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Rick Wegley

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Wagging the Dog: Don’t let a 5% problem ruin everything

Over the last several years, I’ve visited hundreds of dealerships. And, while performing operational assessments, I discovered that the majority of the headaches plaguing the culture and profitability of my clients were self-inflicted.

The problem with too much regulation

Intending to control unique and infrequent variables—and keep them from disrupting their daily routine—I found managers who kept adding steps and reducing employee empowerment. They chose this approach in lieu of defining the structure of the fundamental process, then documenting and training employees on it.

You can map out only so many scenarios. No matter what, unpredictable and uncontrollable variables will appear in nearly every customer service or sales environment.

Ultimately, managers created hurdles that made their jobs easier. But these limitations severely curtailed their employees’ ability to meet objectives and take care of customers. Most importantly, they completely changed their overall process in an attempt to manage the 5% of unique variables we call exceptions within their business model—and, in doing so, negatively impacted the 95% majority of the customers. Worse, they even created culture problems within the store!

Variables are unavoidable

So many processes changed. And, yet, these managers still were unable to avoid the unpredictable and uncontrollable variables that come with doing business.

By trying to control everything, most created new problems along the way. Now, they spend an inordinate amount of time and resources trying to manage a department with ineffective processes for handling the majority of their day to day operations.

Employee morale is low. Customer satisfaction suffers. And the department isn’t meeting its objectives. There’s pressure from above to “right the ship,” and these managers are unable to identify the root cause of a growing problem.

Manage by the RIGHT numbers

You should definitely manage by the numbers, but make sure you’re using the right ones.

Take a good look at your current structure and re-evaluate your current processes— simplify wherever possible. Involve your employees. And solicit feedback from both them and your customers on what is working well and what they feel needs improvement.

Once you have simplified and streamlined your processes, put them in writing. Hold meetings with all of your employees and make sure they all understand the revised processes. Provide the necessary training and resources for employee success. Definitely let them know what the empowerment guidelines are and the accountability aspect for each individual role. And clearly explain the minimum acceptable standards for performance.

Don’t forget the “why” part of this equation when discussing any changes with your employees. Discuss some contingency plans you have considered for the exceptions, and then review the empowerment tools that you have provided for them to use. Give examples of how and when they should be used.

The 5% goal

Manage 95% of your business by process, and then manage the 5% of exceptions. Once a clearly structured business model is in place, a manager should need no more than 5% of their time managing unpredictable and infrequent variables. This ideal state requires simple, defined processes (in writing) to manage the majority of predictable and measurable daily activities that contribute to profitability and customer satisfaction.

Is the tail wagging the dog at your store? If so, take a good look at your current structure and re-evaluate your processes. Chances are 95% of your problems are self-inflicted.

Tell us how you manage exceptions in your business? Is it a 95/5 mix or something different? Comment below with details. 

About the author

Rick Wegley

Rick Wegley

Rick Wegley’s 30-year career spans most aspects of the retail automotive service, parts and body shop business. And he has deep experience in Fixed Ops, working as Service and Parts Director and Fixed Operations Director for multiple dealer-group operations. In 2008, Rick founded a consulting firm that enjoyed contracts with major OEMs from domestic, European and Asian brands. In this capacity, Rick provided dealerships on-site operational and financial assessments, identifying opportunities for improvement and helping dealers create business plans for process changes. Rick also trained dealership personnel and management staff in these process changes. Rick has also consulted and created operational assessments for major non-OEM mass merchandisers. Today, Rick is an instructor for the NCM Institute.

Permanent link to this article: http://blog.ncm20.com/2015/09/wagging-the-dog-dont-let-a-5-problem-ruin-everything/

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