In the process of helping a business grow we do an analysis of their procedures which include the following:
- Office procedures: this includes small items like how a telephone is answered, how a walk-in client is greeted, how an e-mail is answered and e-mail response time. The overall in-office work flow (paper flow) is also studied.
- Incoming business requests: is there a written procedure for new incoming business? What information is obtained from a prospect? Is it done efficiently at the time of the call, using a computer record system? Is the correct information gathered on the first call? What is the flow of new prospects leads? Similarly, how are e-mail inquiries treated? What is the transfer process from a lead gathered in “the field” and brought to the office? These issues plus other related issues should be in writing.
- Processing outgoing services/products: just as we broke down the incoming requests, likewise the delivery of a product or service ( the how to do it) should be written, understood and followed by all involved.
- Communications: this critical part of the business includes both internal office communication as well as external communication. What is the immediate follow up procedure when a service or product is delivered? What is the ongoing client contact system?
Every small business should have this “working office procedure manual” even if it is a one person operation. This is different than an “office policy manual”. The benefits are many:
- Time saver: by knowing what to do in repeated situations ( 85-90% of most business procedure can be systematized) is a major time saver.
- Provides consistent customer service: every prospect and every client receives the same, high quality service, every time.
- Cost savings: systematizing an office usually results in a substantial dollar saving.
- Helps insure the continuity of a “good” idea. Any new procedures, internal or external, any new marketing program that produces results, etc… all these should be systematized .
I defined a process as being systematized if it is written down and can be reproduced in much less time than when it was originally implemented. In addition, the process can be executed by others and the quality of the result remains the same.
Unfortunately, I find that the systemization process is often on the bottom of the “to do” list for many small business owners. The entire process cannot be completed in one day, but by doing a little bit every day it becomes a feasible undertaking.
They always say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.
Nick J. Petra CFP