In order to solve a problem you need to set your company's goals and priorities, then establish a plan.
Your data have been collected and analyzed. The dealership's problems, as they relate to a particular customer, should be noticeable.
Talk to your employees. They will tell you what some of the impairments to success are.
Now you must determine appropriate short- and long-term goals to solve the identified problems. Using the linebacker approach, some short-term goals may require immediate removal in order to make any progress.
For example, suppose it was determined through the data collection process that one of your employees needs a new computer, or that the dealership needs a simple confirmation from the customer on certain problem orders. These are relatively easy fixes.
Once the obstacles to success have been removed, then long-term goals can be set. Those goals should be specific (what); assign responsibility (who); provide a time frame for goal completion (when); and state how success will be measured (how).
Short-term goals consist of a path of step-by-step components with shorter time frames that, if completed, will lead to the completion of the long-term goal.
Once you've reached this step, it's time to implement the plan.
Communication is most critical at this juncture. Key employees should be aware that the dealership is doing an analysis of a particular customer. They also should have been involved in the formulation of the goals.
Now it's time for management to create an environment in which dealership employees can focus on meeting short-term goals by completing their necessary tasks. Communicate with your employees at each step of the way.
Normally in this step of the process there will be other obstacles requiring your intervention in order to alleviate a problem.
However, as each obstacle is removed or system modified, the process will flow a little more smoothly until a new, more efficient system is in place. This requires a demonstration of extreme patience on the part of management because, by now, they've been looking at this particular customer or problem for quite a while. Often times they ``just want it fixed now!'' Fight that urge.
Obtaining ongoing feedback is critical to the last step of the decision-making model: evaluating the plan.
The last step is the one that separates the herd. Top performers recognize there are really only two outcomes-the goal was reached or it wasn't reached. (I'm starting to sound like my high school coach who said, ``It's either a ``W'' or an ``L'').
Many managers go through the first four steps, then their interest wanes and they move on to the next project. That could be a fatal mistake.
Setting up routine evaluation meetings or a computer program to help with the evaluation process is a key step in the decision-making process.
One client was having trouble with a very detailed billing process that required signatures and information from multiple parties.
The process was derailing at several junctures and ultimately the client was not collecting the money owed.
The leader set up a spreadsheet wherein once a certain block of bills was processed by a certain person, that person logged his or her name and date on the spreadsheet.
The leader was able to click on the spreadsheet daily and determine the progress of the bills through the system-and more importantly, where bottlenecks were being encountered.
One question your dealership management must determine is what approach you'll take with customers.
Remember, the leader also must be prepared to walk away from the business if necessary-a critical part of all negotiations.
A disciplined decision-making process is essential to a successful organization. By allowing your employees to learn, understand and be a part of these five steps, they may incorporate this discipline into their daily tasks, which surely will assist your dealership's management.
The one that many successful tire center managers seem to use constructively is what I call the ``prepared direct approach.'' First, they fix their internal problems and address any of the customer's concerns.
Then, if the margins are not satisfactory, they talk directly to the customer. The leader I mentioned who turned around the three business divisions repeatedly used this approach.
He would meet with a customer to determine any concerns, fix the problems, then return to either ask for more business or a better price on their existing business.