Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Business Organization Fail: The failure of the sales pipeline

Posted in business, certification, tanking by commorancy on November 4, 2009

In my line of business, purchasing services is part of doing business.  Unfortunately, many businesses fail at sufficiently managing this budding relationship properly.  This time is a crucial in relationship building between the two companies.  If the order process does not go smoothly, is delayed or is slow to process or complete, this can damage the relationship from the start.  A lot of companies pride themselves on their actual services, but how many company’s pride themselves or tout their order entry and completion processes?  Not many.

All too often, you place an order for a service and the order does not complete as you expect.  At first, you think this operation should be simple.  However, when installation day and time passes without a peep, this leaves you wondering what happened.  So, you call the sales and/or customer support line only to find out they don’t have a record of your order.  Unfortunately, this is a sign of disorganization.  A sign that this company fails to manage the order entry and order pipeline system properly.   This is a company that should leave you with the question, “Do I really want to do business with them?” Rightly, you should be asking yourself that question.  In some cases, however, this may be a cable company or some other company where you are over a barrel.  Defacto monopolies exist in society and there’s little we as consumers can do about that.  So, if you want that service, you must purchase it from that company or you don’t get it.  But, even with all of that in mind, you should still ask the question, “Should I do business with this company?”

Disorganization is nearly always a sign of things to come.  If there is this much disorganization surrounding the installation  and the order process, that does leak into other parts of the business including the actual service itself. So, you may find your service affected in random ways throughout the life of the service.  These problems may include, unintentional service disconnection, incorrect billing and invoicing including double billing and inaccurate billing to sporadic service quality and uninformed service outages and even installation issues resurfacing months or years later.  Disorganization affects far too many businesses.  Worse, most businesses don’t even recognize that they are affected, let alone do anything about it.  Bigger businesses are more prone to disorganization than smaller companies, but business of all sizes can and are affected.  With large companies, the departments and staff get more and more disconnected.  As the departments get bigger and more disconnected, employees adopt a ‘not my job’ mentality and once something reaches the limit of their job description, they push it off their desk with no thought to the customer’s relationship.  Once it’s pushed off their desk, they don’t really care what happens.  This can leave holes that let customers’ orders fall through the crack and not be serviced.

With small businesses, disorganization happens from immature processes and/or constantly shifting priorities. Also with small businesses, these companies are usually understaffed and that leaves the employees overworked.  So, instead of the service order falling into a black hole like a larger company, the order simply gets buried on the desk (or in email).  This results in lack of order tracking.  Effectively, big or small company, the problem is the same: a lost order.

Organizing: Documentation and Communication

Order taking doesn’t have to be a complex process.  It does, however, need a process.  In large companies, each department needs to be on the same page.  So, that means sales, billing, customer support and technical support all need to use the same system to reference order numbers.  Having multiple order tracking systems is ripe for failure in the order process.  There’s nothing worse than need three or four reference numbers to discuss an order. Worse, though, is when you call and they can’t even look up any of the order numbers and they resort to company names, service addresses and phone numbers.  Sometimes these don’t even work.   When nothing works to look up your account, that indicates either an incompetent service representative or fractured systems.  If you get a service rep who can’t seem to find your order, ask them for their name, thank them and call back.  When you get a new representative ask them to look up your order or company.  If they immediately find it, you should report the previous representative to their supervisor.  Representatives can sometimes intentionally prevent finding the company to get you off the phone faster.  These need to be reported.

Companies must recognize disorganization in order to fix it. Without recognizing this issue, the company cannot change their internal processes.  The processes must be streamlined from start to finish.  This is why many businesses adopt and use ISO 9000 standards certifications.  These certifications, while rigorous and somewhat costly to obtain and somewhat costly and rigorous to maintain, ensure a high quality customer experience from start to finish.  These certifications require that every department follow a blueprint each time they interact with customers.  A set of steps that always lead the customer through the same experience.  It sets quality standards from services and products and, again, it overall ensures a high quality customer experience.

Many larger companies require ISO certifications of their vendors.  This certification process ensures there is a commitment of quality and a level of organization associated with a company’s service offerings.  In other words, ISO certification immediately tells would-be buyers that they can expect a certain level of quality.  ISO certifications require each employee to write their processes down of how to properly work through their daily jobs.  Once these processes are documented, it’s easy to hand the documentation to new staff and have them follow these standards.  Standards set by a company ensures that products and services are efficiently provided.  Without any standards in place, this quickly leads to disorganization and haphazard and random methodologies in placing and managing the order process.   Without standards and processes in place, a company cannot provide high quality services as easily or consistently.

Communication with prospects is key to an order’s success.  If there is an issue with an order, there needs to be someone in the organization to manage these delays.  Someone should be tasked with keeping track of orders and managing (by contacting the customer) when there is to be a delay or an unexpected issue that may prevent an order from completing properly.  So, on top of the processes in place to make sure orders always take the same path, there needs to be a person to manage the order fully from start to finish.  Additionally, systems need to be interlinked properly so that Sales, Customer Service and Billing can be on the same page at the same time. There is nothing worse than calling in and asking about the progress of an order only to find out the order was cancelled from lack of communication.

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