Yesterday I wrote about customer service and mentioned a story about getting a key from the maintenance company. Basically I needed a key from a maintenance company and visited their office. When I explained my situation to the clerk, she took a pile of keys and started guessing which might be mine. This company didn’t ask the two important questions would have helped them to get more time. I’ll mention them soon, read on.
There’s like 30 or 40 different keys, and the maintenance company cannot tell where they go. They have been delivering the same keys for years. I wonder how they could not put some numbers to the keys or place the keys on some board that would tell where the keys go. Now they have 30-40 different keys and every time somebody goes there and asks for a key, they have to randomly guess which one it might be.
I wonder why they are not doing something about the issue. It might take couple of hours for somebody at the maintenance company to take all the keys, try them and mark them properly. After that they would save countless hours on guesswork (I know it’s countless hours because in my case it took me at least 30 minutes extra time for me to drive to their place and get them to make something about this – and I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs these keys).
What they should do is to ask 2 simple questions.
What time consuming tasks I currently do manually?
They should have asked the first question and locate this problem. By thinking about the lost time, they could easily see that their key system increases their workload – and it’s always done by somebody. Over and over.
Is there something in your job that you need to do over and over, and it consumes time? Locate the most time consuming tasks and make a list.
Then ask the second question:
How can I automate this task?
The second question’s idea is that you somehow remove yourself from doing the work. For example, in customer service it is quite typical that certain questions are asked over and over. If you need to answer to the same questions over and over, then perhaps you could create an FAQ (frequently asked questions) list and put it on the company website? You could also set up an auto-reply to your support email and attach the FAQ to it.
It’s important to concentrate on how to automate the task. Sometimes I heard people focusing on the problem rather than the solution. For example, somebody might insist that there must be a human to reply these emails because it’s “good for the company imago”. These guys are automatically stopping the process, where the core idea is to find a solution. If it’s not “good for the imago”, then they could ask “how could we use that FAQ list AND make sure it’s good for the imago”. Maybe they could also attach phone numbers or realize that by having an automated reply, the customer will get much faster response – perhaps that would be “good for the company imago”?
Typical time consuming task is checking emails. One could say that “I have to read these emails, I cannot automate that”. That’s actually again focusing on the problem. The idea is to ask how can I ease my email pile. Perhaps you could hire some trusted guy to first read your business emails and ask him to either reply them or forward them to you. I’m not saying that’s necessary a good idea or not – I’m just saying it’s an idea. For somebody it might work.
Think of the most time consuming tasks you currently have. Think how you can automate them, or get rid of them.