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HOW’S YOUR COMPANY DOING? WALK THE HALLS TO FIND OUT

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As someone who works closely with nearly 30 businesses at the Tech Park, I am often asked by outsiders how one of these specific companies is doing. I’ve learned over the years that this is a difficult question because the companies change depending on the time of year, month or even day.

But the more important question is: how do YOU, the CEO, answer/measure your own company on “how’s it’s doing?” Taking a read on your employees and perhaps most importantly at yourself, can provide clear picture of your company’s well being

One of the best ways to measure a company’s success is in knowing how the employees are feeling. Are they stressed because of unrealistic timelines, or frustrated with a broken technology and having to deal with unhappy customers? A walk around the office involving in-depth (but not necessary long) conversations with employees is crucial. You should be listening and understanding what they are saying, trying to ready body language to make sure you are getting accurate information.

Listen to what they are saying. If their words don’t convey your vision of the company, this could be a serious problem.

The Halls: Conduits for Customer Service

As you are walking the halls, make sure you stop and listen for a long time where your support calls are being handled. A company can have the best sales team, but if the product isn’t working as promised or if customers aren’t being treated properly, then the light at the end of the tunnel is a 6,000-ton train coming your way.

For example, I have a friend who evaluates the service center at car dealership before even talking to a sales person. Buying the car can take a couple of hours, but the true test comes at the service department where benign exchanges such as getting oil changes will occur.

For car buyers, post-purchase support is an important (and expensive) relationship where dealerships make money too. So, like the car guys, you can lose or keep a customer depending on how they are treated on support calls.

As you are listening, make note if there is a trend in the conversations with the customers. Does it sound like the customer has called before? Are you getting calls about the same problem? Are there times of the day when calls are more prevalent and you need more people to alleviate wait times?

There is software that can do some of this for you, but the best tools are your ears. Use them.

Also, don’t be afraid to empower your support callers to do what Disney calls “guest recovery.” It’s not odd to see a Disney cast member (employees to you and me) offering a free balloon or a bag of popcorn to a guest who has lost or losing the ‘magic.’ This simple act can quickly turn an irate customer to one that will sing your praises. So whether it’s a free t-shirt or a discount, empower your employees to go the extra mile, not just to solve the initial problem, but to build a relationship with your customer. Pixie dust is cheap.

After-walk Reflection

After walking the halls, you should sit down in a quiet place and evaluate how much time is being spent on issues. Leaders often spend their time putting out fires, which means that other things are being neglected.

Having to spend too much time mediating employee disputes might be a sign that you need to bring on an HR person. Spending your time trying multiple times to close a deal might mean that your product isn’t strong enough or your messaging is wrong. Perhaps you need to look at your IP or perhaps re-tool your marketing strategy.

We would like to think that we spend time on those things that are important, but the reality is that we spend time on those things that are right in our face at that moment. Letting situations control our fate won’t lead to success.

Conclusion

Sometimes, the answer to the question “How is your company doing?” can be answered with hard data. But not always.

Crucial data about the well-being of your company must be gathered through first-hand qualitative assessment, or “walking the halls.” The gut feeling you get from seeing your employees interact with customers and engage in their work is invaluable intel.

Make time to step away from your desk, take a stroll, and chat with your staff. The impressions you receive will no doubt lead to better decisions and better business performance.

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Stephen Loy