The customer wants to give a printer garbage files and have the printer fix them. Many printers consistently do this. What the customer needs, however, is for someone to train them to prepare the file for printing so that the job can be produced faster. Most printers won’t do this, fearing they cannot tell customer what to do. But if we don’t, then we eventually will lose the job to a printer who can do it faster. How can they do it faster? Well, they tell the customer to prepare the file properly and they’ll do it faster. Then we can only say we can do that too. But it’s too late.
Many printers have the capability of using Web portals, which is where the customer’s stuff resides on your website. Portals are the gateway to unique customer services, such as Web-to-print applications (business cards come quickly to mind). Yet many printers I know have asked their customers if they would use such a service, and the customers said no. Then along comes an Internet printer who takes all the business card business away. How? They provide the customer with a Web-to-print application that the local printer could not interest them in.
How did that happen? The local printer did not look for the customer’s pain. A single buyer may not be interested, but the bigger picture was the customer needed to remove costs from their supply chain. They did it by terminating the buyer and automating the purchasing. In short, my friend didn’t reach high enough and legislate customer behavior. Now he is stuck with saying, “I can do that too.”
Those are two obvious situations. More advanced solutions require more precise thinking and aren’t necessarily pertinent to all of us. However, we are in charge of legislating the types of paper, sizes of finished product, types of type, quantities available for sale, and other details of our service delivery system.
Legislation Improves Productivity
In short, service isn’t servitude. Service is the ability for us to determine how best we can deal with customer needs, develop a system to meet those needs, and then legislate that the customer use the system. And sometimes that is not what the customer wants.
Should customers insist on being outside our system, we should train them. If they refuse to be trained, we need to recognize the long term cost to us in providing what a minority wants and deal with what the majority needs. Yes, that means firing customers if necessary.
A leader leads. They do this partly by legislating standards without being rude, crude, or unattractive. The leader formulates a series of realistic expectations that they hold themselves up to as well as other members of the team. This includes the hours when people work, what they do when they work, skills they must possess and when they take vacation. They take the fear, uncertainty and doubt out of the workplace. They let workers know what is expected of them, what their job is, where they fit in, how they are doing, and how they are being paid as well as how to get ahead. The leader also legislates the customer’s behavior in using the system.
If the leader does not lead, then no one drives the business and whatever happens, happens. So lead by setting the pace and participating in the work of the work. Lead not as Mr. Happy, but not Mr. Grouch either. Be fair and legislate expectations of workers, customers, and vendors.