Systems vs. Processes – Can’t They All Just Get Along?

Systems vs. Processes – Can’t They All Just Get Along?

When discussing the customer journey, we talk a lot about the path a customer takes and the touch points along that path where your business interacts with the customer. This path and those corresponding touch points shape the quality of the customer journey and that quality, or perceived quality, is very much influenced by your systems and processes. That is why evaluating and improving your systems and processes will lead to great things for your business, including better reviews and more referrals, and time and money savings.

In simple terms, your systems are the tools you use to help manage the customer during their journey, while your processes guide the customer along the path you want them to take. Of course, the two are very intertwined in that sometimes the system you are using will dictate the processes that interact with that system, and sometimes the process will dictate the system. The ideal situation would be where you create processes that exceed your customer’s expectations and then integrate systems that fully support those processes. Unfortunately, especially at our budget level, we usually have to use already created systems that don’t necessarily do exactly what we want.

For example, let’s say that you have a good handle on your ideal couple and know that when a couple first contacts you through your online contact form, the ideal process would be to collect 10 pieces of information, which would then allow you to properly respond to their contact request. However, your contact form on your website is only set up to collect 5 pieces of information. You could alter your process so that you collect the 5 pieces of information and then follow-up with an e-mail to collect the other 5, or you could pay someone to change your system so it collects the 10 pieces of information within the initial contact (and, P.S. risk them never even getting in touch, as asking for 10 pieces of information upfront vs 5 is overwhelming to many). Which way you go is based on figuring out the value of the additional customer happiness vs. cost of making the change. Assume changing your contact form would cost you a decent amount of money, while you could just automate a follow-up e-mail easily with no cost. Without taking customer happiness into consideration, the automated e-mail would be the obvious way to go but in our service-oriented world, the customer journey is very important, so if customer would much prefer to give the 10 pieces of information in one step or, ever more importantly, if you find a decent percentage of customers contact you and give you the first 5 pieces but never respond to the follow-up e-mail, maybe it is worth the expense to change your system.

This is why understanding your ideal client and then evaluating and changing your systems and processes to match can yield such big returns for your business over the long term.

As always, if you have any questions or need help with any of this, please feel free to contact me.

Business Decisions & Understanding Consequences

Business Decisions & Understanding Consequences

Although there are a large number of specific business decisions we could spend days and days discussing, I wanted to use this blog post to talk about the process of making business decisions, more specifically, the part about the understanding of outcomes.  I hear way too often, “I didn’t expect that” or “why did that happen” and in most cases the outcome, although maybe not preferred, should be something that was factored into the decision-making process, and thus, not a surprise.    

A simple example – I recently had a couple cancel my services.  Per the contract, they owed me the final payment anyway, but I wasn’t sure, based on the initial cancellation e-mail, if they were going to actually pay it.  So, I began to think about what I was going to do if they didn’t.  Would I send them “pay or die” e-mails, would I take them to court, or would I just let it go?  All are viable courses of action and all have different costs and different sets of potential outcomes.  For example, if I sent them “pay or die” type e-mails, it would cost me the time of writing and sending the e-mails, with no guarantee I would get paid.  Also, it could have led to a bad review and/or them talking badly about me to others, including other wedding vendors.  All are negative potential outcomes to my business, even though technically, based on the contract they signed, it is pretty cut and dry, and they owe me the money.  However, as we know, it is not always so simple, especially when emotions around weddings are factored in.  I had to think about if I was willing to accept the negative potential outcomes or would it be better for my business to just let it go?  

Turns out that after a couple more e-mails in regards to the contract, they did pay me on the payment due date.  But it could have gone all sorts of ways, and I had to be ready for them all.  I am often reminded that even though our blood, sweat, and tears go into our businesses, we need to make decisions not on emotion alone or even what is technically right.  We need to evaluate each decision and make the choice that is right for the long-term health of our business and ourselves.

When Saving Your Business Money is Bad

When Saving Your Business Money is Bad

In my 1st quarter newsletter main article, I made a reference to reactionary cost-cutting and how it can hurt your business more than help it.  And in this blog post, I wanted to explore that statement a little further.  When I talk about cost-cutting, I tend to lump it into two categories: researched vs. reactionary.  To me, researched cost-cutting is where you have evaluated your systems and processes, or your marketing or some other part of your business, and based on that evaluation, you have figured out that certain things that cost you money are either not necessary and can be cut or they don’t have enough of a positive ROI to be worth continuing.   It could be that you are tracking your leads and bookings and figure out that a certain marketing vehicle is not working, or you are reviewing your systems and processes and notice that something isn’t necessary or important to your ideal client.  These are situations where you have evaluated and figured out that the cost-cutting will save your business money without hurting future income potential. 

On the other hand, reactionary cost-cutting is when you cut costs on things you shouldn’t, and because you feel you need to save money now or in the very near future.  I have seen way too often where a business owner realizes they are falling short in near-term bookings and reacts almost immediately by going into cost-cutting mode.  And don’t get me wrong, it is a natural business response, but it is one that usually is not the best decision.   Let’s look at a simple example – Disco Donnie the DJ just had two cancellations and was already lower than normal on bookings for the next few months, so he reacts, and to save money he tells his setup assistant that he is not going to need him for the next few months.  The problem is that Disco Donnie has a lot going on in his life and a few of his upcoming booked jobs will be tight on setup time (even if he had help from an assistant).  In this example, Disco Donnie will get through the few slower months and will have saved a little bit of money, but it is also possible that he may receive a few not-so-great reviews and will lose some referral business due to not being able to be set up in time and therefore not delivering on everything he promised his clients.  

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you should cut costs, and there are times when you have to cut costs, but the goal is that in the long run, the cost-cutting you do helps your business, not hurts it.  

Systems vs. Processes – Can’t They All Just Get Along?

What a Potential Client Wants, A Potential Client Gets – But Will it be From You?

Imagine you offer the best teeth whitening service a vampire could ever want.  However, your business is only open during the day, and all of your wall art are wooden crosses.  How successful do you think you would be? 

Of course, the above is an exaggerated example, but I am trying to make the point that every part of your business needs to, as much as possible, match the way your ideal client wants and expects to do business when buying your product or service.  This is why it is so important to understand who your ideal clients are, how they think, and what they expect, since without knowing that, you end up developing, implementing, and managing systems and processes somewhat blindly.   It is very possible to have systems that are fancy and processes that are streamlined yet your ideal client wants and/or expects something different.  Have you wondered why you receive lots of inquiries but not lots of bookings, or why your pictures are incredible but you are only getting 4-star reviews? 

We all know that there are plenty of wedding planners, DJs, photographers, etc. who provide an incredible service on the wedding day itself, but it is those that meet or exceed their ideal client’s expectations during the entire customer journey who earn the rave reviews, and receive more referrals.   To increase your sales and to make your business shine, figure out who your ideal customers are and what they want, and then create systems and processes that will make them happy because when their happy, I guarantee you’ll be happy!

To increase your sales and to make your business shine, figure out who your ideal customers are and what they want, and then create systems and processes that will make them happy because when they are happy, I guarantee you’ll be happy!

The Ideal Client – They Do Exist

The Ideal Client – They Do Exist

Understanding the who and why of the ideal client is very important, especially in the very personally-focused business of weddings.  In this post, I wanted to write about what is the ideal client and to mention a few reasons why knowing who your ideal clients are is so important.  

I describe the ideal client as follows… when you create a business that is genuine to you, your ideal clients are people who are not only looking for the product and/or service you offer, but they are also looking for your style, service level, and relative price point.  Think about it as a business-to-customer matchmaking experience.  If you have a great business and a great customer yet they are not a great match, should they work together?   

Our opinion is no, and thus understanding which customers would be a great match for your business should be a first step if your business is new, and a “figure it out now” step if your business is already open.  Here are a few reasons why it is so important:

1. Working with ideal clients leads to more satisfying daily work!  How?  An ideal client’s needs, wants, and vision will match your services and customer journey, and thus result in a better experience for all – one where reality meets or even exceeds expectations!

2. Working with ideal clients leads to making more money!  How?  Your ideal client will have a higher appreciation for your services and customer journey (reality meeting or exceeding expectation), which leads to raving reviews, and to referrals, which both lead to more sales.

3. Working with ideal clients leads to a happier you!  How?  In addition to the more sales you will be making, you will have more fun working with clients who are your style and personality, which translates into longer term passion and happiness in your business and your life! 

Since every business needs to make a certain amount of money, once you have determined who your ideal clients are, you need to make sure there are enough of them in your market to support your business.  If not, this is probably a good time to step back and decide if you are willing to work with less than ideal clients or explore a different type of business. 

Systems vs. Processes – Can’t They All Just Get Along?

Improve the Customer Journey, Get More Business

When wanting to increase income for our business, most of our focus is on marketing – which is a valid focus.  But what if I could show you a way to increase business, improve the ROI you get from each hour you spend in your business, and maybe even save your business some money, all at the same time… would you be interested?  

I expect to be talking quite a bit in the coming year about understanding and improving what we are referring to as the Customer Journey.  The customer journey, or the customer experience, is the path a client takes from the time they decide to contact you until either the time they either stop communicating with you (they don’t hire you) or you stop communicating with them (you have provided a product or service for them).  And, throughout a customer’s journey, it is your business’ systems and processes that guide them along the path, and shape their overall perception of your business.  

The three main benefits that come from evaluating and improving the customer journey are:

1)      A client’s expectations in their dealings with your business (their journey) are met, or exceeded, and thus they give you better reviews and more referrals.   In addition, a great overall customer journey can offset a single issue that might have arisen during that journey.

2)      You get better ROI on the time you spend per client by matching your systems and processes to your ideal client’s expectations. This allows you to remove or modify pieces that aren’t necessary and focus resources where they will make the biggest impact.

3)      Through more focused communication and better processes, you also improve the experience other vendors have with you which leads to more vendor referrals. 

With so many millennials deciding which vendors to engage with largely based on reviews and referrals, improving the customer journey will lead to consistent and long-term increases in warm leads.  

For more information and assistance, look for future blog posts on how to evaluate and how to change the customer journey.