Recently, I was having breakfast with my family at a local restaurant that is known for good food and service. While we were waiting for our food, a worker was beginning to prepare the salad bar for the upcoming lunch crowd. We were sitting on one side of the salad bar, and the other side only faced a walkway to the kitchen.
The employee turned the power on to the bar and began filling the bins on the side of the bar where we were seated. For 15 minutes our table was getting blown away with cold air. We put my 7-month-old daughter's coat back on and eventually we also put on our coats. And we had to get new cups of coffee because ours turned cold. It goes without saying that we were less than satisfied.
How could this happen at a place that has a reputation for good customer service? And why didn't staff think about filling the salad bar from the other side to minimize the discomfort to customers.
Could a similar situation happen in your firm? You bet. There are nine categories of waste that exist within CPA firms (DOWNTIME + A). Many of these examples might be considered minor by themselves, and you may have chosen to ignore them. But when taken in context, or when accumulated with multiple wastes, the little things can lead to great dissatisfaction from either a client or internal customer perspective.
You can't afford to let these minor things slide within your firm. And you can't begin to see these wastes until you step back from the process and put on your client or internal customer glasses. Solutions to improve and reduce these wastes are simple. It's the identification that people struggle with. It doesn't have to be this way. You can make sure it's not.
It is critical, especially in this ultra-competitive economic time, to not let simple unsatisfying moments happen for your clients or for your internal customers. Take a step back from your day-to-day processes and see what's really happening. What you see might surprise you.
If I had approached the manager about the cold air situation, I'm sure he would have taken care of the situation. And if the employee stepped back from rushing around to see what was really happening, he would have realized that he should work from the other side of the salad bar.
Process improvement is not rocket science, but you need to take a methodical approach to make it happen – and develop a culture to sustain it. When was the last time you took a step back from the processes in your firm to see what is really going on from a customer perspective?
It would be time well spent.