People who excel at their jobs solve problems. Nothing is more
indicative of success in the workforce than solving problems. As
Ron Willingham states in Integrity Service, In a real
sense, each of us controls our success level by the problems we
choose to solve.
Problem solvers are highly respected. They usually move up the
career ladder because of the value they bring to their
organizations. With information changing every nanosecond, learning
and problem solving are critical. Nobody can know everything about
his job. However, if you can find out where to access information
and how to use it, youre a goldmine.
People who get recognized at work deliver results. To reach desired
outcomes, you have to investigate the issue or problem, look at
reasons for the problem, discover ways to fix the problem, and act
on your insights. Often, this process takes place naturally,
without a definite structure. We learn how to solve problems early
in life for survival and because of inborn curiosity. Infants are
all over the place solving problems, often to their parents dismay.
In business, top-level executives have the desire to solve problems
and the curiosity to uncover creative solutions.
Although problem solving is, in part, second nature, solutions are
not always well thought out. A famous company once ran a Super Bowl
ad about a special promotion (good thinking on the part of
marketers), but neglected to tell the workforce about it. Thousands
of calls on Monday after the game caught frontline staff by
surprise. Instead of increasing sales, problems were created, not
solved. There are countless stories like the Super Bowl fiasco. You
probably have some of your own. Problems are caused by
- lack of information
- lack of communication
- faulty equipment
- failure to listen
- failure to follow through
- role confusion
- lack of teamwork
- underlying motivations
The term root cause is equivalent to the root of the
problem. When professionals are looking at reasons for process
failures or product malfunctions, they want to uncover the real
source of the problem. When working with customers, root cause is
also what you want to discover. If Mrs. Jones doesnt have any
water, is it because she didnt pay her bill or is she part of the
neighborhood where a water pipe burst?
A problem occurs when there is gap between what is expected and
what actually happened. For instance, if someone who ordered a book
expected it to arrive on January 5 but that did not occur, there is
a problem. If NASA expected a spacecraft to reach land by January 5
and it did not do so, there is a bigger problem involving more
people and more resources. The root cause would have to be explored
for both problems.
Follow the model for problem solving
A model for solving problems helps avoid the shoot-from-the-hip
approach. It affords you a systematic way of investigating and
solving a problem. The following model has the elements necessary
to accomplish your goals.
Describe the problem. Express the problem by
clearly describing it. This could be to the customer, to your boss,
to your employee, or to a co-worker. Describe the gap between what
exists and what you want. Review the following example of a problem
at a doctors office. What exists: We have a
referral, but that doctor is not available. What you
want: We need to find another doctor.
Research and Clarify the Issues. Determine the
reasons for the problem. Research what needs to be done to correct
the gap. Redefine the problem if necessary.
Research: In addition, it looks like that doctor
is not on your plan anymore.
Offer an outcome. After researching and clarifying
the issues, an outcome should emerge as being viable. Or, the
outcome may require further exploration. Outcome:
I found a doctor on your plan who can take you tomorrow! I heard he
was nice as well!
Imagine other possibilities. You have solved the
problem this time; however, the next phase of problem solving
involves thinking about what can be done if the problem arises in
the future, or imagining new systems or techniques for resolution.
For instance, it might be great to have a personal computer
available that patients can use to find the names of doctors and
the insurance plans they accept. Giving a patient the name of a
back-up doctor also would help in case he or she needs help for a
similar problem in the future.
Plan for success. Planning may be for improvements
or to ensure that the current solution is accomplished. In this
scenario, giving the patient directions to the physicians office
would be a way of planning to ensure that the outcome is achieved.
It also is providing additional information. Providing additional
information and ways to prevent problems are two of the most
important ways to gain customer loyalty.
Note: This article is excerpted from 10 Steps to Successful Customer
Service by Maxine Kamin.