by Tony Vidler
True professionals don’t just HAVE processes, they use the processes. All the time.
Or should do.
We need to learn from those professions where the outcome of a poor day on the job is literally life or death. That isn’t generally the case for most professional services providers, however a poor day on the job for us can often have grave consequences for our clients.
Pilots are professionals. Pilots don’t wait until they are flying to go through the pre-flight checklist process. And they have a process to go through to make sure nothing gets missed out….because mistakes are costly. In their world, mistakes are deadly. In our world they are just costly financially, reputationally or in time perhaps.
Process has been getting a bad rap in financial services in particular because the word has effectively been hijacked. It has been used so often in association with “compliance” or “best practice” that the very word “process” is now assumed to mean those other things. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I had a conversation with an adviser this week which was essentially about lead generation, and in particular the lead generation which was happening from a good centre of influence. Referrals were flowing reasonably regularly, and there is mutual goodwill and understanding, and both are experienced and competent professionals. But the results were rather hit and miss, with a relatively poor proportion turning into actual clients.
The response was centered entirely upon the compliance process – what documents were given at what stage and how the respective professionals were documenting their interaction with the prospective client.
Superb. Everyone gets a compliance tick.
The problem is that there was no engagement process. There was no communication process between the two professionals. There were no checklists or flowcharts or agreements in place as to who would do what, or when, or who carried what responsibilities to the client. Everything was ad hoc….every referral was an exercise in sporadic engagement….every referral had a different expereince of working with these 2 professionals jointly. Some had good experiences clearly, and so also clearly had quite average experiences as they did business elsewhere.
Apalling. Neither gets a business-building tick.
Good processes are simply the result of anticipation based upon previous experience. Anticipating what can happen, and what is likely to happen, and what needs to happen to deliver a consistent service to a high standard. Capturing that thinking and anticipation into a series of steps, or tick boxes, or templates, or whatever works best for you, is what becomes a “process”.
The two key points are that good processes are thought through, and then documented in some manner which can be followed reliably in the future to ensure that critical steps are not missed.
Processes reduce the risk of missing critical engagement or communications steps simply because we were busy. Processes ensure efficiency because everyone involved knows what their role is, and when it is needed. Processes produce consistent client experiences and deliver reliable service standards.
Processes are good, and ultimately the right processes improve profitability for the firm. They can also introduce leverage in the form of capturing systemic knowledge and then passing it on to other less experienced or knowledgeable staff in a comprehensible format which they can follow, resulting in them ideally duplicating the desired service or communications experience at a lower delivery cost.
Processes have purpose. Professionals have purpose. Professionals with purpose use processes.