How to Kickstart Service Improvement

Much of the business our organisation conducts is focussed on the product generation aspects of our clients business. For a manufacturer this means the shop floor activities where parts are assembled in a sequence to produce a saleable product. When we speak to a potential client concerning improvement programs or processes the client immediately assumes we are talking of improvement within the manufacturing area, and that improvement – we are told – needs to be centred on a workforce concerns are centred on pay and benefits!

This is in no sense an overstatement of the way company managers view their employees.

While improvements are clearly possible inside such an environment, it’s also true that a significant percentage of the staff isn’t directly involved with producing saleable products, but with administrative service support. These employees are frequently seen in a different light to the manufacturing group, and it is apparent to us that any improvement process that bypasses administrative functions also misses the opportunity to achieve significant efficiency savings for the employer. However, an improvement program has to capture the imagination of the participants, while providing a mechanism for individuals and work groups to participate and be successful. It is also necessary for managers to encourage individual contributions and contribute their managerial ‘weight’ to the achievement of any improvement. All of this while not attempting to take the credit for any performance improvement.

While considering the differences of work pattern and culture that is the norm for the administrative and support functions in these businesses, the similarity of work to staff working in service industries became apparent, where much of the activity is clerical and administrative. Whatever solution could be found to enable us to engage with these people would probably work regardless of the nature of the business. We were clear in our minds that long term improvement programs typical of manufacturing facilities would not be appropriate for administrative functions.

For many years we were attracted by the pragmatic teachings of the late Philip Crosby, author of Quality is Free and many similar books. The program defined in that book has been adapted world-wide to the benefit of countless organisations and individuals. Less well know within the same tome is a program he chose to call ‘Make Certain.’ With some effort we adapted Make Certain to a 21st century European culture and sought an opportunity to trial the outcome.

An existing client gave us the opportunity to demonstrate its worth within an administrative workforce of 120 staff. Working with groups of around 20 individuals, each with a mixture of skills and department affiliation, we spent time explaining the process and encouraging their involvement and contribution to improve both overall and specific efficiencies and effectiveness. We too learned from this experience and were able to develop the program further.

For our client’s organisation the trial run was a success because for possibly the first time each person understood the nature of their own individual work process, and how this related to – and effected, all of the surrounding processes. This understanding led to a desire to improve, and because local managers and supervisors were participants measurable performance improvements were achived. This first trial of the ‘Make Certain’ program was a spectacular success. An estimated 10% increase in efficiency, as measured by the ‘work units’ produced by the staff involved, only 9 months from program implementation.

Building Customer Loyalty Through Brand Equity

In my BLASTTM Marketing System, I spend a lot of time teaching entrepreneurs the importance of creating both a business and a personal brand to support their business. A brand is created using a variety of different marketing messages, images and touch points and goes far beyond your logo, websites and brochures. It is about emotion and thought. When customers hear your business name what comes to mind? What is the lasting impression? For example, when you think of FedEx, what comes to mind? How about “When you absolutely have to get it there overnight” and did the big plane they use on their commercials pop in your head? Or when you are talking with a client and you need to overnight something do you find yourself just automatically saying, “I’ll FedEx that to you” as though FedEx is a verb?

How about Walt Disney? What comes to mind? What is the lasting impression? How about “Happiest place on earth” or the word Magic? Disney went out of his way to leave a lasting impression and to create a world of fantasy, happiness and imagination and everything about Disney, supported that impression. If I start singing “I am stuck on Band Aid Brand because…Can you finish the phrase? Are you singing “Because Band Aid’s stuck on me” Chances are you even are remembering a story perhaps in your childhood when you used Band Aid’ product.

When companies have successfully connected with their customers and live and breathe every moment in support of that connection, is when they create a brand – an emotional element connected to your company, its people, its process and all of its points in between that support that emotional connection. So what are the points in between? Simply, anyway your company touches a client or potential client. It could be your people and their behaviors, your internal systems – technology, invoices, phone, website, etc. and your external systems – your product, how the product is delivered, your marketing and your customer service. When this connection happens, your customers become loyal to your brand.

To build equity in customer relationships develop a concrete brand strategy using one word – three simple letters: BID- Brand Promise, Identity and Deliver your Promise.

B – Brand Promise
Your brand promise should be compelling and unique. It must make a public statement that your product will perform the way the customer expects each and every time. It becomes reliable and creates and resonates emotionally with your target audience. It should be short and truly represent why you are different – “when it absolutely has to get there overnight”

I – Identity
Your identity defines who you are and more importantly why you are in business. You should focus defining yourself strategically rather than the functions you perform. Focus on your core values, core differentiators and the markets you serve. Know who you are with confidence and conviction and your customers will come to rely on that identity.

D – Deliver Your Promise
Your promise delivery will make or break your brand. As the old saying goes “practice what you preach”. You promise should permeate your entire culture and everything that touches the client should support your brand promise and reinforce your brand identity. There are never any exceptions and the minute you make one, the minute you lose credibility and trust with your customer.

To build brand equity and customer loyalty, you must have a strong company identity that people can relate to and a public commitment or guarantee, that people can expect each and every time they engage your organization including your employees, internal and external systems and actual product or service delivery. By mastering BID, you will create a loyal relationship with your customers, similar to the Blindly Proud Grandparents from my last article “Master Strategy: Know Your Customer”