By DON ARCHER
Have you ever heard these words come out of your mouth: "Why does it seem like I'm the only one who cares about this place?" If the answer is yes, you may have talked yourself into believing that it's just the way employees are. That they're only here for a paycheck, and you just can't expect too much out of them.
I feel your pain; but I also believe what the German writer Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe said: "Look at a man the way he is and he only becomes worse. Look at him as if he was what he could be—then he becomes what he should be."
That's why I think that if you develop a few simple key performance indicators for your business and allow your employees to participate in a little number manipulation with you, you'll find that they'll start to take their jobs a bit more seriously.
Key performance indicators are things you do every day that positively or negatively influence your business. Some examples include marketing and advertising, answering the phones, response times, and quality of service.
But those are just words right? What does it all mean?
Each item is something that you and your employees can affect through your actions on a daily basis. Let's look at a few and see how you can change your circumstances.
Marketing: First, define what marketing means to you. If your idea of marketing is to have in-person, one-on-one meetings with existing and potential commercial customers to promote your company, then that's something you can measure. And if you keep a tally sheet that allows everyone to know how many of these interactions happened in a given period of time, it will become part of your business environment. As a result, possibly more employees will begin to care as business gets better.
As the months pass and you've kept a record of what you've done, everyone will be able to look to the tally sheet and see how your efforts have resulted in increased business.
Now that you've got the ball rolling and your employees can see the emphasis being placed on marketing, they might begin to connect the dots. They may have the foresight to understand that once you've got customers calling, it's necessary to treat them right when the phone rings.
But how can you measure phone calls? In the towing business, answering the phone is not just a function of taking an order—this isn't Taco Bell—your dispatchers need to understand that their job also is marketing. It requires the same level of service as any other part of the business.
To begin with, you could make it a game with everyone, including your drivers, to answer the phone before it rings a second or third time. This will do two things: 1) it keeps the employees' attention on the customers' calls instead of stuff that doesn't matter; and, 2) a quickly answered phone tells the customer that you want their business and that you're not too busy to help them.
You could also train your dispatchers how to turn a price-shopper into a cash customer using empathy and concern for their needs. When your dispatchers truly care about the guy or gal on the other end, it will come through in the sound of their voice. You'll lose less to the cutthroat competition down the road.
Simply count every call that comes in and subtract the number of tows or service calls you ran for that day from the calls received and develop a ratio of calls run to calls received. Count only the price shoppers and people looking for information—those who haven't quite decided that they need your services yet. Exclude motor clubs, sales or police department calls, as they wouldn't be as productive and it wouldn't help to create the service-oriented environment you desire. Make it a game: challenge call receivers to count every price-shopper call on their shift, and at the same time count how many of them they turned into customers. Keep a record for each dispatcher every day during the entire month, rewarding the most productive with incentives of cash and prizes.
Do the same with response times and quality of service provided, polling customers to get factual, unbiased information. Get creative; use your imagination to generate excitement in your organization so that everybody's moving in the same direction. When you do, no longer will you be the only one who cares.
Don Archer lives and works in Jefferson City, Mo., where he and his wife, Brenda, own and operate Broadway Wrecker, a 12-truck operation that's been in business since the 1950s. Email him at email@example.com