Easy Does It
January 1, 2003
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A few months ago, I wrote about becoming a "process enterprise", which is one of the nine themes in Michael Hammer’s book "The Agenda" (ISBN 0-609-60966-1). (By the way, if you don’t have a copy of this book, you owe it to yourself to get a copy.) This month, I want to talk about another of his themes: becoming "easier to do business with".
Consider these quotes from Hammer:
”If your ways of working are designed for your own convenience rather than your customers’, they will pay the penalty, and in the long run, so will you. The harder it is to do business with you, the greater the burden and the costs you impose on your customer and, of course, the less competitive you become."
"Your company is much more likely to impose penalties on your customers for the privilege of doing business with you. The experiences of ordering, receiving, using, and paying for your products and services probably lead your customers to put your photograph on their dartboards."
So, how "easy" are you? We all know the obvious things that supposedly make it easy to do business with someone, like having an 800-number, being open 24 hours, having a web storefront, etc. But, let’s switch the focus to your "back office" processes, and see whether they make you easy to do business with.
- Do you bombard your customers with unnecessary paperwork and constant minutia? I had one client who sent their customers invoices for less than $1! I couldn’t believe it! Assuming they were even making a gross profit after postage and printing, they couldn’t possibly be making a profit on the processing cost. And, how insulting to their customers!
- Do you present a "single face" to your customers? Do you have multiple "customer service" departments? I use Qwest for internet connectivity, and while the service itself has been nearly flawless, I have NO idea who to call when I do have a problem. Last month, I did have a problem, and called at least half a dozen numbers before I found someone who could help me. They all recognized me, but it "wasn’t their department". So, why do I remain their customer? Probably the "pain" of switching.
- Do you collaborate with your partner suppliers and customers? A new Deloitte Consulting survey of 300 executives indicates that companies that link partners and suppliers to their internal business processes report 70% greater profitability than companies that haven’t integrated.
- How about your employee relationships? Do you make it easy for your employees to work with you? No, calling them "associates" doesn’t mean a thing if they hate working there.
- How about maintaining a "single face" to your employees? Do they know who to talk to about a benefits issue? How about a tax computation error? Do you have a single, comprehensive, intranet site, where employee can maintain their tax withholding, benefits, etc?
- If you use timesheets, does each employee have a "default timesheet" so that they only have to record exceptions?