Why are businesses so afraid to standardize processes?


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I was having lunch with a friend who is a National Sales Manager and we were discussing the areas of his business that he wants to improve. I uncovered a common structural flaw that many companies have. Not all of the processes for employee job responsibilities are written out. Employees rely on their own notes (if they take any) and the training is delivered by whomever the GM or Site director has was available at the time.

This scenario is completely dysfunctional.

If three different people are responsible for training new people and there is no standardized structure for all to follow, then each one has their own version of how to perform the job. Not having a specific format creates confusion when management or a supervisor follows up. Inevitably it leads to management saying “Don’t listen to them, this is what you have to do.” How confusing for the new employee and what a real waste of time for all involved.

I have been presented with the argument from some managers, especially in sales departments, that by documenting processes, it will hinder them from executing their job. “That would cut out my own style of doing it.”

Now I appreciate and applaud personal style but I am talking about the underlying technique required to do the job.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

1) In call centers, documenting the steps of a call (Opening, Presentation, Discovery Questions etc) makes it easier to train and to follow up. During the execution of a call, one can focus on hitting each step the BUSINESS requires them to hit. The Technique. Style is what wraps around technique.

2) In Contact Center, documenting the process the inbound agents should follow will create consistency in customer interaction. For example, listing the proper questions each agent needs to ask on every call. Or writing out the steps management wants them to follow every time they interact with a customer.

Having worked for years in the food and beverage industry, I have witnessed how integral the documentation of process is. How a waiter takes someone’s order, how they explain the specials and how they place the order with the kitchen is never left up to chance or else chaos ensues, the system falls apart and ultimately, customers don’t come back.

Here are a few other things that I recommend should be documented:

Call Center Training: How employees handle an incoming or an outgoing call. Some businesses create an actual phone script whereas others have bullet points to be followed. This documentation ensures the proper communication of information to your customers as well as retrieving correct information in a consistent manner.

• How the business handles leads. How soon you should respond to the lead, the process of how to follow up and when you decide to put the lead into your “not interested” list.

• How Call Center agents disposition each lead they handle.

Management Training: How employees are to handle situations that are outside the normal routine.
For example, if your employee has a customer either on the phone or in front of them that is not happy and is not satisfied. Before it escalates, have the employee offer to get a supervisor to take over.

• One of the most important processes you need to document is your employee Code of Conduct.
o What the business expects of each individual.
o What level of customer service is demanded.
o What specific job duties they are responsible for.

This Code creates a series of checklists for employees to reference in case they have questions. Most employees, especially new ones, are not comfortable asking a question about process. They do not want to seem inadequate (“a poor hire”) so they try to fudge it and that leads to poor execution. It would be much simpler and more efficient for them to go to a file on their computer or a manual to find the answer.

If processes are not documented it is harder for upper management to follow up and hold everyone to the same standard. Without documented processes, people begin to cut corners, even unknowingly, and if no one is checking, that new short cut becomes the new standard of performance. It can lead to a slippery slope if there is no anchor or roadmap to quickly reference and get back on track.

If you currently have your processes documented, take the time to check them and see if everything is up to date. Then take the time to inspect to make sure everyone is executing them effectively. If you don’t have your processes documented, then I suggest you get started. Choose one area of your company, document all of the processes they perform and continue until you work your way through every department.

It may seem like a lot of detailed work, which is why many companies skip this step but in the long run, your company will run smoother and more efficiently.
Think of documented processes as your roadmap to success. Even if you hit a detour or get lost, you can pull over, check your bearings, get back on track quickly and efficiently, saving time, money and avoiding the risk of a crash.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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