Even in Indianapolis, consultants can make a difference by noticing everyday elements. Consider the cashier at the auto repair shop who struggles to process a routine customer payment. She keys in obscure codes to her computer, pours over handwritten notes, and checks the math with a hand held calculator.
This is a basic and critical business process. It seems totally unbelievable that a national company would have such a complicated procedure for handling an everyday action. Reviewing the visible steps, however, provides some insight:
- Pre-print and staple duplicate invoices, then file alphabetically
- When customer arrives, retrieve their invoice from files
- Separate customer and archival invoices
- Check customer details in computer system
- Retrieve from system amount paid by warranty company
- Use hand-held calculator to compute outstanding balance
- Request customer signature to accept invoice
- Request payment; if by credit card manually key in balance and run card
- Return vehicle keys to customer
- File archival copy of invoice
Each of these ten steps tells a story. Long lines or negative customer feedback probably inspired a manager to invent Step #1, as it was perceived as faster to pull an invoice from a file cabinet than to print one upon request. Step #5 surely arose as warranty payments became more popular. Instead of developing a more robust system for recording line items, the amount covered by insurance just got added as a note. But that’s not all!
Likewise, the rise of charge cards as payment methods created Step #8, which requires punching in the balance by hand. A lack of trust of systems probably inspired Steps #6 and #10. Although a computer can handle simple arithmetic and long-term storage, intermittent reliability problems may have created these unnecessary precautions.
Changing this business process would tremendously impact productivity and satisfaction, but doing so would not be easy. Stakeholders must find enthusiasm for making improvement and have both the authority and responsibility to manage this workflow. Changes must be implemented over time, not only so they become habit but so they can be carefully designed and judiciously reviewed. Each adjustment will eventually lead to what might be an ideal customer service procedure:
- Request payment method
- Swipe credit card/key-in last name to automatically print invoice
- Accept one signature for both payment and invoice confirmation
- Return key to customer
Dropping from ten steps down to four not only increases productivity, it improves satisfaction. All stakeholders—from employee to manager to customer—have more time to pursue other endeavors and engage in innovation. The story of the auto shop is true and commonplace. If your procedures are cumbersome, or if you feel that there must be a better way, reach out to the business consultants at AccelaWork. We’d love to help you (or your repair shop) improve your business processes.