The more consistent an organisation’s day-to-day operations are, then the easier it will be to maximise efficiency and productivity. In turn, these changes can lead to improved customer satisfaction, lower costs and less waste.
Here are a few ways that consistency can be improved in any organisation.
1. Using a Management System
Introducing a Management System to an organisation is a great way to improve efficiency. Management Systems aim to provide a standard way of working, allowing organisations to identify more efficient ways of working and put processes in place that help them run more smoothly.
There are a wide range of ISO Standards available, to cater for all industries and business types, but the Quality Management Standard, ISO 9001 can be particularly useful when looking to improve efficiency within a business. ISO 9001 focuses on improving quality in order to consistently meet customer needs and expectations which in turn will help you save money, do more business and drive up profits. It does this by standardising operations and adjusting complex or inefficient processes which can lead to errors and damage a business and its reputation.
It’s important for any businesses operating a Management System - no matter which Standard they choose - to align it with their short and long term strategic goals to ensure the changes made are the correct ones. This includes ensure that systems and processes are continually improving by making adjustments where necessary. ISO Certified businesses work with an external auditor to get an independent opinion on their progress towards this goal.
2. Having (and communicating) SMART goals
Businesses can gain a natural efficiency improvement by ensuring that everyone within their business is working toward the same goals and no one working against the grain.
It is recognised that the most successful type of goal is a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) one.
- Specific: It's difficult to make progress towards a goal if it is not carefully defined. Ensure all business goals are precise and unambiguous to avoid misunderstandings and wasted effort.
- Measurable: Without some way to measure the success of a goal, it can be difficult to determine if it has been achieved. When setting a goal, more efficient businesses think about how they will know that it has been realised - or not.
- Achievable: Larger goals should be split into smaller, more achievable ones, allowing multiple areas and improvements to contribute towards their achievement, as well as encouraging employees to contribute towards them as the goal doesn't seem out of reach.
- Relevant: Efficiency can be lost if a business is working towards goals that are not relevant. A hiring target for example is of no use if staff are performing well and there is no delay in services - overheads would increase with no noticeable benefit.
- Time-bound: An efficient business is one that delivers what a customer wants, when they want it. It is the same with goals - they must have a definitive time-scale to be effective.
An important part of setting any goal is to ensure that everyone who can contribute to achieving it is working towards it. More efficient businesses understand this and will communicate their business goals to their staff, and sometimes their customers too. Staff can be encouraged to contribute to business goals by setting them related targets and projects, so they can see how their work affects the company direction.
3. Understanding the importance of employees
Employees are as important as customers. Without engaged, happy employees, staff turnover can increase, productivity reduce, and customer satisfaction levels may suffer.
If employees feel that a company cares about them, they will work harder, productivity will rise, and engagement will increase. They will be more inclined to go the extra mile when it comes to customer service in general. And if employees believe in the business, up-selling and cross-selling naturally improve.
Employees need to know exactly what is expected of them in any situation, so make sure you have written policies and procedures that everyone understands and adheres to.
Listen to employees. Introduce a scheme whereby employees can make their voices heard. Take their ideas seriously and, where possible, implement suggested changes - even if it’s only for a trial period. If it’s not possible to make certain changes, then best practice is to explain the reasons why these ideas cannot be taken further. Employees will recognise that their opinion is valuable and become more engaged as a result.
Be accountable for your own performance and make it clear that everyone is accountable for theirs. Displaying company-wide performance metrics on an organisational dashboard keeps everyone in the loop and on their toes.
4. Focus on customer service
Providing outstanding customer service should be at the heart of everything a company or organisation regardless of its size or sector. The customers of the companies that do this the best know what to expect every time they make contact, no matter the reason.
A key method for ensuring consistent customer service is to equip staff with the right tools and knowledge to get the job done through extensive, ongoing training. Training needs to cover everything from how the telephone is answered, the tone of email replies and the attitude of customer facing staff to knowledge of policies on returns and the ability to deal with any problem or question, however complex, with fairness and consistency.
A consistent experience and journey will inspire loyalty and trust from customers. Switched-off staff with poor product knowledge or inadequate training or authority will alienate customers and send them through the doors of competitors.
5. Keep equipment in good working order
It’s sometimes the small problems that can trip a company up. You go to print out some information for a waiting customer and the ink’s run out. It doesn’t look professional.
Don’t let the fact that you’re busy be a distraction from all the little things that need doing, especially as it can be costly to fix problems that can be easily avoided through regular check-ups. When a team is in a hurry to get their work done, essential maintenance can get overlooked as staff can become reluctant to take time out of their schedule to repair something they think isn’t their responsibility.
General tasks such as removing dust and debris can be encouraged from all staff, whereas more technical jobs such as replacing worn or broken parts may need external help. Either way, staff should know what to do and who to call if something breaks, and if there is anything they can help with they should feel they have the authority to do so.
Antiquated systems can make a business sluggish and inefficient and cause frustration among staff and customers alike. It can be a false economy not to address these issues, and in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, inefficiencies like waiting on slow internet speeds, out-of-date software or sluggish computers can drive up costs and impact on reputation. Efficient businesses review their equipment regularly to ensure it is fit for purpose and have a system in place for staff to report issues and have them dealt with promptly.
Successful businesses and organisations are continually exploring ways to become more consistent and efficient. Make sure yours doesn’t get left behind.
Originally published on Friday, January 15th, 2016 by Michelle W.