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Ask the Simple Questions

18 Jun, 2004 By: Ronelle Ingram imageSource

Ask the Simple Questions

aside a little time to look around your office and take inventory.  What can you
pinpoint that is working really well?  What can you identify that is not working
at all?  Now consider how each procedure was originally organized and ask
yourself, “If I was setting up this procedure for the first time, would I
arrange it in the same manner?”  If the answer is no, the procedure is worth
taking a second look at.

not accept a certain method merely because it’s the way you always did it in the
past. That is just a lame excuse for mediocrity. And don’t make the excuse that
you barely have the time to handle urgent work let alone rethink a procedure
that is working reasonably well.

some point in your service management career you should rise above what is
urgent and start dealing with what is important.  This transformation can change
an ordinary service department into the superstar department of a company.

can start the transformation process by asking a few simple questions.  In your
next service department meeting hand out a single sheet of paper with the
question, “What can the service department do to increase profits?”

at least five, triple-spaced blank lines on the page following the questions. 
The multiple lines subconsciously tell the tech that you want detailed
information. Do not, however, put a place for the person’s name and the date on
the sheet.  Explain to your workers that remaining anonymous is acceptable, but
if the employee believes he or she has an exceptional idea then recommend that
they put their name on the questionnaire because there could possibly be a prize
for the best idea.

same kind of simplistic questioning can be done in the shop, warehouse, front
office and sales department.  It is a proactive suggestion box.  Ask, and you
just may receive some great suggestions. 

you have a couple of intriguing ideas that are worthy of your attention, the
questioning can continue.  Take nothing for granted.  Ask the most basic

start with a universal service situation.  How can the service department
improve the set up and delivery of new equipment?

posed this fundamental question to my tech, shop and warehouse personnel.  I
received dozens of different answers.  We eventually made three lists.  First,
we listed the standard process, in chronological order, involved in getting a
machine into our customers’ hands. Second, we listed the problems, or realities,
we typically face on a regular basis. Finally, we made a specific game plan that
included when, where, what, how and who was responsible for making sure the
newly identified project was actually managed.    

decided to view the entire process as a project because, as most of you know,
the “selling the box” mentality is no longer viable.  In an industry that is
continually evolving, selling a solution involves a great deal more than setting
up a single piece of equipment that comes out of one box.  So, more than ever,
it is important to be organized and prepared for the growing number of
challenges that a service department faces.

are the lists we established to identify the project that will efficiently
improve our service department.

Managing the Project – The Expectations

  1. Showroom or demo
    has appropriate equipment

  2. Sales is trained to
    demo and sell appropriate usage

  3. Sales checks for
    product availability

  4. Double check
    compatibility or requested equipment

  5. Completed site
    survey, including space, drops and electrical

  6. Signed sales order
    passed to procurement

  7. Lease approved

  8. Products are

  9. Procurement gives
    ETA of products

  10. Products received
    by warehouse

  11. Warehouse stages

  12. Service staff
    prepares products for delivery

  13. Delivery and
    installation schedule arranged with customer

  14. Delivery personnel
    transport products to customer site

  15. Service staff
    installs products

  16. Training

  17. Customer
    satisfaction confirmed

  18. Customer signs off
    on installation

  19. Customer is

  20. Customer pays

Managing the Project – The Realities

  1. Needed product is
    back ordered from manufacturer

  2. New sales rep does
    not know the equipment

  3. No memory or
    network card is ordered

  4. Customer signs
    sales order with wrong equipment

  5. Improper pricing
    was quoted

  6. Procurement follows
    incorrect sales order

  7. Wrong products are
    special ordered

  8. ETAs provided by
    procurement are not accurate

  9. Products do not
    show up according to ETAs

  10. No one checks on
    status of purchase order

  11. Partial order is
    received by warehouse

  12. Warehouse misplaces
    part of the order

  13. Service does not
    follow up on status of procurement

  14. Customer is not
    informed of delivery date

  15. Service staff is
    not told product is delivered

  16. Service technician
    is not qualified for installation

  17. Second service
    technician does know what the first technicians did.

  18. Installation takes
    longer than planned

  19. Sales rep
    unqualified to train on new equipment

  20. Customer does not
    sign off on installation

  21. Customer delays
    paying the invoice

  22. Everyone blames
    someone else for all the problems

Managing the Project – Service Takes Control

  1. One person or
    department takes control

  2. Control the entire

  3. Project review

  4. Resource planning

  5. Management information

  6. Coordination

  7. Communication

  8. Evaluation

  9. Conflict resolution

  10. Understanding

  11. Get answers, not

  12. Customer

  13. How managed

  14. Have and follow the

  15. Follow-up

  16. Use notebook or
    project management software

  17. Follow-up

  18. Detail person

  19. Follow-up

goal was to establish policies and procedures that will ensure the first list of
expectations becomes the standard.  The mere fact we were so easily able make
the second list of realities reflects our familiarity with the real life
problems that most dealers face.

establishing a written list of the right way and the not so right way to handle
things, we were able to establish and implement realistic procedures to improve
our procurement, set up, delivery, training and customer satisfaction.  This
does not happen without planning, ongoing managing and quality control through
following-up and redundant checks and balances.

Simply asking an easy, straightforward question resulted in a complete
procedure, which ultimately has enabled our service department to simplify the
way we create a seamless equipment delivery and ultimate customer satisfaction. 

Be a
strong enough leader to ask the question, “How would we do this if we were
setting up the procedure for the first time.”  Change is the only constant of
successful businesses.

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