The first time I heard the “Measure what you treasure” axiom, I considered it an absolute truth. The adage was the path to growth in my career and life: no discussion — truth, plain and simple. Drop the mic.
From the Bible (Luke 12:34) to business consultants to TedX talks on YouTube, I have encountered this idea from the early stages of my life through the present day. During my years in sales and distribution in the roofing industry, I have studied, used, and been frustrated by the many methods we have to measure the business metrics that matter most.
My first encounter with measuring outcomes was in my job as a salesman. In the beginning, my task was simply hitting the road, in the direction of my boss’ choosing, with the object of calling on roofing contractors and suppliers to ask them for orders. We sold roofing tools, equipment, and other roofing specialty products.
I first needed to measure my calls, making notes on each and all on paper, of course. Eventually, I grew to the point where I had an established sales territory and commissions on sales became part of the equation.
Making notes of the calls were necessary, as the horizon on selling some capital equipment was quite broad, and I needed to track the progress toward landing that sale.
But tracking the sales dollars tied to commissions became something I treasured. In 1984, I bought a personal computer to mechanize this task as the company reluctantly moved from mechanical bookkeeping to digital computing systems. I thought these computers would measure everything, and it would be great! That was the promise.
In 2023, we are still working on it.
The build-up leads me to what I feel is one of the most critical metrics in the roofing supply business: one’s level of customer service. The outcome of an excellent level of customer service is profitable sales. And if you cannot deliver customer service at the highest level possible, you may wake up one day without an order to measure.
I have always found that the biggest challenge in measuring customer service outcomes is building a culture that focuses on adverse outcomes. But if you are already operating at a high customer service level and looking to improve, you must face the brutal reality of a missed order. A late order. An incomplete order. An order was inadvertently delivered to the wrong building.
Look at the safety side of the equation. World-class safety programs include a protocol that demands you stop anytime there is an injury or damage incident and determine “why” the incident occurred and “how” to avoid any such occurrences in the future. Some of the best and most important work I was ever involved in was this type of investigation and follow-up.
And, I admit, some of the most challenging and least fun work.
So, how do you measure lost business? What caused that out-of-stock situation? Was it preventable? What should you do to avoid this situation in the future?
Here are some questions to consider:
- Do you have a way of measuring and listing incidents of lost business?
- Do you measure every incident of an item missing from an order, making it incomplete?
- Every customer complaint of any kind?
- When you have protocols to measure these incidents, how do you perform a post-mortem to figure out what went wrong and how to avoid any future repeat of this sub-par performance?
Measuring sales and profits is complicated enough but easy compared to measuring things that do not fit on a spreadsheet. We all recognize that operational excellence is vital to our sales efforts. Take some time to consider how you measure your customer service ups and downs. While not always the most fun work in the roofing supply business, it is arguably some of the most important work for achieving success.