Creating a Uniform Process for Your Business: How to Do It and Why

Imagine you are traveling and decide to stop for lunch in a town you have never visited before. You are hungry for a burger and you have two choices: a local place and McDonalds. Which do you choose? Most people choose McDonalds. Why? Because they know what to expect, and they always get what they’re expecting.

How does McDonalds achieve this level of consistency? By having a well-documented process to produce any menu item. Each team member is trained to make everything the exact same way every other team member makes it.

What Is a Uniform Process?

A uniform process is a series of steps or actions taken to achieve a specific goal or result. For our discussion, we will talk about the series of steps taken to accomplish a specific task in your company. When technicians follow the process closely, you can expect a consistent result.

A process is like a recipe. You need to follow the recipe if you want to achieve uniform results.

Why Do You Need One?

During my career, I’ve had several experiences that have driven home the need to develop specific mandatory processes. When I started my own company, initially problems came up fairly frequently. Some were minor, and some not. I quickly realized that many of the issues occurred because we were making it up as we went along.

For example, a customer might need a loaner while we were waiting on parts. The tech would come to the office to get permission to take the loaner out, but no paperwork was ever completed. Sometime later, we would need that loaner for another client, but we wouldn’t know where it was. In other cases, a customer would bring a device in for an estimate, decide not to repair it, and we would be left with the device and no legal way to dispose of it.

Another common issue in most dealerships is sales representative not having the required signatures and paperwork when bringing in a sales order. Then, when the equipment is delivered, it’s often missing options the client expected. For instance, it might not have a network connection when the client needed the device to be networked.

How Do You Create a Uniform Process?

After you identify a task that you want to standardize, there are several steps to create a viable process. For our example, we will develop a process for conducting service calls.

Identify areas that need to be documented

When completing a call, there are always going to be actions that cannot be specified because of the variable nature of service calls. Here, however, we will work on documenting those actions that should be the same for every service call.

Work through the action being documented

  1. The first activity that occurs on a service call is the technician’s arrival at the account. This can and should be included in the process. The technician needs to check in with the responsible party, the key operator (keyop) or manager. He should make sure that if the machine will be out of commission during the visit, the keyop or manager needs to be made aware of that, and any users should be notified.
  2. The next step is to ask who was operating the device when the error occurred and ask to speak to that person. This way, the technician can collect as much information about the issue as possible.
  3. The next phase is to troubleshoot the problem. This step is not something that can be formalized.
  4. After identifying the problem and resolving the issue, every function on the machine should be tested. Every service manager I know has had to deal with a customer calling back about some issue right after a technician left. A checklist should be part of the process to help make sure that the technician doesn’t overlook any item.
  5. The technician should also make sure that the machine is clean.
  6. I would also require the technician to load the machine with paper and empty the waste toner while on site. Failing to do so can cause additional equipment or customer issues.
  7. After completing work on the equipment, the technician should check out with the keyop or office manager before leaving. You may also want to verify the toner stock on hand.
  8. Finally, the necessary paperwork should be completed and signed by the appropriate contact.

Identify specific actions that might be overlooked

In the service call process, we discussed several items that are easily overlooked:

  • Talking to the keyop or manager
  • Cleaning the machine
  • Testing all functions
  • Loading paper
  • Emptying waste toner
  • Checking toner supply
  • Checking out with the keyop

These areas all need to be specifically identified in your process documentation. Where possible, a checklist should be created and included as part of the service-call paperwork.

Test the process to make sure it is correct

The last stage of creating any process is to have it field tested. Have your more reliable technicians work through the process on some service calls and then report back with any suggestions for improvement.

What to Document

Now that we know how to create a uniform process for specific tasks, we need to identify areas we want to document. Think of the issues that disrupt your department’s efficiency and see if you can improve it by developing a process for these things.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Loaner requests
  • Installation paperwork and site surveys
  • Service calls
  • Car stock management
  • Parts ordering

In your case, some or all of these may already be documented, or they may not apply to you. But I’m sure there are other issues not listed that need a process developed. Also remember that processes are not static documents. They should be reviewed and revised on a regular basis.

Inspect What You Expect

All of the above is an exercise in futility if you do not enforce compliance with the process. When visiting with service managers, I often hear about technicians failing to follow procedures, or sales personnel failing to give technicians the information they need. All of these are failures of management to inspect and enforce the existing policies and procedures.

Once a process is documented, it must be enforced and penalties applied for failing to follow it. Once you start enforcing processes, and impose the penalty for failing to comply, then you will soon reap their benefits, providing a consistent product to your customers and enjoying a more efficient department.

Ken Edmonds
About the Author
KEN EDMONDS is the owner and founder of 22nd Century Management, which helps managers in the service industries learn the skills they need to successfully lead their teams, exceed expectations and provide outstanding customer service. An Air Force veteran whose background includes owning a copier dealership and working as a service manager for other companies, Edmonds also spent 18 years working for manufacturers as a district service manager. He’s helped dozens of service managers incorporate cornerstone methods to enhance their success.