin 'Donuts.
Once away from the office and a hot beverage in hand …
Get out 2 sheets of paper. One the first, draw out the sales and service process. Do it step by step and number each step. Make arrows from one step to the next. This is a process map of how your business serves its customers.
Next, on another sheet of paper, copy all the steps of your first process. Do it quickly. Now, BE your customer. Go from their eyes.
You are now the customer. For each step, what is going through your mind (as the customer) ? Write it down.
What is going on in your head before and after each step? Write it down.
Remember, you're the customer now. As the customer you have a life OUTSIDE doing business with the firm. As a matter of fact your life (as the customer) is a universe of NOT dealing with this business, except for a microscopic speck of time where you (the customer) and they (the company) cross paths. Quickly write a list of the things going on in your (the customer's) life?
Let's recap what you've accomplished here.
You have a picture of your business, the process map. Step by step what goes on to sell and serve the customer. Then you have the same map, but from the customer's perspective.
BACK IN THE OFFICE
After both maps are done go back to your managers and workers.
Show them the first map, the process map.
Ask them if that's how the process actually works.
Wait wait wait!
You know what, if it's you asking, it may screw things up.
As the boss people tend to tell you what they think you want to hear.
Here's what you do.
Call up a respectable friend and have them come into the office to pretend to be a consultant. Know anyone who is a grad student? Know anyone who just sees to come off like they know what they're doing … but may not have a clue? Get them. Have them ask people about the map.
Have them ask, "How accurate is this process map to your experience?"
Each comment have your faux consultant ask "Why do you do that that way?
Make sure it's all written down.
Next, send your faux consultant to whomever works in sales and marketing. Show them the second map, the Customer Map.
Armed with the comments from the session with the workers, ask them their perceptions of what the customer may thinking.
What ideas and insights do they come up with?
Remember to demand from your faux consultant that the sales and marketing people stay in character. They are looking from the customer's eyes, not their own … in other words marketing class or MBAs will not be of use here. What does the customer see and think?
Make sure it's all written down.
When all is done, have your friend dump everything they've written down on your desk.
Okay, I have the stuff on my desk. Now what?
First, read through it once.
Second, forget about it for at least 24 hours, two full days may be better.
Third, come back to it. Do not put it off for another few days. Go out for another cup of coffee away from the office. Rewrite the process map and rewrite the Customer Map based upon the collection of comments.
By now, you probably have great ideas on improvements for your business. Make a simple list of them.
What's your most valuable idea from this? Pick the most valuable thing to change. Sketch out a quick process map of it, the important steps. Bring it back to the office and show your staff.
If you focus on one thing at a time and make sure your staff is executing, you'll see massive improvements in the bottom line and a reduction of your stress level.
Why is this valuable?
1) You'll see how different you see things versus how your management and your employees see things.
2) You'll see opportunities where you're leaving money on the table. Whether discovering missing sales upfront or damaging relationships that leak money out the back.
3) You'll have a blueprint for improvement.
4) You'll have your entire business, in your hands, on one sheet of paper – the process map.
5) You can not change what you're unaware of, nor what you do not understand. Now, you'll have both.
You've just gotten tens of thousands of dollars worth of consulting done. All the work you initially did you completed before your venti mint mocha was down to the coffee dregs. And while your friend was running around getting honest ideas, opinions, and perspectives, you were working on something that was moving your business forward.
That's just working smart.