Too busy mopping to turn off the faucet.

in growth.

The service industry is an interesting place. Perhaps you work for a large service-driven company or perhaps you provide services as a solo entrepreneur. Either way, no doubt that you have put out your share of fires, or mopped up your share of messes.

mopping up the mess

That’s what we do. We clean up messes. And as women, I believe that cleaning up messes is part of our makeup due to how we are raised. It’s more nurture than nature, but serving and cleaning up after someone else (or ourselves) is just what we do.

But if we’re not focused, we’ll spend more time mopping up messes than we do preventing them. Sound process design emphasizes control – how can we keep the same mess from happening twice?

Keep Your Head Up

Being in the weeds in your work requires that you keep your head down and work, work, work, all the time. But you can’t just work, work, work if you want to add control. You must look up – see what is causing the problem, and then devise a plan to address it. This means that you’ve got to learn to how weave process improvement into your day-to-day, “run the business” agenda.

Add Process Controls

Let’s imagine that you manage an email account that customers use to get assistance with one thing or another. After some analysis, you discover

  • 90% of the messages are about the same problem.
  • The problem is one that you cannot address. The customers must contact a different department.
  • It takes 5-10 minutes to come up with the wording to respond to the customers. This usually involves wading through previously sent emails and copy/pasting into the response, changing a few things here and there like the customer’s name.
  • The account is only reviewed 3 times per day, so it’s possible for a customer to have to wait hours for a response only to be told that they need to send the request elsewhere.

There are a few ways to handle this type of issue, but ultimately it comes down to how best to quickly address the customer’s need while saving time and expense on your part. One very viable solution is an auto-responder that lets customers know that you have received their message, and that the account is set up for a specific purpose. If their message does not relate to what the account is for, you will not respond, but explain to them where to send their message so that it gets addressed immediately.

OR, you can do nothing, and continue to waste time and energy responding to 90% of customers in exactly the same way and still not truly solving their problem.

Learn to Look for Improvement Opportunities

In your work, whether employed or self-employed, keeping priorities in mind, always seek the “better” solution. There is ALWAYS a better solution or a way to improve. And most of all, try to keep from limiting yourself to the obvious solution. I like this takeaway from Daily Kaizen:

50 percent improvement today is better than perfection sometime in the future.


bizchickblogs food for thought: What was the last thing you complained about with regard to your work, your customers, your marketing, etc.? Is there anything at all that you could do to improve it?

Image credit: Jos Dielis

John cadeaubon October 15, 2012 at 10:35 am

Why women are only only mopping, we men are mopping as well. I think maybe harder (because I’m a man I think) Thanks for posting.

Tia Peterson October 15, 2012 at 12:22 pm

True! 😉

shakil October 15, 2012 at 8:56 am

very nice post Tia. I agree with you, a cold brained judgment can reduce tons of works.
Why are not you offering any email subscriptions to your readers? have a loot at my blog

Edward Newman October 15, 2012 at 5:59 am

I have found if the user does not get an live answer within maybe 30-45 minutes I will not hear from them again I would assume that he/she has asked my competition the same question or bombed many competitors with the same question and I may be 2nd 3rd 4th… I have a simple About/Contact page with a form and no auto responder as I don’t want them to think well “forget it I don’t have time” and move on. Instead I use a droid phone and forward all emails to a gmail account. I also have a ASUS Transformer so I can type a fast email on the fly tied to that same account. The perception to the client is that I am at my desk ready to provide support/answer questions. Also Amazon and a few other eCommerce sites go to the same droid phone so I am always ready. For me personally when I get an auto responder (as a consumer, not a site owner) on a product I have not purchased yet, I tend to move on under the assumption I will not hear from them again so I tend to put myself in my customers shoes. But the best reason for not having an auto responder, is not to get lazy. Think about how much more often we let the phone to go voicemail or don’t answer because of caller ID, 15 years ago I used to answer every single call that came to my mom’s house. In other words forcing me to worry about how much time went by without any response keeps me answering those emails quickly (and humanly) as possible. But like it was mentioned before this will not work once your are super busy… As your point is clear, too busy moping to turn of the faucet. LOL Thanks

Dubai October 14, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Hi Hanamiti, I also agree! I hate auto responders! They are soooo annoying. Thanks biz chicks blogs! Keep up the great work!

Joe S. October 13, 2012 at 8:23 pm

I do my best to always respond to my customers ASAP. It is very hard at times but it has to be done. i always hear the shock in peoples voices when they get a QUICK response via phone. I love it, and it keeps me motivated to keep doing it.

Thanks for the post.

Skye October 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm

I hate having to take so long to get back to customers some days. And then waiting for their response. Most times they aren’t very happy either. Maybe an auto respond message is the best way for now. I guess I’ll find out! Thanks for the idea!

Hanamiti October 12, 2012 at 6:32 am

Personally I hate autoresponders, and I think many other people do. It’s a thing like many people have for banners – we simply ignore them. When I receive an autoresponder message, I instantly know that my message was most likely NOT received (why else would they send me an autorespond email?)

My suggestion to the problem you describe – set up an Text Message Notification when a new email comes and try to respond instantly. That is a good customer experience.

Tia Peterson October 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm

That’s a good point. Depending on how much mail we’re talking about, that can be feasible or not.

I can tell you from experience, though, that many many people do not even realize what they are getting is an automated response. If the direction is the same – no matter what – it really doesn’t matter if it is coming automatically. It’s a much better customer experience to respond right away with specific directions than say, we’ll get back to you in three to four hours when we can finally address your message.

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