Sunday, July 20, 2008

When the accountants run the business...

Dan Anderson - who has been doing some of the best blogging around lately - touches a nerve about paying for advice from your dealership service people.
At the dealership where I work I have to account for every minute of my day. On a perfect day, every minute is billable to repairs on a specific machine for a specific customer.

But on most days, I get phone calls from customers asking my advice or opinion about repairs or problems with their equipment. Sometimes customers stop by the shop to ask questions. The questions usually take 5 or 10 minutes to answer, but sometimes stretch to 20 or 30 minutes. The customer hangs up the phone or leaves the shop satisfied with the answers he sought, but I turn around and ask myself, "How do I account for that time?" [More]
For my part, I think this is a typical result from letting MBA's at the company decide how to organize everything. The entire problem centers on the mandate to ascribe costs to customers - not provide service. This decree allows management to make decisions with the appearance of more, even better, data.  The conviction is such scientific management tools will maximize profit.

The result is arbitrary and unhelpful work rules that strike me as obstacles to good customer results.  Some ways around this are out there already:
  • A "miscellaneous" category for allocating such time.  Just as we have a catch-all account for expenses that can't be allotted to a particular field, enterprise, etc. general overhead is one choice. Accountants as a rule hate this, and usually for sound reasons, but even their wish for a "place for everything" must be secondary to enhancing customer relations.
  • Phone trees.  I know - we hates 'em, we does. But the doofuses who call rather than read deserve to cool their heels.  Actually, calls from guys who won't read probably aren't "very important to us".
  • FAQ's.  My wild guess is 90% of such queries can be anticipated by a frequently updated FAQ section on the company website with good - as in Google - search tools.  As more and more of us acquire mobile Internet capability (and you will), those who need verbal hand-holding can be trained to find their own answers.
  • Different levels of service.  Just like airlines, "Premium Service" could include full phone support.  The cost could either be bundled into frequent buyer profits (for instance, guys who trade every year would get it thrown in the deal) or stand-alone subscriptions.  Some of us would pay for the service Dan is handing out for free or on someone else's nickel.
The underlying problem here is to decide which business you are in: selling service to customers or creating neat account printouts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After getting ripped for not getting more work done during the day a few weeks back, I started keeping track of the cell phone calls I get in a day. I had 73 work related cell phone calls in one 12 hr peroid. 12 were from the boss asking what I was doing and when I was moving on. 6 were from my supervisor calling me to check on me after I had just talked to the boss. (I guess the boss called my supervisor to tell him I wasnt moving fast enough, so he called me to get me moving) The rest were customers calling to either visit or ask a question or co workers callilng needing help or asking a quesiton that they already know the answer to.

I cant get anything done for talking on that damn cell phone. It is not uncommon to get 60 cell phone calles a day. And to make it worse if you dont answer on the first ring, well what are you doing? It is easy for the boss, secetary or supervisor to pass off things they dont want to do by giving out your number and telling a customer to call you. Then you have the follow up call from one fo the above to find out what the customer wanted. ???? Calls before sunrise, late night, Sundays...........I call it my shock collar. Turned it off to go to church or go to a meeting or go to the bathroom and you are ignoring customers.........

The cell phone is a curse