by Tony Vidler
True professionals don’t just HAVE processes, they have processes they use everywhere in their work.
All the time.
Professionals are in fact process-driven.
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. The use their process first to ensure that they have minimised the risks. There is safety in the routine, because the routine is thorough and the routine is repetitively utilised. When they are in the air doing the actual flying, there are further processes. When they want to land, there are more.
Processes make sure nothing gets missed out….because missing stuff out leads to mistakes and 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 which was essentially about lead generation, and in particular the lead generation which was happening from a good centre of influence. Referrals are flowing reasonably regularly and there is mutual goodwill and understanding, and both are experienced and competent professionals. But the results are 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.
well…everyone who actually engaged got a compliance tick. But that wasn’t what the question was about. The question was about identifying the process for identifying and then engaging potential future clients.
The problem is that there is no qualification or engagement process. There is also no communication process between the two professionals. There are no checklists or flowcharts or agreements in place as to who would do what, or when, or who carries what responsibilities to the client. Everything is ad hoc….every referral is an exercise in goodwill approached with an attitude of “we’ll see how it goes”. Not suprisingly it isn’t going so well…every referral (or introduction) has a different experience in working with these 2 professionals jointly. Every introduction carries uncertainty and mis-matched expectations for everyone involved.
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 us 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, and that reflects well upon everyone involved.
Processes are good, and ultimately the right processes improve profitability for the firm because they reduce the variability in service delivery which tends to blow out costs or adversely affect conversion and retention rates . Good processes 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. That is intellectual property, which in turn affects business value.
Professionals have processes. Processes that improve profitability. Processes that match behaviour to purpose.
Professionals have processes because they are good for business.