Trevor Bouchard has devised a novel way to spot gaps between the way his firm thinks its staff should handle specific situations and how they actually do: a monthly all-employees test.
QuickContractors.com hires contractors to install home appliances on behalf of such retailers as The Brick. Bouchard realized that staff turnover can breed inconsistent customer service—with, say, Jessica handling a given situation differently than her colleague Jerry would. Here are the four steps Bouchard uses to put his people on the same page:
1 TURN YOUR EXAM OVER NOW
Just like in school, Bouchard, president and CEO of his Cambridge, Ont.-based firm, hands out the tests face down. Then, he asks employees to turn them over and spend 15 minutes answering 12 multiple-choice questions about specific scenarios. One question concerned “wasted trips,” in which a contractor is unable to complete an installation. How should you log this if the appliance buyer is returning a defective product versus if she wasn’t home at the appointed time?
2 LET THE DEBATE BEGIN
Each employee marks the test of his or her neighbour. Bouchard then works his way through the questions, keeping the tone light-hearted. For each question, he asks people to speak up about what they think the right answer is. This often sparks a lively discussion—”No, no, that’s not the process!”— that reveals sharp differences among staff in how they think the firm wants them to respond in a given situation. Bouchard then reveals the right answer, focusing on why the company handles the situation this way. He says employees are much more likely to remember a process if they understand the reason for it.
3 IT’S TRAINING TIME
Bouchard collects the tests so senior managers can review them afterward to identify what the firm needs to work on with specific employees. The idea isn’t to judge anyone; just to provide training where needed.
4 HMM—MAYBE WE SHOULD RETHINK THAT
Bouchard keeps an answer key listing how staff should handle each situation. But sometimes the debate reveals that the “right” answer isn’t the best answer. In post-test reviews, Bouchard’s senior team has decided to change some of the company’s processes.