It seems that over the years, especially in the last five to 10 years, business owners have gone out of their way to make running a business more complicated than ever. You would think with all of the technology available, we would be the most efficient we could ever. Well, it is not so. I believe that sometimes, advances in technology has caused us to be more inefficient and less productive. Especially when used improperly, or the wrong systems are used.
I visit many businesses every year. Most of them claim to have the latest software, techno gadgets, and say they are virtually paper free. Sometimes, software is purchased without any research, no input from a professional, and next thing you know, everyone hates it because it sucks and doesn’t work right. All the blame is put on the software, when it is really not the software, but in the choice of software. A decision to purchase a service management system or pricing software is as important as picking a business partner.
I remember one business in particular. The owner had asked me to come in and perform an evaluation to determine the “Sales worthiness” of his business. He and his partner were retiring and looking for buyers and wanted some help determining the value and make sure that the business would look attractive to potential investors. That is where I came in, I planned on spending a few days just looking at various things, making recommendations, and coming up with a fair market value. One thing that I always look for is streamlined processes that make transition to a new owner easy.
Prior to visiting, I was told that they were a completely paperless office.
My first morning was spent sitting and watching phone reps take service calls. Calls were entered into a database. I noticed a printer going off after each call was taken. The dispatcher would take the printed ticket and enter it into another screen. After entering the call, she would take a picture of the ticket with her cell phone and text it to the assigned tech. After some digging, I found that when a call was taken, it was entered in QuickBooks and calls were scheduled based on availability on an old dispatch white board on the wall. Although they had a field service management system that was purchased three years ago, they were not really using it the way it was meant to be used. The dispatcher was entering the calls in the system, but because no one in the field had tablets, everything was sent to their cell phone via texts. In the field they used paper invoices and when the invoices were turned in, the office staff had to enter the information back into QuickBooks. The flat rate price books they used, seemed to have at least six hundred pages. I asked one of the technicians if this made it difficult, he said, “No, I usually stick to the same couple of prices, just easier that way.”
After a couple of days of this I go in to speak with one of the owners and tell him that the method of taking calls, scheduling, dispatching, and pricing systems used in the field were not efficient, the software is not being used properly and that basically, it was a huge mess that needed to be cleaned up. He yells at his assistant and tells them to get the software rep on the phone. I’m not really sure what that was going to accomplish and just told him, “If you are going to try and go paperless, and incorporate new software into your business, you cannot just use pieces of it here and there. You need to get training and understand how to use it. You have a perfectly good management system here that will be able to basically run your business for you, and because you did not want to spend a few bucks more for training, tablets, and a couple of monitors is totally crazy.” At that moment, his phone rings in and the software rep is on the phone. He yells at the rep on the phone and says, “I have Frank Besednjak in here and he is telling me that your system isn’t working right and is not efficient”. I realized at that moment that I’m dealing with a person who doesn’t listen. I could go on, but needless to say, I decided to fire that customer. No point in slamming my head into the wall, over and over again.
I've become increasingly puzzled as to how so many people have purchased bits and pieces of software from various vendors and have now taken a process that once had 10 steps and turned it into something that has 30. I usually wind up drawing a visual process map and take it in to the business owner and showing them how ridiculous his or her current business processes are. I’ve watched in amazement of how a simple customer service request turns into something so complex, that it looks like we are planning the launching of the space shuttle.
So, how about just looking for ways to make things simpler and easier for everyone, rather than more complex or confusing?
You know what? Your customers may just find you much easier to work with too.