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. But that’s not all. Legislating and enforcing standards goes beyond workers. It includes customers as well.
No business in the world can always do what the customer wants anymore than you can always do what your teenager wants you to do. All businesses, as well as parents, must deal with what is needed; not what is wanted.
Choosing to Change
Customers need for you to satisfy their needs with as little waste as possible. Because of that, we innovate. However, innovation isn’t always what the customer wants at the time it happens. But since it deals with what they need, successful innovation looks brilliant in hindsight.
For instance, at one time, many wanted someone to pump their gas, but they needed gasoline available at convenient hours and at a competitive price (except in states with legislated inefficiencies, such as New Jersey). Therefore, today there are many more places for you to fill up 24/7 than ever before, and the price is lower.
Yes, I know the price on gasoline has gone up, but it hasn’t gone up as much as it would have had we not eliminated costs through the self-service innovation. Now, just how was self-service implemented? Customers were offered a choice between a higher degree of service at limited times from the neighborhood station and lower prices/greater convenience, typically at the new convenience stores. Over time, consumers chose the lower price/greater convenience.
When was the last time a doctor paid you a house call? That was more convenient for sick folks, but was not what patients needed. Patients needed doctors to centralize in order to conserve their time so more patients could be treated. Had they not done that, seeing a doctor today would be far less convenient, for getting an appointment would take much longer. How did they accomplish the change? Doctors legislated that patients should visit them if they wanted to be seen right away. House calls were available, but took longer. Overall, consumers chose the quicker office visits.
Wants and needs. Customers always choose fulfilling their needs over their wants in the long run. What does this have to do with legislation? If you want gas, then pump it yourself. If you need to see the doctor, come to the office.
What does this have to do with printing? Most still cheerfully stick to the fiction that they give such great customer service, the customer will never leave. We dismiss the VistaPrints of the world, much like the neighborhood gas station owner dismissed the threat from convenience stores. And we, too, will go by the wayside unless we deal with what customers need, not what they want.
Customers need a price and we want to give them a perfect price, so we estimate it by putting it in a stack and getting back to them later. It has been measured, in my experience, that the closing rate drops dramatically when we wait overnight to return a price to the customer. One company measured that their quotes were converted 75% of the time when the price was returned the same day; but dropped to 25% of the time when the price was returned the next day. After that, the fall off is even steeper. So the customer wants a low price, but really needs to have the price right now.
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.