- Consistency is critical to success because profit – the purpose of being in business - comes from repeat customers
- People and processes are the two sides to achieving Delivery Mastery
- Fine details matter because sorting out the small things allows the more significant things to take care of themselves
The fourth area to master in building a successful business – one that is commercial, profitable and can work without the owner being there every day – is delivery. Time, direction and money are the first three, but no business will achieve its true potential without consistent delivery excellence.
Delivery Mastery – meeting and exceeding customer expectations every time, with the same high-quality product or service regardless of any outside factors – sets apart great businesses from merely good ones. In a world disrupted by supply issues, staff shortages and rising inflation, mastering delivery isn’t a luxury but a business survival essential.
The first key to mastering delivery is consistency because referrals rely on it. Imagine going into your local barber or hairdresser and coming out the first time with a great cut, having had a coffee in the salon and ‘feeling like a million bucks for the great experience. Then, the second time, no coffee, a rushed cut with no finesse and a jagged fringe (or whatever would annoy you, style-wise!) There’d be no third time, and you’d likely tell your friends that the salon wasn’t up to much, right? Much better to under-promise and over-deliver than to be inconsistent and unpredictable.
So, if you are the salon owner, you must embrace feedback! We all love compliments and shy away from complaints, but that is shortsighted if we want to become masters of delivery because complaints are a great source of things to fix in our businesses. As the business owner, one of your essential tasks is to find and eliminate bottlenecks (in this definition, anything that throttles down your business and leads to poorer customer experiences) in your operations. Having a customer complain gives you immediate insights into a bottleneck that needs fixing. Most times, customers that complain are trying to help you, rather than having a whinge, so next time you get the chance to get feedback, grab it with both hands and immediately sort out the root cause.
Of course, sorting out bottlenecks before they cause complaints and slow down your business is even better. The way to do that is to get right down into the ‘brass tacks’ and flowchart your operations. Create a visual ‘map’ of every part of your business, starting at the highest level and working your way down. That means starting with the end in mind, with the customer as your point of reference, not your business. Once you’ve created a detailed flowchart, measure each step of the process – how long does it take to respond to a quote, get out to the site or get supplies so you can get the job started? Returning to the salon example, how long does each type of service take? If you are running a business that sends invoices once the job is done, how long after completion do you invoice and how long does it take to get paid? Where in your process do you ask customers for feedback?
Here is where things get interesting. Having done the flowchart, it is time to make checklists of all the tasks, starting with the most routine. Some people are inclined to say, ‘But I don’t need checklists. I know all this stuff,f and it is just routine’, but here is what I know: No matter how good you are, you will forget things from time to time. More than that, to build a business that works without you, systems and processes need to be consistent and deliver excellent customer service even when you are away enjoying time with friends and family. That isn’t possible when your ‘system’ only exists in your head!
So, get out a pen and paper and write down the checklists. Have the person responsible for that part of the operation review it because responsibility and authority are best delegated as near to the point of delivery as possible. Once you’ve got the flowchart and the checklists in place, ask yourself, ‘How can we improve by 10% in each process step?’ Set yourself and your team goals to improve each of the steps. If you are like most people, make a game of it, with prizes for the best performance improvement suggestion winner.
Good systems and processes are only one-half of delivery mastery. Good systems are run by well-trained, skilled and customer-focused people. People are your greatest asset, but only if you invest in them and empower them to fulfil their potential. It starts with finding, attracting and hiring the best people you can, obviously – get the right people on the bus, then you can decide where to go – but it certainly doesn’t stop there. People only perform to the level they’ve been trained, so if you want success, invest in training, coaching and mentoring to get to the next level of high performance.
One of the best questions you can ask yourself is whether each of your team knows where they fit into the bigger picture and how they impact the overall customer experience. That means from the back of the house to the person delivering and speaking to the customer directly. A restaurant waiter can’t give excellent customer satisfaction without the cleaning staff, the prep staff, or the person who ordered the ingredients, even though the customer may never interact with those people.
A great way to help everyone understand where they fit in – and ramp up alignment across the business - is to do a simple 10-point Exercise. Starting with yourself, get each person to write down the ten things they believe make up their job. At the same time, you write down what you think their jobs are. Start with your team leaders (then get them to do the same with their direct reports) and compare what each of you believes their jobs are. If the two 10-pointers don’t match up (and they won’t!), it is hard for your team to do their jobs to your expectations. Looking again at bottlenecks, the insights gained mean you have another excellent opportunity to remove a blockage.
Remember, if you grow your people, they will grow your business. By speaking to them – you don’t need all the answers – you will learn things about your business you either never knew or you’ve taken for granted. You will get the chance to remove the obstacles in their paths and, by doing that give them the best opportunity to exceed customer expectations. Consistent, high-quality delivery is good delivery.
You’ve got this!