Knowledge Exchange is a weekly series of educational articles that we encourage you to share and discuss with your colleagues and network. This month, we’re offering advice for improving your business efficiency.
Every minute counts — in life, and especially in a service business. Billable time translates directly to revenue. But interruptions, time-consuming administrative work and inefficient workflows can let precious hours slip away.
To make the most of your team’s talent, take advantage of the following tested techniques.
Each person on your team may have a different way of working, and there’s something to be said for encouraging that individual freedom. However, sometimes people unknowingly engage in bad habits that negatively impact their productivity.
Training your employees on time-blocking methods can help them avoid the consequences associated with Parkinson’s Law: the idea that a task will expand in complexity and take up as much time as you allot for it. If you allow an unlimited amount of time for a given task, it will take all of that time and feel harder than it has to be. Instead of falling victim to this common pattern, your team needs to be able to focus and prioritize.
How? Host a training session in which you demonstrate examples of work your team does regularly and how to adjust their own timing expectations. Tell them to set a specific time frame, generally one that’s far less than their initial estimate. This will leave them in control but make them feel driven to complete things more quickly. It works best if you set up an environment and team culture in which you limit meetings and encourage people to block focus time on their calendars.
Onboarding often becomes an area of inefficiency because businesses try to customize it. Your clients are all unique, but their onboarding experiences shouldn’t be. By building a standardized onboarding protocol, you’ll ensure a consistent start to every client relationship.
This means you might initially need to spend some time creating decks, checklists, email templates and call scripts for your team, but these efforts will do wonders for long-term efficiency and profitability. Not only will it be easier to train new employees on this process, but you’ll be able to pinpoint steps that aren’t working and quickly make changes when necessary.
How? An integrated CRM can be invaluable for onboarding as long as you use it for more than just capturing and storing client details. If you’re using a platform with robust automation, you can smooth the transition for your clients and save your team the time they might’ve spent on redundant communication.
Many tasks can become time-consuming when performed manually, and you can probably determine which tasks in your team’s daily routine qualify. However, it’s also possible to feel resistant to trying something new because checking off these items is probably crucial.
The solution is to find a way to replace repetitive tasks without skipping over any of them. Despite our hesitation to use machines for some things, they tend to be more accurate than humans. Automation is the future of business because it’s a mega-boon to efficiency.
How? The first step in automation-driven efficiency is to identify the tasks it would be most helpful to replace. Have your managers and individual contributors point out the things that are taking up the most time or frustrating them. Then, you’ll be armed with the details you need to locate a tech solution that can automate the processes that are most critical to a client-based business.
Communication is the backbone of any successful business, and when it’s inefficient, it’s costing you money.
To optimize efficiency, you need to ensure your team isn’t allocating potentially billable time to the administrative burden of sending emails, sharing files or making calls unless absolutely necessary. It’s also key to reduce the need to search for particular messages by giving them a central place to store communication history. When everyone who’s involved in a client account sees the same information, they get their questions answered faster and can make progress on the tasks that matter more.
How? Move away from email entirely by using a tool that compiles all of your communications in one place. Accelo’s Stream is a unique solution for providing visibility over client-based communication.
Your team may spend more time than you realize rectifying misunderstandings or fielding the same questions from clients. Often, these interactions are a sheer waste of energy and contribute to reduced efficiency.
This trap is avoidable when you familiarize clients with your workflows from the start. Decide how you’d like them to reach out and set expectations for when they’ll hear back from your team. When your clients feel empowered and like you’re paying attention to them, they’ll respect your processes and be more understanding in the event that a problem arises.
How? Offer access to a dedicated client portal. Having a space where your clients can view project updates, ask questions, review documents and find relevant resources will save immense amounts of time and prevent confusion.
Static processes don’t work in a dynamic business environment. Are you still operating the same way you were a few years ago, even though your team, clients and circumstances have changed?
Set up a workflow about workflows! It could be helpful to devote some time, ideally monthly or quarterly, to reviewing strategies. Look for areas where you can optimize daily schedules, reduce meetings and equip your team with tools to make them more efficient. This isn’t something you should do in a silo. Encourage open dialogues about what your managers and individual contributors need to make lasting, impactful changes.
How? Learn about the signs of bottlenecks and investigate how they may have developed. If you remedy your workflows thoroughly the first time, they should remain stable and only require review to keep up with your business changes.
Many of your team’s inefficiencies are woven into how they organize their work. You may not ever be able to pinpoint them without a clear way to track tasks.
A structured approach to task management can be surprisingly influential in terms of efficiency. Rather than everyone on your team keeping separate to-do lists and having to communicate randomly about dependencies, you could adopt a platform that brings these lists into one. Not only will everyone be less likely to overlook tasks but you’ll have the data you need to determine whether you’re well-resourced at any given time.
How? Seek task-tracking software that consolidates and integrates with your existing tools and, most importantly, aligns with your business goals.
Supplement these hacks by preventing new inefficiencies from being created in the first place. Read about the top causes of inefficiency in client work.
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