Management Outside the Box

Training away common problems to reduce costs

As I discussed in my previous post “Online courses to build brand loyalty and increase profits” the first step to reducing costs is training your customers how to remove your pain points for you while making it seem like a benefit for them.  Now obviously some of your customers won’t be receptive to this training and will continue the practice that is causing your company a pain point.  This is where internal training comes in.

Example

Let’s use the example from the previous post, again you have a B2B (Business to Business) company and the pain point is in your data entry department.  Your customers are sending in documents with errors that mean when the information reaches your billing department the computers will not accept the information, leaving the customer’s order in limbo until it is fixed.  Eventually you are forced to start paying overtime to your billing department to fix all the errors and start looking to hire more employees just to handle the problem.

What I’ve laid out here is a manager looking at the problem directly in front of them instead of looking past the problem and seeing the root of the problem.  The root of the problem is obviously the customers sending incorrect documents, this has already been addressed by creating an online course for your customers as laid out in “Online courses to build brand loyalty and increase profits”.  The next level up is your data processing department, they are the first layer within your company to touch the documents and therefore the first place in the chain of custody that you have full control over.

Internal course

Building an internal training course for the first point in your chain of custody is the best way to reduce pain points.  In the example above the first point of custody is the data entry department, so the course should be primarily aimed at the needs of that specific department.

What should the training include?

  1. An explanation of what will be covered
  2. How this training will benefit the employees
  3. Common input errors causing system rejections
  4. Tips for finding acceptable data for your system
  5. How your company is helping to ease the burden on employees (optional)
  6. Recap and testing

Explanation and benefits

Providing an explanation of the course at the start will help to engage the viewer and make them more receptive to the content going forward.  The goal of an explanation is to grab the viewer’s attention and make them pay attention.  The explanation section should be brief but informative, this is not the place for detail.

Explaining the benefits to the viewer will help to reinforce what they have learned during the explanation section.  Again this section should be brief but informative.  This section should highlight how the amount of work needed by the viewer can be reduced by limiting unneeded data, and by providing simpler data sets.

Common input errors causing system rejections

The common input errors section should cover the most common input errors rejected by your system.  Provide examples like “*123” and “43 percent” ect.  Now that the viewers know what is not acceptable provide alternatives by showing how they can change the data set from “*123” to “123” and “43 percent” to “43%”.  Emphasis should be made to the viewer that these are only examples and that they should always refer to the provided data to find acceptable data to input.

Tips for finding acceptable data for your system

In this section viewers should be shown how simply referring to more data points can lead to finding acceptable data that your system will accept.  By explaining to the viewers that the data provided is commonly inadequate, they will be able to see the need for further inspection of the provided data for an adequate data set.

How your company is helping to ease the burden on employees

This section is optional and should only be included if an online course is being provided to customers.  Including this section will provide a morale boost to viewers and help them to understand that they are not being blamed for unacceptable data sets.  Including this would also show that your company is working to ease the burden on viewers which also provides a morale boost and can increase company loyalty.

Recap and testing

The recap should briefly cover all topics covered in the previous lessons highlighting the major points.  The recap will also act as a refresher prior to the testing.  The test should cover all topics covered in the training course focusing on the points highlighted during the recap but with differing examples to ensure the viewer is required to think critically to pass.

Cheat sheet

All participants in the course should be provided with a “cheat sheet” containing the highlights from the course for easy review after the course has completed.  It should also be recommended to managers that the “cheat sheet” be placed at each workstation in view of the employee at all times for easy reference during work hours.

Benefits for employers

Providing this training will most likely require that data entry department employees will have to be paid 1 to 2 hours of overtime to complete the course.  While this is not ideal, it will result in an overall cost saving for the company. The added expense for training will be recouped by a reduction in the number of billing department staff needed to fix data entry errors.

Conclusion

Companies must take a two pronged approach to limiting data input errors.  The first line of defense is the online course for customers outlined in my proposal “Online courses to build brand loyalty and increase profits” to eliminate the error before it reaches you.  But you must also face the reality that not all of your customers will take the course and will continue to send inadequate data sets.  This is where the second line of defense is so important at the data entry department level.

By providing training for data entry employees your company can boost the morale of the employees who will then feel more confident in their work.  When employees feel more confident in their work they are more efficient and willing to accept new standards.  This will also have the effect of reducing employment cost in the billing department as fewer employees will be needed to correct data entry errors.  The end result is more confident and productive workers, lower staffing costs, happier customers, and high profit margin for your company.

Now obviously I’ve focused on the data entry and billing departments from my example, but this lesson can be applied to any pain point your company has.  The key is to identify your pain points and then drill down to the root cause.  Once you’ve identified the root cause, start looking for ways to fix the issue every step of the way from the beginning until it’s end point.  Just remember, start from the ground and work your way up.

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