There are many ways to optimize your business processes. Here are some that will allow you to boost the customer experience.
Regardless of the kind of business you run, it’s crucial to keep processes optimized. Business process optimization refers to the streamlining of the steps necessary for your employees to deliver the requirements of their jobs. Such an approach yields favorable results to all stakeholders of your business.
First, it benefits you, the boss. You will have tasks completed promptly without sacrificing output quality. You get to maximize the hours clocked in by your employees and lower the overhead costs of running your business significantly. Shortening the period it takes your employees to accomplish tasks also shortens the use of essential utilities, reducing your monthly electric bills, for example.
Business process optimization benefits your employees as well. They no longer have to contend with redundant tasks or tasks delayed by organizational red tape. They can focus on to-dos that are of the utmost importance. Deliverables that have a direct effect on your bottom line will be everyone’s top priority. For example, your marketing team can zero in on campaigns that yield tangible results instead of doing repetitive admin tasks.
Lastly, and most importantly, optimizing your daily operations benefits your customers. Maintaining an excellent customer experience is possible because your staff is not busy with unnecessary work. They can focus on what your clients need, not later but now. Your customers will have no reason to feel shortchanged or, worse, irate because they are getting what they exactly expect from you.
Having cited what’s in it for you, your staff, and your customers, now it’s time we delve deeper into how you can pull off business process optimization. Here are some recommendations.
Tips for Optimizing Small Business’ Processes
1. Identify your business processes’ weak spots
No business is perfect. Even if you pride yourself as a leader, you cannot fall into the trap of thinking you’re running a seamless operation. That derails any opportunity for improvement presented to you. With that said, it’s vital to view the processes at work in your business as if you’re seeing them for the first time. Such an approach will let you identify the weak spots in those processes.
You must analyze the life-cycle of processes with keen attention to detail. The factors to look into include the time, costs, and concerned individuals and departments linked to a specific process or function. After breaking down the components of a process, write a summary of how it fares. Ideally, by then, you will have identified the weak spots for improvement.
Either you reimagine those weak spots or do away with them altogether. It’s also possible to envision an entirely different process that caters to the same goal—that is if findings show that the current approach just doesn’t cut it.
2. Single out strengths
When you analyze existing processes, you do not just zero in on failures. You cannot afford that kind of negativity. Part of your goal is to single out strengths as well. While a process can consist of components that all uniformly fail, such a case is more an exception than the rule. A process that fails, in general, may still have parts that work and are thus worth keeping. You can save those and incorporate them later into the new processes you’ll develop. That way, nothing is wasted.
For example, if your inventory process has a scheduling framework that’s reliable enough, even if the entire system could make use of an overhaul, do not discard that framework in favor of a new one. Instead, tweak it to become suitable for the new system you’ll put in place. With better process components to support it, surely that commendable scheduling framework will shine even brighter.
3. Measure process efficiency with its corresponding goal
While it’s essential to break down processes into their most minor components and see how those components fare in achieving their corresponding purpose, you cannot disregard the end goal. Sometimes, the smaller steps that make up an action plan might not seem practical, but the said action plan’s goal is delivered nonetheless. In cases where cycle time and costs associated with the process remain within acceptable bounds, an overhaul might not be necessary.
What might be necessary is doing some minor tweaks to streamline those individual parts that make up a whole. If done competently, the goal that’s already successful will get an additional boost.
Keep in mind that introducing an entirely new process, in itself, requires resources, both monetary and time-wise. So if there’s a way to limit those overhauls, it would be best to follow that route. Process optimization does not need to be on a wholesale basis, even if you have all the capital to spend and can afford to take risks.
4. Ask for feedback
You have two dependable resources to tap when it comes to the goal of streamlining business processes. Those include your internal and external customers.
Internal customers refer to your employees. They should remain happy and satisfied with their job. Otherwise, they’ll look beyond your doors for other opportunities. One way to frustrate your employees is by imposing processes that make little sense to them or routinely updating procedures without their input whatsoever.
Ideally, you nurture a team that’s open to change. But that won’t happen if you keep your employees in the dark regarding your business plans. Every change you introduce will affect them directly; therefore, it’s only logical to make consultations with them whenever possible. Moreover, your employees have the most to contribute to business process optimization. They are, after all, the gears that keep the wheels of your business turning. It’s in your best interest to listen to what they have to say.
After involving your employees in decision-making, focus on your external customers or those who purchase your products and services. They, too, can impart invaluable insights into your business processes. They are the end recipients of the results of those processes; therefore, their views matter.
5. Focus on processes that directly impact customer experience
It’s vital to map the customer journey. That will allow you to analyze which parts of the customer conversion process need to stay and which can go out the window. Here it would help if you outlined the business processes that directly impact how customers interact with your brand. That covers the moment they learn about you to the very instance they purchase what you’re selling.
Is there a way to make that process quicker? Is it possible to skip steps and make customer conversion happen with reduced resources? To answer those questions, look at the processes that guide your marketing efforts.
Another question to ask is if you’re retaining customers. Are you getting those repeat transactions that fuel businesses? If your answers are negative, then it’s time to look into your customer service processes and see what’s wrong with them and how to improve them. Remember that most of these processes lead to one ultimate goal: to command as much of your target market as possible, enough to continually grow your business.
6. Simulate planned changes
You cannot surprise your employees by introducing new processes at once. A good practice is to implement organizational changes gradually. To do so, you can first do a simulation of your planned changes focusing on a particular department or team. Once the result of that simulation is positive, that’s the time you get more people on board until the entire organization has adapted to the changes you introduced.
Keep in mind that some plans that look great on paper prove dismal in practice. You can avoid wasting resources when you test the waters first. That way, you also do not allow your core team to feel demoralized if the plan fails. Low morale can also diminish your employees’ trust and confidence in the people in charge.
7. Consider outside-the-box opportunities
Do not limit your business optimization ideas to the most popular or widely used approaches. Optimizing business processes requires imagination and, in some instances, lots of nerve. You cannot shy away from something new just because you’re scared of its implications or results.
For example, you may want to consider automation after sitting on the fence for too long about how it works. Your organization’s workflow will benefit a lot from this technology. For instance, you can install automated customer service that eliminates the need for your admin people to receive and answer calls or emails from clients.
Another opportunity worth exploring is outsourcing. You can build a team of remote workers from all over the world. This approach will reduce your operational costs and expand your capacity and superiority for delivering business to clients. Imagine having sales representatives from different time zones. Now conducting your business is no longer restricted by your location.
The need for business process optimization is not exclusive to a particular industry. For instance, while optimization trends in the call center industry always take the forefront of the conversation, BPO is by no means the only type of business that can benefit from streamlined processes. Indeed, it’s worth noting that other industries can take a cue from how BPOs continually revamp how they do things for efficiency.
Suppose you’re running a retail shop via e-commerce with less than 10 individuals on your team. You, too, can benefit from optimized processes significantly. Your staff will cater to more customers who will be delighted with their interactions with your business. You can measure personal and team accomplishments better. And once you get in the habit of routinely checking what processes work and fail, your business’s progress won’t get stalled. You will keep seeing new and better ways of doing things and applying them for everyone’s sake. Yes, it’s high time you optimize your business processes. Go at it with gusto.
Alan Shapiro is the CEO of Executive Boutique Call Center, an outsource call center and BPO provider. Since 2008, he has been helping his clients’ companies grow by providing them with high-quality and reliable outsourcing services from their two offices in Cebu, Philippines. He spends his free time snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking, and gardening.