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Bite By Bite

January 29, 2009
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“How do you eat an elephant?” 

The elephant is, of course, a huge, overwhelming project. You know the answer:  A bite at a time. The next question, then, is, “But where do I start?” The answer:  it doesn’t matter.



“How do you eat an elephant?” 

The elephant is, of course, a huge, overwhelming project. You know the answer:  A bite at a time. The next question may be, “But where do I start?” The answer:  it doesn’t matter. If you keep biting and chewing and swallowing you are going to finish that elephant.

    You may have embarked on the long, arduous, overwhelming project of business improvement. You’ve decided that you will no longer sacrifice your body, mind and fortune on a losing business. You are committed to a total overhaul. Good for you. As you dig into that project, it may look more and more like an elephant. Let’s take it bite by bite.

    You can’t go wrong by looking at your business from your customer’s perspective. Ultimately, no matter what you charge, no matter who works for you, no matter how many booties you put on, if you don’t serve the needs and wants of your customer you are going to lose the business game.

Let’s pretend your customer, Mrs. Fernwicky, has a carpet that needs cleaning. From her perspective, consider what it is like to go through the process of finding and hiring a good cleaning professional to solve the problem.

Mrs. Fernwicky spends a sleepless night, tossing, turning and smelling that messy carpet. (Right out of the gate, she has got to be a bit cranky. Wouldn’t you be?)  Let’s imagine what happens next. On the left side of the page is everything that could go wrong from Mrs. F’s perspective. Look through each item. Could that happen with your company?  If so, what few things could you do to fix that and keep it from happening…at least 95% of the time?

Mrs. F can’t remember or find your name
Embark on a formal branding initiative and determine to find an impossible-to-forget identity. Explore franchising and capitalizing on a national brand. Consider crafting a new name, logo and message for your company. Initiate a “what to do until we get there” emergency clean up program with your service techs. Put your company name in the white pages as well as the yellow pages of the phone book. Cloverleaf the neighborhood with refrigerator magnets and other useful trinkets with your company name and number on them.

She calls your shop and gets a recorded message
Put a budget together. Plug in the costs of hiring a real live person to answer the phone. Raise your prices accordingly. Consider forwarding the phones to your phone. Do like Jet Blue: hire a mom with school age kids to answer your phone at her house…while her noisy kids are at school. Until you employ a real live person to answer the phone, record a snappy, attention getting message:  Do you just hate answering machines?  Me too!  Please don’t hang up. I will call you back within the hour. I promise. Then, I will come to your house and make your carpet problems go away. I’ll bring lunch. My lunch. OK. I will bring an extra cookie for you.

She calls your shop and a real live person answers the phone and is rude
Send your Customer Service Reps (CSRs) to a formal sales and communication training class. Don’t let your mom answer the phone anymore. Call your shop every day and Role Play with the CSR who takes your call. Have fun with different scenarios. Help!  My husband tracked mud through the house and his parents are coming to dinner tonight. How do I get a clean carpet without getting divorced?

The live person is not prepared to write or type Mrs. F’s contact information
Have the CSRs create a “Ready, Set…Answer” checklist. Assemble all the items needed to successfully record customer information and hand off to the Dispatcher. Provide headsets for all CSRs and require that they use them. Consider recording phone calls. Look into the legal and logistical requirements. Incorporate basic literacy testing into your hiring procedures.

Mrs. F never gets a return call
Initiate a stay-in-touch policy that requires that every call in gets a call back within one hour. Send an “Ooops, we goofed” card with a slice of cherry “humble” pie.

She finally gets a call back and is told that the service tech will arrive somewhere between 8 am and Judgment Day. Hmmm. The carpet cleaning company she used yesterday committed to a 15-minute time window…and they showed up on time.
Contact the carpet cleaning company who did a great job of on-time dispatching. Ask the owner if he would share his dispatch procedures with you in exchange for sharing your latest hard surface cleaning procedures. Contact every customer who is waiting for service once an hour until the tech arrives.

When the tech arrives, he parks his leaky, rust bucket truck in the driveway, right behind her son’s car. Of course her son is already running late for work.
Ditch the rust bucket fleet. Update your budget to include all new vehicles. Raise your prices accordingly. Demonstrate the best way to approach your customer’s home with your service vehicles. Use Matchbox cars and Lego houses. Park service trucks on the street in front of the house and get permission to move it into the driveway. Compliment Mrs. F’s son for having a job.

The tech is scary dirty
Implement a grooming policy at your shop. Have everyone promise to shower daily, use deodorant, brush teeth and scrub hands and nails. Write people up for being dirty. Send them home to clean up. Stop hiring messy people.

Mrs. F doesn’t get two words in before the tech says, “You know what your problem is…”
Commit to mandatory, formal sales and communication training for all Service Techs. Use written troubleshooting checklists complete with situation-appropriate questions to help the tech make a good diagnosis, considering technical as well as lifestyle issues. Ride along with each of your techs at least once a month. Watch, listen and learn how they communicate with customers. Incorporate daily role play sessions. Pretend to be cranky, frustrated Mrs. Fernwicky. Take turns asking good questions and listening before offering any solutions.

She feels overloaded when presented with 101 cleaning options and a dozen service agreement plans.
Review all the information you are currently requiring the techs to deliver to customers. Empower your techs to customize the information presented to best serve their customers. Commit to a few great product lines. Offer product knowledge training programs to help your techs learn the features and benefits of each product and service. Role play offering better and best solutions to common cleaning problems.

    Get the idea? Bite by bite, go through Mrs. F’s possible experiences, from the discovery of her messy carpet problem to her morning after buyer’s remorse. Consider how to solve each mini-problem. You’ll create a useful Master To Do list. Bite by bite, you can energize the mini-projects on the right hand side of the list. Bite by bite, you will build a better business.

    Want a customized version of this for your own use? Just go to our Contact Us page at www.barebonesbiz.com. Let me know that you would like the Bite by Bite form and I’ll email it to you. Enroll your team in the exercise. Let me know of your challenges and successes using this cool tool.

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