Reliability is a word we often associate with our vehicles, our washing machines, and perhaps our best friends.
It's also a word we should associate with the software, employees, products and services and other resources used in our businesses.
Reliability equals consistent results, which means increased profits through efficiency, repeat sales and time saving procedures.
Producing reliable products and services, will result in reduced return rates and higher customer satisfaction. Time and money spent on quality control up front, can lead to time and money savings, as well as an enhanced company reputation, ultimately leading to more revenue.
Reliability can be "built-in" to services as well as products. For example, when discussing regulatory issues during webinars or client consultations, I intentionally provide resources (usually links from government or professional associations). These resources support what I am teaching and provide convenient quick-link references for future use, all leading to my reliability and integrity as a business consultant, increasing the likelihood of working with that client again.
Additional ways to improve product and service reliability include:
Defining what the acceptable reliability thresholds are
Selecting quality components or raw materials
Creating and training a Reliability Team to test processes, systems and end products
Understand the balance between ultimate reliability and high cost, striving for the optimal point where the two meet
Survey your customers immediately after they purchase, then again in six months
Test, test and more testing before releasing a final product
Document complaints, product failures and reliability issues for easy review and retrieval
Share those results with product development, marketing and customer service teams
Provide services in a timely manner
Reliability should carry through to the delivery
Reliability is one of the strongest characteristics that should be considered in the hiring process. Your employees should be reliable not only in their attendance, the first true measure of reliability, but also in the delivery of the work they perform. Ask, or even include in annual reviews, questions such as:
Does the employee deliver work on time, meeting deadlines or expectations, consistently?
Can you rely on the employee to deliver the best results for each task they perform?
Does the employee "step-up" when there is an unexpected need?
Does the employee contribute to the overall integrity of the company?
Does the employee do what he/she says they will do?
Technology, which includes hardware, software and user interface, needs to be reliable for a company to achieve peak performance. You can have a reliable employee, taking an order for a reliable product, and still have the sale fall apart, or the integrity of the company be challenged, due to a malfunctioning order entry system or an untrained user.
It's difficult to keep up with technology. Hardware seems to become obsolete too quickly, there are thousands of software solutions to discern, and training personnel on the use of technology seems to be second priority to work needing to be done. Here are some technology tips to help maximize efficiency.
Start with a work flow analysis of your business operations. Here is one example of a flow chart that outlines all the major functions within a company.
Match up technology needs with each process in the work flow by writing out the features needed for each process in the organization. There are technology and business consultants to help you match your needs with the best software solutions.
Make sure your hardware and networking infrastructure is built with growth in mind
Implement the same software solutions for all staff (for example, if you use Microsoft Office products, have everyone using Office 365 with 2016 desktop software, rather than some running Office 2007 while others Office 2013).
Train all personnel on the use of the software they will be using. Make this a part of the new hire process. Keep procedure manuals up to date.
Make sure to keep software updates current.
Backup your data.
As needs change, get input from ALL company departments to see how new solutions will impact them or if there are cross-function solutions available.
Understand the time needed for all processes, identify bottlenecks, and discuss problem areas on a continual basis.
Making sure all your resources are reliable, leading to consistent results, will bring you closer to becoming a more profitable, smoother-running business.