Teams Win Games
No team ever won a championship without knowing it takes a team effort to win. In your case, gaining and keeping customer satisfaction on all service calls is the championship. If you do that you will beat the competition every time. Let me give you some examples of what I mean. Teamwork in your organization means going out of your way to help the team, sometimes at your own expense. Maybe a technician nearby could drop off equipment from his truck at a customer’s home to save another technician time if the person doing the job had already used his supplies on another job. Or, possibly, the call taker could mention that this customer has been particularly demanding in the past and to make sure the technician does or says the right things to keep her happy. These small bits of attention to the situation seem like unimportant things to most people, but they are exactly what separates a functioning team from a bunch of employees. Teams win, bunches get by.
Anytime you have complainers or individuals who aren’t interested in the success of the organization as a whole, you don’t have a team.
Building Your Team:To assemble a winning team you have two choices — go find a group of stars or start from scratch and build one. If your success at finding stars is like most service business owners, you’ll decide to build a team instead. There are not that many superstar technicians out there, and if they are doing well they are probably not going to leave where they are. Even if they do, you’ll have to pay them more than you thought and if someone else offers more, they will leave.
Building a team is the way to go. It’s not as fast, but you’ll end up with competent, loyal employees. Step one is to screen the people you hire carefully and then train, train, train. I am more interested in someone who can deal effectively with people than an experienced technician. What I really want is someone who can sell and treat customers like kings and queens. What about their technical skills?
Before any technician calls on customers — before any technician receives a truck — they must complete a multiphase training program. It includes written and oral examinations, to be certain they know what they are doing. Prospective technicians begin in an internship, where they accompany an experienced technician on service calls. They see what it takes, both from the technical side and the customer service perspective, to be a successful technician. By the time they are ready for a truck, they have spent six months learning the business. They know — and I know — that they are ready.
Training doesn’t stop after the internship in our company. We set aside some of our revenues for a training fund — money that can only be used for training — that technicians are encouraged to spend. We don’t want anyone to be out of date on their skills. Some technicians use the allowance for upgrading and cross-training. Those extra skills make them more valuable because they can do more types of jobs for customers, and earn more, too.
Remember, no team ever went to a championship without practicing.
Motivation:It takes two ingredients for excellent performance. Naturally, you need to have skilled people, but those same people have to be motivated to perform well consistently. Everyone looks for self-motivated people, and there are some, but you still need to give your team inspiration from time to time to do their very best — every time. Motivating the team is your job as leader and coach.
Though we use several techniques to motivate our people, let me share what I think are the three most powerful. First, we meet and talk — and more importantly, listen — to our people. We have a weekly meeting to review changes in the business, listen to suggestions and reward performance. Always reward excellence in public. The reward sometimes is only a free lunch or pizza, but mentioning a technician’s name in front of the group as the person who received several excellent comment letters from customers seems to inspire everyone and build healthy competition. Just talking about ways to improve our service and ways to deal with both challenging customer situations and technical situations gets technicians excited about their jobs. You wouldn’t want anyone to face customers who had some gripe or was uncertain about what to do, would you?
Teams communicate, whether in a huddle or in practice or a company meeting. It builds a common understanding of where they are headed and how to get there.
Another motivation technique we use is inspirational phrases, like: “Accept the challenge, so you may feel the exhilaration of victory.” We put them on posters, talk about them, even put them in the employees’ paycheck envelopes (they are sure to read them there). I know, it sounds corny to some, but the fact is they work.
As part of our incentive pay system, we pay technicians more if they sell more jobs that legitimately need to be done in the customer’s home. For them, there is now an incentive to find all the work that needs to be done. Plus, they save the customer the time and expense of another service call. We serve our customers better and the technicians earn more.
Coach’s Job:As the leader and coach of the team, you have several responsibilities to make sure the team performs well. One that I often see overlooked: consistency. Coaches who are consistent, both in rewards and discipline, end up with a better team. Whether players or technicians, people appreciate predictability in their lives. They want to know they will be treated consistently from day to day. Consistency also pays off in selecting strategies for the company. For example, if you push the sale of service agreements one week and then talk only about safe driving the next week, ignoring any efforts or refusing to reward those who deliver service agreements, you will be giving a negative message to the team.
It’s good to have themes or policies you emphasize, but you cannot abandon your focus — and you cannot focus on dozens of major ideas at one time. The team will get confused. They know when you are serious about a policy by your continued attention to it. If you have rules, enforce them. If you reward performance (and you should) do it consistently. Giving attention to motivational messages should also be done consistently. If you drop the ball, so will the team.
Leading is picking a direction and doing all it takes to take the team there. It’s motivating just to be a member of a team that looks like it’s going somewhere. So the leader must set high goals and explain them to the team — the whole team. Everyone in the company should be aware that your company is setting out to be the best in the city or county, maybe even the state. And they need specifics: How are we going to do it? That’s where you come in.
Leaders put together a strategy, a plan. It need not be lengthy or sophisticated. Simply pick the techniques you are going to implement to do a better job than the competition. For instance, if you haven’t switched to flat rate pricing, that would be a start. Promoting service agreements would be another. Maybe after-hours service. Possibly offer extended guarantees on equipment.
Teams have plays and a long-term goal. To win you need the same elements of success. And your players will join you in supporting the goal; just share with them where you are headed. Nobody stays on a sinking ship.
Rest Of The Team:Although the players are often recognized as the stars, the support people on the team can make a significant difference on the team’s performance. The coach can take two specific steps to assure top team performance here. One, you must make the support people part of the team, so they can identify with it. For example, let the call takers know what they do is essential to the team’s success. They need to understand where the team is headed, too. And don’t forget they need training, performance evaluations (rewards and corrections) and coaching to keep them performing well in the backfield.
The second specific step is to maintain open communication among the team members. They need to understand the other team members’ problems and challenges. Usually, a problem for one is caused by actions of another team member. If a call taker gives a technician inaccurate information, or a dispatcher neglects to include key data or the warehouse person fails to prepare the right materials and equipment, the front-line player — the technician — suffers. If the technician fails to adequately document the repair job, accounting and payroll have extra work.
If you ever see any negative feelings between support and player members of the team, identify the problem and deal with it immediately. You don’t need competition from within your own team, they must function as a single team to win.
When the team wins, credit is often given to the coach. Rightly so, he’s the one who assembled the best team, made sure they were trained and motivated and performed well. However, it’s OK to give all the credit to the team. You want them to perform again and again at the championship level. You’ll take home enough satisfaction and profit as they continue to perform well and satisfy your customers.