Stop Firefighting, 5 Steps to Start Improving Now!

We need to guarantee the perfect customer experience every time we interact with them; ensuring they return and refer us to others. How do we make sure that this happens? How do we put things right if they go wrong? The system of quality assurance is prevention, putting good practices in place to make sure things go to plan.

Unfortunately Quality has a history and perception that has been hard to change, it is a necessary cost in the management accounts. The most visible part of Quality Assurance that people relate to is inspection or appraisal; making sure people are ‘doing their jobs’. I believe the Quality professional role is different, we are change agents, a valuable company wide influence. We can steer and direct, creating the right continuous improvement culture. As Philip Crosby said ‘a potent force for discovering problems and helping resolve them’.

I feel this maybe why the service industries fall down at being both efficient and delivering excellent service. They overload the amount of people to do the job, administration gets greater as the company grows. When they hit a bump in the road they fail to look at the systems and operations but look to their people; another person for another solution. Appraisal is an expensive and unreliable way of getting a quality customer experience, prevention and planning for excellence is the way to be world class. Prevention is not a new concept and it’s easier to deliver when we understand our processes thoroughly.

Getting to the route cause of our issues is something we often talk about; so why is it that there is never quite enough time or money to devote to them. Small inexpensive changes can make a big difference to the customer experience. For example the way you answer the phone or process an invoice. I’m sure you get the picture, so why do we firefight so often? We go from one emergency to another and back again and if we do not act now, this will become the norm. The problem with firefighting is that we never get to the bottom of our customer issues. For example the instinct in delay situations could be to look to the operations team; when really it could be caused by a Sales team who don’t understand the process fully to enable them to deliver on time. How often do we visit the Sales team when we experience problems with delivery, they are doing their job and getting the orders in aren’t they?

“If we waited for everything to be perfect then we would never start; but we can increase our yield and performance time and time again.”  Tweet This!

I would like to share one easy way of problem solving using company process knowledge to ensure that you stop firefighting with quick fix solutions and get things solved permanently. This is an exercise that you need to get everyone involved in as it will spread across every function of the business, participation and engagement is key. So how do we do it? Follow these 5 steps:

1. Draw out your customer experience or process in a simple flow chart form.

2. At the end of the chart instead of your desired end goal put the problem for discussion.

3. Now go back to the very beginning of the flow chart (and I mean concept/enquiry) and ask the following question “What in this phase of my process could have an impact on the problems I’m experiencing”? Be open minded and don’t dismiss anything people offer to the table (brainstorming rules)

4. Repeat step 3 for every single stage of the process until you get to the end.

5. You may get many ideas from this exercise so be prepared, it will be a matter of prioritising, working out what the impacts are and continuously striving to improve.

I guarantee by doing this you will have a much different outcome than the gut instinct quick fix. If we waited for everything to be perfect then we would never start; but we can increase our yield and performance time and time again. We may need to work on our processes to truly understand the best way forward but then use that knowledge to your advantage. My advice is to plan for an excellent customer experience not appraise and inspect to guarantee one.

White Tiger Quality Management & Business Improvement Ltd

www.white-tiger.co.uk

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