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The HRMWEB Recipe for Better Customer Service

...whipping your staff admin processes into shape!

Your workforce is your most important, and often your biggest, business asset, so better structure and processes around managing your staff offers many obvious benefits such as time savings, money savings, better staffing decisions, increased control and peace of mind. However, there are benefits that are not always so obvious... one of those is better customer service!

Essentially, your staff are your business. They are your representatives, your front line, the driver behind your day to day operations. Your product and service offerings, customer service and reputation all rest on your staff - so you need to ensure you manage them effectively.

It’s easy to understand that when your administrative processes and your workforce are well organised and working effectively it results in a professional looking business (which consumers do notice) and happier staff - and that means better customer service and a better overall customer experience!
See our three key ingredients to gearing your workforce towards better customer service...

1) The “right” number of staff

It’s the thing that keeps you up at night - figuring out how many staff you need working at any given time, who will work what shifts and what's it going to cost you. It's called rostering and if you don't have processes around how you do it, it will cost you time and your business money.

Not enough staff rostered on - customer’s won’t get the level of service they expect, you'll lose sales and the staff you do have on will be overworked and stressed. Too many staff rostered on - it’s a waste of resources and money... and your staff are bored and frustrated.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: You are at a bar... the line up is 5 people deep. It’s slow, it’s frustrating and all you want is a beer or a wine or maybe even just a soft drink. Is that too much to ask? It is a bar after all – isn’t serving drinks their staple?

Rather than wait you bail and go to the bar down the road (there is always a bar close by!). Not only did that bar lose your business, you’ll tell everyone about that bad experience you've had and you’ll think twice about going back there or maybe you’ll never go back there again!

All that bar needed to do was make sure it had more staff members on to serve... imagine the extra cash that business could make by putting just one extra person on. Now, what if they could use software to predict their “busy” periods and suggest appropriate numbers of staff. Or what if they could see it was getting busy and send a broadcast SMS to all the staff the system knows is free to work a shift at that time – a staff member could be there within 15mins! This is all very possible!

2) Organised and informed staff

If you want your staff to feel like a part of your business "team" then treat them in a way that shows you respect them. Keep them well informed and manage them in a way that is consistent.

Your staff want to be kept in the loop and want easy ways to communicate with each other and with you. Most importantly they want to know you have things under control. They want to be able to come into work and do their job. No one likes surprises!

When your staff feel secure in your ability to manage them and run your business that attitude of calmness and confidence is passed onto the customer.
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: Joe comes to work and does his hours, he fills in his paper timesheet... it’s hard because he has to rely on his memory quite a bit but he uses some post it notes to jot down his times every day to make it easier.

Every time his pay is deposited into his account he goes through it with a fine tooth comb making sure to match it up with the post it notes he has been keeping. It’s such a hassle for Joe but he has to do it because his pay packet is sometimes wrong. Joe doesn’t want to be underpaid or overpaid because every time there is an error it is such a hassle to chase up and takes a lot of time for him to do so.

All he wants is for his work hours to be documented accurately and his pay to be correct every time. Is that too much to ask? He does his job properly why can’t he be paid properly? Eventually frustrated, Joe goes and finds a job with another business that has automated systems in place that make his life much easier! Joe was a great worker and the customers loved him... he was a great asset that is now lost.

If only Joe’s employer had an automated roster, timesheet, pay rate calculation system. That way Joe could fingerprint on and off his shifts, have his hours automatically recorded, have his pay rates calculated automatically and then that could all be sent through to payroll. With the reduced reliance on human intervention in that process, Joe could ditch his post-it notes and have the confidence in knowing his pay packet is correct!

3) Happy staff

It's simple. If your staff are happy it will influence how they behave with your customers. It's all about positive vibes - most customer experience goes beyond words - attitude and actions is where it really counts.

A major gripe of staff is how they are managed especially with regards to administration or as we like to call it "the paperwork". For instance, staff want to be allocated shifts based on their availability and they want to easily see what shifts they are working. They want to do as little admin paperwork as possible - they see it as a waste of time, and it usually is!
Having sound processes around how you manage your staff will make their lives, and yours, easier!
REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: Susan always makes sure her manager knows what times she is available to work. She studies and works part time at another job so she has to manage her time effectively and make sure she is super organised.

Even though she goes to the trouble of detailing her availability in emails and post it notes her manager is always losing them or not looking at them when he does up the roster. So many times she finds out about shifts less than a week in advance or she is rostered on to work at times she has already said she can't do. She has had to amend other parts of her life many times to accommodate shifts that she didn't know she was working.

Every time she is given an incorrect shift she gets frustrated and often the manager asks her to help out and find a replacement. Eventually Susan becomes so frustrated that her "needs" are not being taken into account that it starts to show when she is dealing with customers. She still does a competent job but she is less than happy and customers see that - they walk out of the store saying things like "gee, it would have been nice if I could have at least gotten a smile". They will get that smile somewhere else and then you lose their business.

Staff feel respected when their employer takes into account that fact they are human and have lives outside of work, that they like to know what they are doing in advance and that they can't just drop everything and work a shift. If only Susan's work had an automatic rostering process. She could enter her availability online and the rostering software would take it into account when building rosters. Then the system would sms her the shifts she is to work, well in advance! She could sms back to confirm she can work those shifts and if for some reason she couldn't work a shift wouldn't it be great if the system could find a replacement for her. How easy would that be for Susan! How easy would it be for her manager as well!

...and of course with any good recipe there needs to be a binding ingredient: Technology.

To enable the above three ingredients to be achievable you need to add a fourth “binding” ingredient that pulls everything together – and that of course is, technology.

The days of rostering via Excel spreadsheet, staff availability scribbled on bits of paper, phone calls to communicate shifts, written timesheets based on memory, calculators to add up hourly rates and fat fingering numbers into payroll, are over. Those frustrating, error prone tasks are now able to be completed quickly, easily and accurately by software solutions that are geared specifically to helping administer a business workforce.

Look for a cost effective, web-based, easy to use software product backed by a provider who will deliver you a fully supported solution. Web-based is the way technology is moving (you will hear “the cloud” mentioned a lot these days!) and it’s great because you can access your system from anywhere with an internet connection – so you can run your rostering, payroll, check what staff are on duty etc from home, work, Hawaii – wherever!

Look for guarantees as well - like metrics on exactly how much time and money the product is likely to save you. Also your provider should be able to do continual evaluations and analysis of your “savings & benefits” for a couple months after the software solution is implemented - just to check its working properly for your business.

Be careful of big up-front costs. Older desktop based solutions will cost a lot up front as you are paying for expensive and probably already out of date hardware. Look for solutions that have small set up costs, require minimal hardware and charge an ongoing monthly rate that is calculated on a “per person” basis – that way you will only pay for what you need.

...and most importantly look for a provider who will actually get to know your business processes before they even suggest a solution. The more they find out about how you currently manage your staff the more value they can offer in terms of streamlining your processes and matching software to your business needs.

In Summary...

Streamlining staff admin processes will result in better staffing choices and a smoother running and happier workplace for owners, managers, and employees. The flow on will be obvious as a better work environment will result in a better customer experience.

Streamlining may seem like it’s a difficult or costly thing to do, but it’s not. There are tools out there that can be tailored to your business to quickly and easily streamline your staff admin processes. Just be sure to look for a cost effective, web-based, simple to use product that does everything you need and is backed by a provider who will deliver you a fully supported solution.

Irene Hazilias
Director, HRMWEB

Business Coaching and Sports Coaching - Common Mistakes

Implementing and driving a process of change in a business is like coaching a sports team. You have to get the basics right before you start to win. 

These are some of the many similarities we found out when Tim Edwards (Guru sports coach, lecturer, academic and part time surfer) shared with us at the Small Fish Business Coaching conference a few weeks ago.

Here are EIGHT common mistakes made by sports coaches – many have great similarity in the business world.....

Mistake No 1:   Failure to recognise that change takes TIME

Many sports coaches forget that it takes time to mould a team to success. They expect instant results without doing the basics. Good coaches who take on new teams in AFL and NFL think years in advance and don’t expect to achieve success until two or three years out. They plan for it, knowing that getting the basics right is the first priority, building on them, then winning the premiership will come later.

Just so, business owners must understand that just by taking on a coach, things won’t change overnight. It takes time to implement a change program in a business. You have to get the strategy right, put the right systems and processes in place, understand the market, implement a solid sales plan, and nurture your customers, just to name a few. There are a myriad of small incremental changes that must take place before the business can start “winning”. Don’t expect to be driving the Lamborghini in year two.

Mistake No 2:  Failure to get everyone to PARTICIPATE

How many times have you seen a line of budding young sports stars being put through their paces by their coach. All lined up and one at a time practising their goal kicking. That’s all very well but soon the other 14 are as bored as anything and the coach looses them. Coaches would do better to ensure everyone is fully engaged all the time during practices. 

As in business, everyone should be engaged in a change program. It’s no use trying to change things if half the people don’t know what’s required. PARTICIPATION is the key to make sure change is driven deep into the organisation. It’s all too easy to lose sight of getting everyone in the business fired up about a change program.

Mistake No 3:   It’s all about BALANCE

How many times do coaches forget that if they are going to spend 50 % of their time in offence and 50% of their time in defence during “game time” then they should practise in that proportion? All too often coaches practice only one or the other and wonder why they lose during game time.

Just so – it’s no use spending all the focus on growth, like sales and marketing, and forgetting the back end of the business- customer service and delivery. All that ends up happening is that sales pour in the front door and fall through the cracks out the back by bad service and poor delivery.

Mistake No 4: Not making the best use of TIME

In sport coaching, some coaches just spend too much of the session talking and not enough on practice. Motivational speeches serve some purpose, it's true, but not at the detriment to good old fashioned practice of the basics. If you have a group training session once a week for an hour, it’s the coach’s job to make sure every second counts.

Business coaches too should be mindful of making the best use of every valuable second with their coachees. A coaching program that allows an hour a week face time must be disciplined, focused and geared to get the most out of the time allotted. Good preparation by both parties will ensure this happens.

Mistake No 5:  The GENIUS in us is not always best

It’s so easy to think that a team will win if we come up with that genius strategy on the day, or that we have that genius “magic bullet” idea that’s going to save our bacon. It’s far better to concentrate on the basics and get them right. Practise them over and over until they are perfected. Remember that the simple systems often work the best.

In business we hope that some brilliant idea or concept will save us or we expect our business coach to come up with it, when all that is needed is to make sure that the simple basics are followed. Strive for the proper execution of a simple solution rather than a part execution of a brilliant solution.

Mistake No 6:  Failure to START SLOWLY away from game time 

Coaching a team from scratch to winning a premiership takes time and the plan needs to build slowly. A good sports coach will know the limitations of the team and break things down into little steps, get these right in practise, and build slowly on these steps. No one can learn a skill in “game time” -they must be practiced.

Just as in business, a coach should help the business owner and staff to develop their skills out of context of the real business scenario. For example if great sales skills are needed, role playing could be used to develop these skills. Handling objections can be tested and worked on. Practice the basics slowly and get them right. This places the person in a much better position in front of real potential customers.

Mistake No 7: There’s no motivational speech that wins matches

A really well drilled, well skilled team who knows their systems and execution, beats a great motivational speech on any game day. A coach shouldn’t be there yelling advice from the sideline. Honestly –it’s too late by that stage to have any effect on the real performance of the team. 

Just as in business – it’s not about a lining up all the staff on a Friday and giving them a great “ra-ra” speech. While it certainly helps for the business owner to stand up and tell the staff what’s going on and what the plan is – a plan shared and communicated well within the business, involving everyone and getting them engaged provides a far better result than a “rev up” once a month!

Mistake No 8:  Recognising that sometimes it’s just plain HARD!

We should make sport and business fun, it's true, but we should all be mindful that sometimes it's just hard! Times are tough right now for small business. However, after going through a tough patch, the real enjoyment and gain is knowing you came through, overcame that adversity and achieved something of value. Now there’s the real awesome outcome we all should strive for.

Steve Eastwood 
Small Fish Business Coaching Melbourne

Using Teams in Small Business

One powerful tool often used by big business to boost productivity and improve outcomes is the use of Teams.

Teams are a small group of people (or staff) with complementary skills, who are committed to a common goal or purpose, set of performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves accountable (Katzenbach &Smith 1993).

Other essential elements of a team is that they have knowledge of each other, a skill to work together, trust, commitment and a shared identity. Teams are held together by their interdependence and the need to collaborate to achieve a common goal.

Typically teams are set up in large organisations such as the military, hospitals, government organisations, production or R&D facilities. They can be used for many and varied purposes such as assembling a product, providing a service, solving a clients problem, developing a new product or searching for new opportunities.

There is however great merit in using these same models in small business.

One of my clients for example is using a Team to roll out a new IT operations system in their business. The Production, Installation and Administration managers, along with the external consultant have formed a Team to make sure the rollout is carried out in the best possible manner.

Each person brings complementary skills to the table, and coming together for this specific task they have provided huge benefits to the rollout. There is a schedule, a plan, accountability and all aspects of the business are represented to make sure mistakes are limited and the rollout proceeds the best possible way.

This means that the business owner is free to overview the process relying on the depth of the business to carry out the actual work and make the best decisions.

Using teams in small business allows for a broader spectrum of problem solving, and if knowledgeable people are brought to the decision making process, mistakes are limited and a greater level of possibilities can be uncovered. It gives individuals more accountability and this can improve job satisfaction.

So if you have a problem, task or a new initiative in your business, consider putting together a team... it could be beneficial and increase the speed, efficiency, quantity and quality of the outcome.

Steve Eastwood
Small Fish Business Coaching Melbourne