>A Wing-It and a Prayer


You know the best thing about systems? They’re free. Any small business can sit down and write a system for dealing with customers without having to pay a cent. Yet customer systems are rare. What’s not rare is winging it.

Photo Credit: Digital Plus Arts & Photo

This Spring, my wife and I decided to get some work done on our house. Our sprinkler system doesn’t work and we desperately need some landscaping. That work is still not done. We called several landscaping and irrigation companies. Some didn’t show to bid the project as they promised. Some showed up to survey the project, promised a bid, and then never returned. Why? Because most companies are winging it; reacting to customers rather than being proactive. Prayer would be more effective.

The most important thing you can do to differentiate your business from competitors is to write a system for handling customers. You probably believe you have a customer system in your head. But you don’t. Systems are in writing. So get a written system, and here’s how.

Creating a System

First, you are going to have make the time to write a system. That’s easier than you think. I think you can write a customer system in a couple of hours, half a day at the most. So clear one morning or one afternoon in your schedule. Stop reading and do it now.

Then, you will need to get out of the office and away from distractions. Go someplace to clear your mind. I have a few preferred spots around town that I go to do some thinking. A local Starbucks, quiet cafe or watering hole will do. Bring your laptop and/or notepad.

So what kind of system will you create? The one you need most for your business. Pick one from this list or pick a system that’s missing from your business.

  1. Sales System
  2. Customer Service System
  3. Phone Answering System
  4. Bidding New Customers System

Start creating your system – First, think broadly. List all the players. What this project is really about is orchestrating the interaction between your business, your employees, and your customers. So list all the people involved: the customer, the receptionist, the salesman, the cashier, whoever.

Now, skip to the end. What do you want to happen as a result of your system: a new customer, repeat sales, higher customer satisfaction? By identifying the players and defining the end result, you have written the beginning and the end of your system. What’s left is to fill in the middle. The guts of your system are filled with three things: procedures, specific actions and scripts

Procedures – How will your customer flow through the system? When they get to point A, what should happen? Where do they go next?

Specific Actions – What exactly should your employees do when your customer gets to point A? Don’t leave any winging-it room for your employees. Let them know exactly what they should do, because they probably don’t know.

Scripts – Employees hate scripts. So what. Write exactly what your employees should say when they interact with your customers. Don’t whimp out on this one. You have employees representing your business. You should leave nothing to chance. Reputations get soiled, brands get damaged when employees wing it.

Implementing a System

Now that you’ve created your system, it’s time to put it in writing. It must be in writing or it’s not a system. And if it’s not in writing, your employees will not follow the system. So buy a 3-ring binder, create a “Systems and Procedures” label, type up your new system, put it in the binder.

Finally, conduct a staff meeting prior to opening. Pass out your written system. Give your employees X number of days to learn the procedures and the scripts. Tell them they will be tested in X number of days. They will will not be allowed to work until they pass the test.

Creating a systems makes life easier for your customers, raises the perceived value of your business and differentiate yourself from competitors. Or, you could just wing it. Which will certainly improve your prayer life.

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