How your business can benefit from a better process
Master your craft with muscle memory
Many of the actions we take every day are conducted without a whole lot of thought. Driving to work, making a call on your cell, or even eating, all are forms of procedural memory. These are specific motor tasks that are done so frequently they become almost automatic.
These skills can not only be done subconsciously, but also highly efficiently. This is called muscle memory — a term you’ve probably heard. Muscle memory isn’t so much about your muscles as it has to do with the connection between motor and memory systems.
Top athletes practice at a high level and with great consistency, so when they hit a ball, shoot a basket or react to the snap, they do it instantly, without requiring much processing from their brain. This reaction has become so instinctive they are able to achieve great results without thinking — most of the time. The same is true of anyone who has mastered their craft.
Although we may not be Olympians, we rely on our skills every day to do our jobs effectively. How we take care of a customer, answer a phone, snake a drain, or perform any other skill is how we earn a living. Our goal should be to continue the journey of mastering of our craft. To be the best of the best. To develop muscle memory.
Those of you familiar with my background may remember I am a retired Navy chief. In the Navy, we trained all the time. We’d shoot weapons regularly so we were familiar with them and could shoot them accurately.
We’d conduct fire drills on the ship daily, whether we were in port or at sea. A shipboard fire is one of the most dangerous scenarios possible, so we were trained on how to fight those fires. When an emergency happened, and general quarters sounded, everyone instinctively knew what repair locker or damage-control station they belonged to and what their job was. We all knew this was a matter of life or death, and this high level of performance was achieved only through training, practice, drill and rehearsal.
Now let’s look at some of our daily activities and identify some areas where we can benefit from a better process.
When we are in the home as service technicians, plumbers or electricians, we typically communicate with our customers the same way from home to home. I’ve been on a lot of ride-alongs in my career and have heard some great interactions — and some, well, not so great. This is a critical area that can benefit from a bit of muscle memory.
How well we greet the customer, build rapport, identify their needs and offer solutions determines whether we ultimately earn their business and solve their needs. Saying the right words can make the customer feel comfortable with you and your company. Saying the wrong words will just scare them away.
At Nexstar, we have a class called Service System, shared with thousands of technicians around the country, which focuses on delivering a great customer experience every time. This is something that can be taught, but it isn’t mastered without practice, drill and rehearsal. Review your process and ask what you could do differently to improve your interaction.
I believe most homeowners think plumbers are expensive. Most of the time we are not priced as high as we need to be for the business to operate properly, but that is a different story. The question is, what do you respond with when your customer says: “Your price is too high” or “That’s a lot of money?” Do you stammer and look at your boots? Do you agree with them and apologize? This is where a scripted, practiced response can help you field the objection, and at the same time help the customer make the right decision. By looking him or her in the eye and delivering a proper response, you can help your customer make the right choice. This response should eventually be delivered through muscle memory.
Another set of challenges exists in the customer-service department where the calls are booked. We get the same objections all day from our customers. Some common objections may be about your dispatch or trip charge, or customers wanting a phone quote instead of sending a plumber out.
Having a well-thought-out and consistent response to these challenges makes your life better and delivers a better customer experience. This also is true when delivering bad news, such as delaying a customer or rescheduling a call. They might not be happy, but when you handle it professionally you will minimize the fallout. By practicing, drilling and rehearsing how to handle these situations, you can begin to develop the muscle memory to make your process more effective.
The building blocks
Building muscle memory isn’t hard. But as with any skill, it takes time. Let’s take a look at how you can begin building muscle memory at your business:
Identify the defect. What is the problem you want to solve? You can identify these problems by looking at the data. If you have a low conversion rate in your service department or low average ticket, these may be signs there is a problem with your current process. For your call center, you might look at call-capture rates to identify any defects.
Establish targets. What is the desired result? If you know where you are, then you need to identify where you want to go. If your conversion rate is at 50% and you are looking to improve that percentage, what does success look like to you? Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Incremental gains should be expected, and with a consistent approach that trend will continue.
Build the solution. This is how you’re going to fix the defect. For example, handling a price objection from a customer starts with crafting your response. It could be as simple as writing that response on an index card. Just be aware you may need to tweak it until you have the right formula. If you are a member of a trade organization, you’ll have access to other members or coaches who can help with these types of things.
Train the team. Once the process is built, seek out the required materials and set up a consistent process to practice, drill and rehearse until you begin to develop muscle memory. Continue to refine your process as you progress. This is easy once a foundation has been built.
Measure the results. How do you know if the process is working? I have seen many call centers with great scripts that just weren’t being utilized. These scripts were created and training took place, but it wasn’t checked. It’s imperative you look at the data to see if your results are improving. Ride-alongs are a critical way to understand if your processes are working. Listening to calls from your call center is another way.
Coach for greatness. Regardless of your position at your company, having a coach or an accountability partner will help you realize your potential. If you are a manager or leader, your mission always should be to help your team achieve greatness.
We invest more time in our professional lives than any other area of our lives. Let’s make it time well-spent! RJ 2.0