Setting Up & Using Performance Standards Ensures Success
In setting up your business plan, the first question to ask is “What do I want to do?” In other words, establish your goals. With your goals in mind, ask the second question, “How am I going to accomplish these goal?” The answer to this second question is the topic of this article. The “How” is what is known as performance standards.
In a quality-oriented service business, it’s essential that every member of the service team have a clear understanding of the expected level of job performance. Without clear and concise performance standards, it’s difficult to reach your goals. To paraphrase Ralph Bloss, a respected industry veteran, “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?”
Many carpet-cleaning firms are proud that they do a “good job” or they advertise that they “do the job right.” Yet when asked about the details of their workmanship, they often cannot describe how a “good job” really differs from any other job. The way the job is measured is through performance standards. The more detailed your standards, the clearer the distinction becomes between a “good job” and any other.
The first performance standard needs to be centered on the cleaning results. Appearance level, spot removal, and texture improvement are some of the “yard sticks” used to measure cleaning results. The specific cleaning steps that will lead you to the desired results need to be spelled out in your company procedure manual and all technicians must follow them on every job. In IICRC classes, we teach the five principles of cleaning—dry soil removal, soil suspension, soil extraction, grooming, and drying—as the steps needed to meet the performance standard in carpet cleaning. Depending on your method, the actual procedures might vary. For Hot Water Extraction (HWE) they would generally include vacuuming, pre conditioning, rinsing, brushing, and use of air movers. By detailing the procedures and establishing performance standards, you can be assured the technician knows what has to be done to get the desired results.
The second area where performance standards are needed is in the area of customer service. Arriving at the job site on time, qualifying the job, stating clear price quotations, offering additional service items, answering customer questions, efficient collection of fees, and asking for referrals are all examples of the procedures needed to achieve a standard of excellence in customer service. Even if you are successful at getting the carpet sparkling clean, but fail to reach the customer’s level of expectation (performance standard) in the area of customer service, you will not be a successful carpet cleaner.
Finally, it’s necessary to establish performance standards in the operations of your business. Areas such as equipment maintenance, reordering supplies, training meetings, invoice processing, or scheduling fall into this group. Set definite procedures and steps that must be taken to insure these tasks are “up to your standard” for operations.
Complete, detailed procedure manuals that outline well thought out performance standards will answer the “How” question in your business plan. Production, Customer Service, and Operations are the three areas of your business where performance standards are critical. Once you have your performance standards in place, you have a means to evaluate your progress toward your goals. You are now ready to ask the third question in developing your business plan, “When.”