Putting out fires? Don't beat out the flames, turn off the gas!

Are you too busy firefighting to solve the underlying problems in your systems?

This is not as rare as it should be, as companies grow and departments merge we often find ourselves having to cope with duplicated systems. When the customer records are kept on a single system a lot of the problems simply vanish.

A classic example of this revealed itself to me recently.

The customer had moved premises and had written in to advise us. Their billing records were changed but the system that records the location of their equipment was not.

Unsurprisingly, they continued to receive invoices but when it came to servicing the equipment we were sent to the wrong place, which caused a deal of annoyance. Furthermore, they were told that they needed to write in again to get the rest of their records altered, creating a volcanic customer service situation. Perhaps the customer would have been more sympathetic had we sent the bills to the wrong address and the service to the new one, a cynic might even suggest that all we were worried about was taking their money.

This disparity has been causing us to spend a great deal of time trying to keep all parties happy and is taking so much time that we aren't in a position to fix the underlying cause of a lot of problems.

To me it makes sense to step back and fix the major fault, even though there might be more short term problems. The other important thing to do is explain to the customer what is going on and what we are doing to try to fix it. They're an understanding bunch and will cut us a little slack when they see the possible benefits of a course of action.

There is a saying: "Don't sweat the little stuff."

The Bible also tells us to "First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye."

This is great advice and applies to business just as much as any other situation.