Every business needs to deal with reported problems and issues. These are reported by your customers and users, as well as your employees and co-workers. Regardless of the source, issues and problems need to be dealt with in a systematic manner.
Here are five key steps every business problem and issue should follow in order to be properly resolved.
1 – Document
Whenever you get a report of a problem or issue, make sure you document it. Define a category: technical, personnel, process, etc. Make sure you also document the date, time, and source. This not only ensures you don’t forget or overlook it, but also allows you to measure any improvements based on changes you make.
2 – Confirm
This has two phases. The first, is to confirm with the person making the report that you understand and have documented the issue properly. This not only helps reduce any misunderstanding, but also helps reassure the person their point has been heard and is being addressed. This last is important in building trust and goodwill.
Phase 2 is to confirm the problem is real in the sense that it is something that can be resolved. Some issues may be perceived or based on a misunderstanding, and step 1 may resolve these. Other issues may be beyond your control or ability to resolve. There may be a group of issues that may be resolvable in the future, and step 1 captures the need.
As part of this step, you may want to evaluate whether solving a given issue will have a cascading effect of solving other related issues.
3 – Fix
This may be the hardest step. Resolve the issue. The resolution depends on the nature of the problem and its category from step 1. Make sure you resolve the problem documented. Spending time fixing non-problems may have unforeseen consequences and wastes time and resources.
Solve one issue at a time or in isolation from others. By solving multiple issues concurrently, you may introduce linkages and dependencies between solutions.
If your issue is resolved in a customer service environment, minimize fixes that use scripted interactions by your employees. Your employees should use checklists, but not have scripted question/answer interactions. These tend to be frustrating to your customers and implies your employees don’t have the training or knowledge necessary to resolve the problem. Additionally, your more experienced users may have already gone through the obvious script points. Resolutions using question/answer scripts should be left to your web site.
4 – Verify
Verify the solution solved the problem. This needs to be done as a follow up with the person who initially identified the problem. This confirms you solved the original problem, and not something else. This not only closes the loop, but also builds trust and goodwill again. A problem is solved when your customer says its solved, not when you find and implement a solution.
If the problem isn’t solved you may need to go back to step 3 or maybe even step 1.
5 – Document
Document the follow up, and the resolution. This is important in the event the problem reoccurs or questions arise. Make sure this documentation is fed back to your customer service workers.
Oftentimes, your customer service department is the only one that tracks issues and problems. It is important that every department track issues and problems in parallel with tracking their goals and other projects. As a suggestion, each department may want to implement its own Kanban board specific to problems and issues related to the department or group. This makes problem resolution a focus in each group.