I was talking to a friend this morning about a writing project. A project that caused me to tap out and walk away. If you know me, you know how hard that was. It’s my firm belief that finishing is even more important than getting started.
That’s why If at first, you don’t succeed… Try… Try again! is as useful a mantra as it is popular.
Think about it… If Thomas Edison hadn’t been relentless, we’d all be sitting in the dark! And, yet here I am writing about being stuck. Unable to do anything but stare at my computer screen!
The project started as an exploration of what could only be described as the Patient Path: an understanding and exploration of all the interactions a patient, family member, or caregiver are likely to experience when dealing with a hospital, medical office, or healthcare professional. I hoped to take What I learned there and expand it to fit all business relationships regardless of the industry.
That’s not as easy as it may sound. A path like that can be convoluted. There are countless intersections where those who provide service and those who benefit may crash into each other. Inflection points, where things can go well or fall apart.
The purpose is simple. If you know where the obstacles are you can avoid inadvertently stumbling into danger. Or find a way to use those potential stumbling blocks as stepping stones!
My interest is personal. I was trying to create a similar model for the repair community—a kind of Client Path—which almost immediately resulted in analysis paralysis. A complete and total creative shut down. This wasn’t the kind of analysis paralysis you’re probably thinking of. The ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill kind everyone thinks about when they think about getting stuck. The kind that has to do with continually harvesting data, so you don’t have to decide. I’m talking about another kind of paralysis. The kind that prevents you from getting started—from gathering that data in the first place. The kind that stops you from looking for or thinking about what you need to move forward!
I believe that the second kind of analysis paralysis is even more insidious than the first. Perhaps, because it can prevent you from understanding or even exploring the underlying processes involved in something like a patient path and the negative impact that lack of understanding can have on success.
I’m not sure there is anything that illustrates this failure to recognize the process better than the simple request for an estimate. This is particularly true when it comes to automotive service. Something I experienced virtually every day when I was at the shop.
It was maddening! Not because people called or came by wanting to know what specific services or repairs would cost. I came to expect that. But unfortunately, like most small business owners—the same people who would ask for an estimate failed to realize that an estimate is only possible after a host of other services and operations have taken place. One step in a process involving countless other steps. Services and operations that are stacked, one upon another.
If you take the time and make the effort to understand the motorist’s journey through the repair process you begin to understand the power that accompanies that knowledge. The opportunity to manage each event and maximize the positive outcome of each interaction.
Diagram that journey and it might begin to look something like this.
(1) Initiation of the service event with a call or a visit.
(2) Harvesting of information. Information about the motorist, the vehicle, and the circumstances that warrant the requested problem or service.
(3) Appointments need to be made for service to be scheduled.
(4) The appropriate technician needs to be assigned and available.
(5) Information must be distributed.
(6) The vehicle must be inspected.
(7) The problem must be verified.
(8) Testing may be required.
(9) Results must be analyzed
(10) And evaluated
(11) Before a diagnosis is possible
Then and only then is an (12) estimate possible.
This does not take into consideration all the other interactions that occur before and after the request for an estimate is made. Like managing word-of-mouth and your online presence. The marketing and advertising effort required to secure that call or visit. The service, maintenance, or repair that has been authorized or the delivery, post-repair, and follow-up that takes place after. This example does not take into account an equally important and often unrecognized reality that within the context of automotive service there are two paths that run parallel to each other. The Client Path, the one we’ve been talking about. And, the vehicle path, that deserves careful consideration as well.
Understanding process helps identify the inflection points. It illuminates the bright spots and dark corners where service is defined and the opportunity for satisfaction and disappointment are manifest. Whether in a doctor’s office or an automotive repair shop, the parallels are obvious. Or at least they should be. It doesn’t matter where you are. Understanding the path is essential.
[Here’s another look at what a Service Flow Diagram could look like…
The critical component here is awareness. An awareness of where you are in the process and what you are likely to encounter. The stakes are high. But the rewards are great! Especially, if you understand that every human interaction that occurs—every bright spot or pain point, whether internal or external—is an opportunity to soar and succeed. Or, to fail miserably.
In a way, writing about how and why I couldn’t write allowed me to accomplish what I set out to do and more.
If at first, you don’t succeed, remember… there are times when it might pay to back off just a little. Release the pressure. Examine the process. And THEN try, try again!
That’s what I did, and it worked.