Many startup service businesses begin with all the best intentions in the world and grow because they deliver fantastic personalised service to other small businesses. I can say mine was one of those and when we got to six staff working in our loungeroom in the first year in business it was pretty clear we were on a winner.
We grew to 30 staff in about five years but like many businesses we hit a hard economy and developed speed wobbles. Our quality of service had declined as managers took shortcuts and as processes for delegating jobs fell apart.
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Somehow, despite best intentions, the focus on sales rather than delivery had taken its toll and the culture was to shove problems sideways and duck for cover. Not good in a helpdesk environment where hundreds of problems come in every week.
We learnt some hard lessons over the next few years and here is some of what we learnt.
Ensure you have a clear set of company objectives and that all of the team is aligned on them. If you have staff with different ideas about how the service should be delivered or how staff should be trained or qualified or held accountable, let them work somewhere else. In a small business you don’t have the resources to argue over fundamental direction of the business.
Select every new team member carefully on a profile and personality first and technical ability second. Even though recruiting is expensive, don’t settle for a staff member who lowers the recruiting standards. Just run the job ads again and keep looking. These staff members are your business and effect how clients perceive your service.
Once you have good staff and a tight team keep training them in technology and also in customer service, emotional intelligence and communication. We have found by continually improving the staff we have, we have been able to reduce churn significantly. This improves customer relationships with our people who they get to know over time.
Hold staff accountable to key measurables and track them closely. This is not to punish when they slip, we all like feedback and the more often we get it and see we are doing the right things, the more likely we are to progress and do well.
Seek feedback from clients regularly
We run a net promoter system where the clients have the option to complete a survey after each ticket they log with the helpdesk. Here is the latest one that we published internally.
We ask our clients how we can improve and we listen and act. We also ask our staff to fix problems rather than grumble about them. We talk a lot about responsibility, not for doing the job but for how the job is done and how the company is run. There is no reason to dislike a job when every aspect of it can be changed within the parameters of delivering a better service.
It has taken us four years of work to go from the slump to basking in a new light in our business but the referrals and growth that accompany these results justifies the effort taken. How could it play out in your business?
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that is known for business IT that makes sense. How can we help?