3 Common Stumbling Blocks When Improving Your Operations
Posted July 6, 2016
5 min read
Although every family is different and times have changed, when it comes to funeral services, most families are looking for the same thing today that they have been for years: a funeral home that can be a trusted resource to help them through the process, make it easy for them, but allow them to honor their loved one in a special way. Though families are looking for the same trusted resource they always have, how to deliver on that has changed. In order to meet the constantly changing trends and demands, it is critical that a firm’s operations can be agile and efficient in order to support a compassionate and personalized experience for each and every family.
Here are some of the common barriers to effective operations that firms must overcome if they want to deliver a lasting and memorable experience for all the families they serve, but in a way that improves the business value at the same time.
1. Not building systems or processes that will deliver customer-centric experiences.
When you spend a lot of time doing administration, it leaves less time to spend with families in order to help them create the experience that they want to remember their loved one. Are you using “duct tape” on your processes? What we mean by that is that your process might not be pretty, but it works. So, when that’s the case, we often don’t have looking at that process on our “to do” list to improve it.
But ask yourself: how much time is your team devoting to pulling information from different systems all day? Is there anything that is a burden on your team or any areas where avoidable errors occur? When was the last time you looked at the entire experience a family has—through their point of view—because of your current way of operating?
Don’t neglect the details in how you interact with families, as these reflect your standards, structure and systems. Assess how you enter information when dealing with them or where are phone conversations documented, for example. Are you still handwriting information, thinking that this is being perceived as more personal? Be open to adapting how you and your team work so that you have more time with families, and less time entering and duplicating administrative activities that set you up for possible errors or dropped balls.
By looking at the details in your process with families, you may uncover areas that can be streamlined, opportunities for greater personalization, or areas that need more resources to better support your families. And that’s something that employees can appreciate too.
2. Doing things the way they’ve always been done.
If an outsider came to your business, would they be surprised with all of the “work arounds” that have been created or the inefficiencies that they might see? In a small business, it can be easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the day-to-day. You may be offering certain services, defining roles, or maintaining a certain way of dealing with administrative tasks just because “it’s the way it’s always been done.” Albert Einstein had a famous quote: “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”
To improve operations, take a closer look at any of the ongoing, “quick fix” solutions you may have implemented over the years. Are they really working for you now? It may be time to fix the underlying problem.
With an ever-evolving and highly complex customer, as the leader of your business, move away from the idea that you always have to be “putting out fires.” Instead, take time to revisit those parts of your operations that are consuming or wasting your firm’s resources or not producing the results that you desire.
3. Not having KPIs.
How are you measuring your business performance? Are you measuring the operations that determine the performance results? Many businesses measure sales and profit. Those are certainly key metrics to be monitored. However, those are lagging indicators. Lagging indicators are output-oriented or results that are easy to measure, but hard to improve. When you only measure lagging indicators, it’s challenging to impact the result. Those indicators also don’t indicate what activities you must improve upon to achieve the desired outcome.
In order to impact results, a business must also measure leading indicators – those that are input-oriented and influence the outcome.
Leading indicators could include:
- Number of calls
- Number of families currently engaged in pre-need discussions
- Number of articles written or community events engaged in
- Family Satisfaction
- Number of Referrals
- Number of Errors for each step in a process
All of these measures (and more) influence sales and profitability. These are things that you can control and improve upon. The leading indicators that you measure should reflect your strategic plan.
Be Open to Change
Adapting or re-examining your firm’s way of operating with a customer-centric mindset will help you see how you are differentiated, and it can highlight areas you can focus on improving. Recognizing and measuring your leading and lagging indicators brings visibility to how operations is impacting each family’s experience and the bottom line. Whether it be your standards, systems or your structure, be open to adapting the way you operate, but use the data from your leading indicators to drive where your priorities should be.
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