Companies of all types need to have 3 Essential Service Competencies. Whether your service is construction, consulting, tinkering, or tailoring, the competencies remain the same. Without competence, communication, and integrity a service company is doomed to fail.
Competence is defined as the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. Preferably a service provider is efficient while being successful to achieve the greatest profitability. However, success is not guaranteed without the knowledge, skills and often tools to do the work.
It is a huge problem if a services firm thinks they are competent at a particular skill when they are not. As most professions and trades have grown increasingly complex, it has become harder to be the “jack of all trades.” Computers run cars, smart thermostats and have become critical to most trades. It is harder for a handyman to fix your carpentry, plumbing, appliances and electrical systems.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software helps companies organize data into information. The expertise required to implement ERP has increased in both the technical and functional areas. Operating systems, databases and other components of infrastructure must be compatible with the specific version of the ERP software. For major ERP applications, implementation partners are specializing their staff in finance, distribution, manufacturing, and service functions.
Tips for Ensuring Competence
- External Validation – Licensing, certification and similar external validation provide a structure for maintaining competence.
- Internal Evaluation – A Process Skills Matrix matches the core competencies with the staff and their expertise in that area. This tool can be used to identify areas for professional growth as well as areas where a company may either need contractors, outsource, or decline business.
Merriam-Webster defines communication as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior. More importantly, communication is an exchange of ideas, information, or messages to inform, express emotion or persuade individuals or groups.
Contractors have a horrible reputation for not getting construction jobs completed on time. Add the cost of change orders and customers become frustrated. The emotional response of the customer is directly related to poor communication skills. If parts for a job are delayed by a supplier and the contractor conveys the information quickly and effectively the customer understands. If the installer just doesn’t show up, the customer has a completely different experience.
When used appropriately effective communication can persuade people to buy or inform people of their role in a job and the consequences of their delay on the project. You can’t control the weather, economic conditions or always control your suppliers; however, you can always control your communication!
Tips for Improving Communication Skills
Harvard Professional Development provides some simple ways to improve your communication skills:
- Be clear and concise – Understand who you are speaking to and what the goal of the communication is. Then keep it short and simple. More often than not, less is more!
- Prepare ahead of time – Think about what you are going to say before you say it. Think about potential objections and prepare for compromise in negotiations.
- Be mindful of nonverbal communication – Facial expressions, gestures, and body language often say more than our words. According to Forbes, nonverbal cues can have between 65 and 93 percent more impact than the spoken word.
- Watch your tone – How you say something can be just as important as what you say. Tone is affected by how loud and fast you speak and the inflection in your voice. Although we may choose our words carefully, in writing tone can also be misconstrued. Have a colleague read an important e-mail before you send it.
- Practice active listening – Communication is always a two way street. Listening is as, or more important than speaking in effective communication. Active listening requires you give the speaker your undivided attention. You can’t listen if you are thinking about your response before they complete their sentence. Ask questions and paraphrase what you heard before offering alternative thoughts.
Integrity is the quality of being honest and having a strong moral compass. The ethics of integrity are demonstrated through consistent actions, methods and outcomes. Integrity requires honesty, fairness and decency in interpersonal and business transactions.
At I-Business Network our first core value is “Do What is Right.” In our staff training we emphasized that what is right is not always what the customer wants. Demonstrations of ethical, efficient and proactive actions are how we measure adherence with this core principle in employee evaluations. Before a system “goes live” we ensure proper testing of the key functions, and that staff are capable of performing their functions. When a client wanted to go live before the system was ready, we prepared a sign off sheet where the project manager would have to assume liability for any and all impacts of going live above our objectives and copied the business owner. Needless to say, requiring signoff strained our relationship with the project manager, but the go-live was successful after a one-month delay.
Tips for Assessing Integrity
We are not aware of any objective integrity score available online. Followers on LinkedIn and Google or Yelp reviews are at best an indicator. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a longstanding organization with a mission of advancing marketplace trust. However, the BBB does not rate all businesses (including I-BN).
Without authoritative and objective measures of integrity, we often turn to a “trusted advisor”. A CPA, colleague, or other “trusted advisor” can recommend experts for various services. The competence and results of the referred entity become a reflection on that advisor’s integrity. Unfortunately, that assessment is realized after the project is completed. Some indicators of integrity include:
- References – Nobody will give you a bad reference. So, when reference checking, ask unexpected questions and make inquiries about their integrity. For example, “what was it like working with them?” “Did you ever have disagreements, and if so, how were they resolved?”
- Partnering – Most consulting firms talk about how they want to be your “trusted advisor,” but do they have partnering policies and programs? A traditional time and materials engagement may be very cost effective for a company who has the time and resources to truly own their project. However, most companies engage a consultant because are not experts in the technology or process being implemented. In these situations, a partnering engagement could be a value-based billing (results component), subscription, or fixed fee. Partnering engagements need to benefit both parties and share risk, while eliminating the confrontational aspects of time and materials.
The Role of Communities
Communities are groups of people with common characteristics. Often these characteristics are geographic or religious, but in business, they are groups of companies with a common industry, products or services, missions or set of values. People within a community share something in common and gain strength by connecting with others.
We re-organized I-Business Network into a community of companies who seek to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their corporations with technology. We seek out service providers with our core values of doing what is right with problem solving in a professional manner with a process orientation. Wherever you are in your digital transformation journey, our community can help by:
- Matching with an expert partner
- Providing the fractional executive for management and communication
- Assisting in the selection of appropriate technology
- Identifying opportunities for improvement.
Doing what is right includes matching compensation with value. Accordingly, our initial consultations are listening sessions and always free. For companies who have a good understanding of their business requirements and preferences, our ERP System Matching Service identifies products and service partners at no cost. The service uses a 25-question survey as the basis for a free consultation with an I-BN executive with a broad understanding of options in small and mid-market ERP systems for your industry.
The 3 essential service competencies are requirements for companies who want success. For explosive growth, Part 2 of this blog series will outline the 3 Capabilities for Service Excellence.