As a small business owner, you understand your craft. You are great at getting the job done. I want to ask you, in those areas where your work relies on information from your customer are you struggling? Do you find that you have to go to your client multiple times to get the exact information you need? Do you see confusion between how you interpret information and what the customer actually wants or needs? Do you even know what your customer actually wants and why? Today we are going to talk about developing a business process map to improve customer satisfaction.
In my time working with small business owners, I find that most process maps fall into two categories
- You have a great initial meeting presentation that gives a great overview of the overall plan and what is going to happen on the project, but once the work actually starts there is no real process map; or
- You follow the plan that was laid out in the initial meeting/consultation, but the overall process map you have isn’t clearly defined, is extremely clunky, or has a number of business leaks including repetitive or unnecessary steps for the Client.
Your Process Map is Like a Recipe
Most of this is because you understand how to do what you do, but you haven’t broken it down from point A to point Z. It reminds me of my dad. He is a fabulous cook, but whenever we ask him how he made something he could never tell us. The reason was because he didn’t use a recipe and there were times he was trying something and would add a little bit of this and a little bit of that. He couldn’t explain it to us because he just did it without really thinking about it. Cooking is his craft…he just gets it. Well, cooking isn’t our craft, so we don’t and we need the recipe – the process map.
You want to clearly explain the process and all that goes into it in enough detail so that your client understands, but not enough where they are glassy-eyed. You want to ensure you get the information you need to do your job from the Client before you need it and that you explain how the information they provide and the choices they make effect and/or fit together to create the end product. If you don’t explain it to your customer they won’t know and having that understanding may change the way you create or design.
Understanding your Client’s Needs
Additionally, you need to understand how what you are creating fits into the world of your customer. Having that understanding may change the way you create or design something. It may also give you an opportunity to offer a better solution for what your Clients actually need. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I knew exactly what I wanted but once I spoke with an expert I realized I wasn’t asking for the right thing or that I wanted something else. It’s because I really didn’t know what I didn’t know.
This can also be a great opportunity to exceed your client’s expectations too. If a customer comes to you expecting to order a three-tier wedding cake, because they think that’s all they can afford, and they leave instead with a five-tier cake that is still in their budget that is a win for the baker and for the customer. The baker didn’t necessarily provide the customer with free cake, they explained that they can add in two foam layers to give the illusion of a larger cake. The customer may not have known that was a possibility, but because the baker was used to this and had a process for guiding them through the options, they educated the customer, gave more than was expected and won not only a new customer but probably referrals too. They accomplished all of this because they had a clearly defined process…a business recipe.
Ensure Your Process Map is Adaptive
Once you define your process and determine what your customers actually need, you may find that your process is not very adaptive. Now, in some cases, it doesn’t make sense to adapt your process, especially if it is detrimental to the overall creation or the end result of the service. In other cases, there is a little wiggle room to move things around. If you don’t know where this wiggle room is you can’t know how to adapt for it when it comes up.
Take for example, you are helping a client set up a new piece of software. Your process has them identifying the number of accounts they need to migrate and in what buckets they are going to fall. The client explains they are going through a system cleanup, so what they give you won’t be accurate and can you work on setting up another part of the system first. Giving them time to clean up the data prior to migration.
If you understand what parts of the setup process are reliant on the other parts and which aren’t then you know you have a little wiggle room and can set up the other pieces first. If you didn’t know that, you may feel that setting up the Users is a roadblock and begin pushing the client to provide information before you move forward, ultimately halting the project unnecessarily.
What is the Overall Purpose of this Action?
Before asking a client for anything you should understand the purpose of what you are asking for and ensure you are getting everything you need during the ask, if possible (or lay out the various phases for them in the beginning and what they will be doing or producing in each). Mapping out the creative flow to your Client is imperative to ensure clear communication and helps to ensure your project meets both your needs and your customers. You may have multiple paths but if you don’t think about and plan for each you will be flailing when you are presented with a roadblock.
Again, each client is unique, but your process should have a defined path that is followed by small variation paths where appropriate.
Remember, You Are the Expert
Ultimately, your customers don’t understand your craft like you do. They just know they want a website built, a cake made or their graphics developed, they don’t know all the pieces and decisions that must go into it, so it is your responsibility to educate them and break it down so they get it. As a customer, I need to understand the end gain and how the small pieces fit together to get me the result that I want.
So now that you know you need to have and understand your process map and also provide your clients with an understanding of your roadmap, do you have one? If you need help defining a streamlined process map or a client facing roadmap, feel free to set up your mapping session today.
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