Founders Day

31Jan08

Don’t you just love when you call a company during regular business hours, only to find out that every person who might be able to help you is unavailable? Sometimes, it’s “All the managers are in a meeting.” Or perhaps you’ll hear that “The executive team is attending an important trade show.” And my personal favorite: “We’re on a skeleton crew since it’s Founders Day.” Are these valid reasons for why things have come to a crashing halt? Hardly. But that doesn’t stop lazy companies from using this crutch on a regular basis.

I understand that there are plenty of circumstances when key people are out of the office. Trade shows, meetings, and vacations are a normal part of life. However, customers are probably going to need the same level of support and advice no matter who’s on staff that day. As a rule of thumb, the remaining staff should be able to address say 95% of customer issues — otherwise, you’re relying way too much on your executives to handle regular operating tasks. Sure, there are going to be obscure things that need further research or consultation with the higher-ups, but these should comprise less than 5% of the issues that you handle.

So, how can you deliver quality service when key people are out? Get some collaboration software and start documenting things. Whether you use a forum or a wiki or even a series of recorded instructions, give the people who handle the tough issues a way to share that knowledge. Since these folks are usually really busy, you may find it works best to have a junior staff member shadow them and write down how issues are handled. These procedures can be documented in a central location, reviewed for accuracy, and published for your whole team to see. So, the next time you get a question that normally has to be escalated to senior staff, you’ll have a good chance of resolving it upfront — no matter who’s out of the office that day.



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