Rethinking Systems in Business.
Is there a system or process in your business that could be simplified, rethought, or made better?
One of the things I’ve learned about myself over the past 16 years as a business owner is that I have the unique ability to experience a business (online or off) and immediately think of a handful of ideas that would make their systems and processes easier, improve the customer experience, or see what opportunities they might be overlooking.
Today I want to share a story that illustrates this point. A story that wrapped up today…
Three weeks ago, we finally broke down and had to purchase a new range. Our old one came with the house and was installed probably sometime between the mid to late seventies to the early 80s.
I didn’t really want to make the investment. Does anyone actually want to go appliance shopping?
The replacement became necessary as the oven wouldn’t turn off. When the off button was pushed, it made the usual beep, but it would keep getting hotter and hotter. Like 500 degrees hot and the fan was constantly running to cool it.
For a few days, I run upstairs after using the oven and flip off the breaker. For a few more days, we brought in the propane camp stove and used it on the stove top (exhaust fan running on high). That’s how much I didn’t want to purchase a new range
My girls (14 and 11), both of which like to bake and make their own meals, were not comfortable flipping on/off the breaker for the stove or igniting the camp stove.
It was just time get a new range. I set out to find a new one which meant I had 2 choices in our small town: Home Depot and Sears.
Home Depot had a floor model in the style we needed. It turns out, however, they won’t sell their floor models. Believe me. We tried.
My husband and I both went to the store separately and spoke to several employees. Each time we were turned down. I even had them call the store manager. No luck. I inquired about how long a new one would take to arrive. The answer: anywhere from 2-4 weeks. They couldn’t be sure until we placed the order. Grrrr.
I headed to Sears.
They had exactly 2 options for our specific model, neither of which I cared for all that much.
Model One – Stainless with a smooth black cooktop that came with a hefty price of nearly $3K. For that price, I could get tons of bells and whistles – conventional and convection cooking, a warming center, and more.
I didn’t even know ranges could be that costly. The last one we purchased 6 years ago for our last home during a kitchen remodel was somewhere around $500 for a stand up model.
Model Two – A white unit with a white textured cooktop. No bells or whistles. Straight conventional cooking/broiling like the one we were replacing.
I should mention that all our appliances in our country style kitchen are white (as are our cabinets and our hardwood floors). Needless to say, the white on white on white didn’t thrill me. And the price tag? Just over $800 for the floor model which was far closer to what I thought we’d be spending. We were told if we ordered anything off their website, it would arrive in just 2 days.
My husband spent time researching ranges on the Sears website and found one he thought would work for us. I think he gets way more excited for new household “toys” than I do. The range he found had a much larger oven capacity, conventional/convection cooking, black glass top, a price tag just shy of $1000. An upgraded range for a decent price. I felt satisfied and excited to dive into all the upgraded features.
I headed back to the store the next day and purchased the unit. It rang up over $100 cheaper than online or Home Depot which was a really nice bonus.
At checkout, I was told that there was a 30-day satisfaction guarantee. If we didn’t love it, we could bring it back for exchange or a refund. My fondness for Sears is growing stronger by this point.
At this point, you might be thinking the timing is perfect for Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals. Unfortunately, the timing fell 3 weeks prior to Black Friday.
I will say that purchasing a range before Black Friday certainly had its benefits. I was able to run the unit through all its features in preparation for the holiday meal. The convection setting got our 22 pound ½ bird done in under 3 hours. Yes, we only cooked half our turkey. But that’s a story for another time…
Right from the get go, there were problems.
- The “fast boil” feature took FOREVER.
- The broil feature caused condensation between the 2 panes of glass on the front of the stove.
- The glass cooktop was black glass and needed to be cleaned about every 5 minutes. And each cleaning was at least a 15 minute job including polishing.
- The cooktop was also extremely prone to scratches. My placing the Thanksgiving Turkey in the pan on the stovetop caused a large scratch.
- Simply grazing the front panel or reach over it to get something on/off the breakfast bar turned the stove on as did cleaning the panel
- The oven vent was above the door making cooking on the stovetop a challenge if anything was in the over..and that’s not even an exhaustive list of problems with our 3 week old range.
Now that you know the backstory, here’s where the lesson for the day begins:
Red Flag #1
Last week, I stopped by the store to find out what I needed to do to exchange or return the range. I was told to I had to talk to the owner. He’d already left for the day and I should call tomorrow between certain times.
I called the next day at the appointed time and asked to speak with the owner. The owner had an employee call back to let me know I had to call the repair center if there was something wrong with the stove.
By now, my fondness for Sears is quickly dwindling.
Red Flag #2
A few days later, a bit grumpy about needing to call the repair center, I was told they could schedule a repair. I expressed my concern to the person on the other end that I thought there might be too many issues to fix on a 3 week old appliance. If there are this many issues after only 3 weeks, what’s going to happen after we own if for 6 months? A year (when the warranty expires)?
I’m getting frustrated with the process.
I ask about the ability to exchange or get a refund from the store.
The customer service rep says I can absolutely exchange or refund because I’m still within my 30 day satisfaction guarantee time frame.
He asks why I hadn’t just contacted the store to do just that.
My response...“that’s where I started.”
I am glad the person on the other end of the phone cannot see me because I’m literally rolling my eyes. I’m exasperated and all I can do is laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation. Here I am, nearly a week into the return process and closing in on my 30 day time frame.
I call the store 2 more times to speak with the owner and after several rounds of phone tag, finally connected.
Red Flag #3
He said it was no problem to exchange or return since I’d already called the repair center. All I needed to do was bring down my receipt so that he could get specifics off of it.
When I purchased it, I was asked for my phone number tied to my Sears/K-Mart rewards card meaning they already had all the info they needed in their system….
So this morning, following an impromptu breakfast with my hubby while his windshield was being replaced, we headed on down to Sears.
Our plan was to just exchange the unit thinking we got a dud.
We walked around the store to see if any new models might have arrived. Nope. Both models that were there previously were still the only ones available in the style we need.
I’m sure you, too, see the bottlenecks in this return process.
What should have taken me one phone call and one trip to the store took a week, several phone calls, and a couple trips back to the store. Each interaction causing my dislike of Sears to grow.
What does this story have to do with business?
As business owners, we create systems to standardize processes. We want to ensure that clients have the same experience across the board so we’re not making things up on the fly that someone else can replicate. Sometimes, however, it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture – the client experience.
Systems may seem stifling, especially is you’re a creative entrepreneur, however, they can actually create more freedom for business owners. Systems create time so you’re not making up new solutions on the fly. Systems can reduce stress by knowing your team can run things in your absence.
Still not convinced you need systems in your business? Check out this great blog and podcast all about Creating Systems That Create Freedom over at Entrepreneur On Fire.
Are there systems in your business that could be simplified, revised,
or eliminated completely?
Think about systems that could be:
- Made more client friendly?
- Completed with fewer steps?
- Changed all together?
Now it’s your turn to take some action.
Comment below and let me know if you have systems you could simply.
Can you commit to reviewing or simplifying ONE system every week?
Let me know in the comments below and then head over to make a public declaration on my FB page (or click the image below) so that I can hold you accountable.