Our service department is a headache and as a small business that can spell disaster. Employees take more time than necessary to complete jobs, other times they skip parts of what they’re supposed to do. Some folks are often late, others forget to clock in. We need to change things around.

Thoughts of the Day: Start with a top down assessment. Set excellence as the standard. Make sure to use metrics to speak with facts about what’s going on. Build up teams to support what you’re trying to accomplish.

Start with a top down assessment.

Look at the leadership of the department. What is done to reward people who perform well? What happens when things go wrong? What happens if a person is underperforming?

Some managers are uncomfortable confronting problems. Others build relationships with the people who work for them and then play favorites regardless of how well or people are performing. Some managers are not able to think on their feet, unable to brainstorm creative solutions when needed.

Spend a few days in the field. Listen in on calls. Watch what happens at the beginning and end of the day when people clock in and out. Sit in on staff meetings. Make sure your leadership is actually leading their team correctly.

Set excellence as the standard.

Make your expectations crystal clear. Define what excellent customer service means. Look for examples of people going above and beyond and share them with everyone. Recognize and reward those people who do what’s expected and then some.

Learn how to get set up for success. Do people have the right parts on their trucks when they head out for work? Is there a complete list of job sites ready to go first thing in the morning? Are people arriving early for work so they can get organized for the day?

Write down the stories when your people do a great job. Use those stories to create memories you can share with the team. Take a picture of a customer thanking an employee. Take pictures of a great worksite – clean, well-organized, happy people doing work they love. Post those pictures everywhere – in the office, in your trucks, in the area where people come in to get tools and parts, on social media.

Make sure to use metrics to speak with facts about what’s going on.

Inspect jobs where the work isn’t completed according to schedule and standard. Look for patterns. Are there types of job that take longer than planned? Consider increasing the time budgeted to complete those types of jobs. Are some jobs more complex, and require more trained personnel? Look at who’s getting assigned to do what work and make sure the level of skill matches the job requirements. Figure out what might be structurally wrong that can be contributing to the problems.

Define your standards and promote them. You can measure what’s happening in the field. For example, track the % of jobs completed without need to return, % of jobs completed on time, % of work with / without customer complaints. Track things for a month or two, then set goals for improving the results. That’s your new standard.

Make a daily checklist for each service person and ask your manager to hand it in every day. Keep track of how well-prepared people are. Look for patterns when things don’t go right.

Build up teams to support what you’re trying to accomplish.

If your management isn’t leading in the direction you want, consider retraining or replacement. No internal candidates? Start an external search now. Look for internal candidates who get what you’re trying to do. Get them training them as leaders as well as technical staff. Give them opportunities to head up a group and see if they can lead that group to better results.

Looking for a good book? The Service Culture Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Employees Obsessed with Customer Service, by Jeff Toister.