The longer you leave things the more likely they become the accepted norm, and the less likely improvements happen.
It’s just over 30 years since we moved into our house. There aren’t many things we haven’t changed; the whole layout of the rooms, we’ve added an extension and we’ve extended into the roof space.
But there are some things we’ve been meaning to do almost since we moved here; for example it took us 25 years to get round to putting a sign outside with the house name! And it took us three years to fix a broken tile in our kitchen doorway.
You see, the thing is, the longer you live with something the more you become accustomed to it being that way. We simply stop noticing the cracks. And in the case of the kitchen tile we just automatically stepped over it.
And this can happen in a business too. There can be a gradual decline: the fabric of your building, the morale of your team, the speed of response for a customer. When it’s gradual we don’t notice it.
And once it’s been a certain way for any length of time unless it causes us a major inconvenience we simply get used to things that way, and ignore the improvements needed.
So what are the cracks in your business which could be impacting your teams well-being, their productivity, or levels of engagement. Or impacting your customers’ experience?
Even when you stop noticing these things if they have an impact on your team or your customers you can be sure that they won’t have stopped noticing.
Ask the question
Ask your team where there are ‘cracks’ in your business: in your systems, with your equipment, in your customers’ journey. Listen to their views to flush out anything that’s standing in the way of them doing a great job or impacts the customer in some way.
This often highlights frustrations they have in the system or with current resources, levels of authority, existing skills or conflicting priorities.
Ask them to suggest better ways of doing things. Not only can this flag up things you may have been unaware of, if anything needs to change or it needs some effort on their part to make improvements they’ll be far more bought in to doing something well if they have initiated it.
The customer experience
Listen to what your team tell you about shortfalls in the customer journey; they’ll invariably spot where improvements can be made.
Many of your team are much closer to your customers than you are and will see opportunities to enhance the customer experience. So ask for their ideas and be prepared to act on them.
Ask your team to make an honest assessment and reflect on how they think customers currently feel at each of these key touch points.
If they aren’t sure ask them to reflect back on some of the conversations they’ve had with customers.
Arrange for each team member to take the customer journey themselves and see how it feels being on the receiving end.
If you’ve done this exercise with your team before, this time allocate team members to different departments to get a different perspective. When it’s your own department it’s easy to become protective, oblivious to some of the challenges or frustrations customers may encounter. Reviewing another department can help flush out potential ‘blind spots’.
Ask your team to make a note of everything that isn’t quite perfect yet. It doesn’t mean to say you have to fix everything, but you can make a conscious decision as to which aspects you might put to one side for now and which need to be addressed as a priority.
It can be quite revealing what your team pick up; they’ll often spot things you don’t.
Keeping on top of maintenance
Have a system in place for maintenance, whether this is done in house or with a contractor. Encourage team members to report problems promptly when the equipment doesn’t appear to be functioning on all four cylinders, or gets damaged, rather than apportioning blame on them for causing the problem.
Have a process which makes this quick and easy. Failure to report and deal with problems promptly not only leads to frustrations, and later accusations of whose fault it is, but could cost you dearly in the long run if it causes long-term damage.
Listen to what they have to say
Take action before they become the accepted norm.
Unless followed though promptly your team won’t bother telling you next time.
The longer problems are left unresolved, the less emphasis it places on the importance of their welfare or the customer experience in their eyes and the less importance they will place on their contribution to your business.
Old habits die hard
If my kitchen floor is anything to judge by, the longer it takes to fix the problem the longer it takes for people to adjust to the new way. Be patient with your team whilst they get get used to the improvement.
I was still stepping over that broken tile, even after it was no longer there!