Transform Your Business by Putting People First

In my last column I outlined three initiatives you can start in your dealership right now to optimize your tech strategy: 1.) upgrade accountability for tech leadership; 2.) put people first; and 3.) own your processes. In this column we’re looking at #2 – putting people first.

We know that putting people first is a winning leadership strategy because it drives engagement and engagement drives customer/employee satisfaction and overall company performance. I’ll leave it to the other BoF columnists to dive into the human resources, leadership and cultural aspects of the people first strategy. We’re looking at people first technology. Is that even a thing?

It is. And its huge. Too much for one column if we’re honest. “Experience” is one of the tech buzzwords of the day. Its foundational to many business transformation initiatives.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

Understanding and documenting the customer journey is a reliable approach to business transformation. Examine the entire business lifecycle from the customer’s perspective. How easy is it to work with your company? A people first strategy means that your customers enjoy working with you. The service you deliver matches their expectations.

When you document the customer journey you might be surprised by how many barriers you’re creating between the customer and a simple, easy interaction that keeps them happy.

There can be a yawning chasm between the complexity of fulfilling a furniture order and the customer’s expectations, especially as a younger generation ages into leadership roles. They’re used to ordering from Amazon and having it show up the next day. They don’t know about your manufacturers’ item catalog, or the components that make up a table. What does the customer care about price checks, vendor acknowledgements and other internal dealership processes that slow things down? Why does it take half a day to produce an order status report? Why do they have to call to place an order or get project information? Can’t they order online? Can you respond to quote requests the same day?

When you document the customer journey you might be surprised by how many barriers you’re creating between the customer and a simple, easy interaction that keeps them happy. I’ll bet most of those barriers are related to limitations in your technology. Identify those limitations and you’re well on your way towards an optimal tech strategy.

EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE

The same type of process applies to your staff. Is it easy to work at your company? Probably not. Your technology is a big reason why. How much more engaged would your team be if you were committed to making the work as easy as possible?

Using the best tool for the job is key to driving internal adoption and engagement.

Most of the technology vendors in contract furniture space are small businesses. They simply don’t have the resources to invest in “user experience.” This is one argument against monolithic “all in one” business systems. Using the best tool for the job is key to driving internal adoption and engagement. Your business system is often not the best tool. But that doesn’t stop them from trying! Why is your business system vendor selling their own CRM? Saleforce or Zoho probably invest more in user experience than your business system vendor earns in a year. And it shows. Those solutions are so much easier and enjoyable to use.

Automation is a people first technology strategy. It’s not about reducing headcount, it’s about creating better jobs.

Building up and processing orders is a grind. Hours of thankless, soul crushing labor reviewing items, sending POs, checking acknowledgements and so on. You must automate. Automation is a people first technology strategy. It’s not about reducing headcount, it’s about creating better jobs. For starters, if you’re an aligned dealer then you need a business system that integrates with your manufacturer’s web service. That’s a no brainer. But automation is available for any repetitive task. What about order entry? Or AP? Find those processes that contribute to the “daily grind” and find solutions to relieve that pain.

Automation also involves “baking” your process into your technology. This one is a little more challenging, but so critical. When your process requires that your people “just need to know” what to do then you have so many opportunities for mistakes, confusion and margin erosion. And you become overly dependent on long term employees who “just know” everything. Think about how you can offload process related decision making onto your technology. We’ll talk more about process in the next column.

I highly recommend a people-first review of your internal and external interactions. Identify how you can remove barriers, find the best tools for the job and automate repetitive work and processes. You’ll be on your way to making business easier and better in your dealership.

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