How Going Paperless Can Enhance Customer Care

Provident Security’s president explains why having a paperless operation allows his company to better achieve its lofty customer service goals.

We are in the speed business.

At Provident Security, we guarantee when a client’s alarm trips, we will be at their door within five minutes, 24 hours a day. That’s a huge promise that requires a lot of resources, planning and management. We’re really proud of it. It’s our core promise and our most important differentiator. For now.

Our ability to make good on that promise is as much about what we do as it is about what we’ve stopped doing. The most important thing that we’ve stopped doing is using paper. We came to realize that paper-based systems and processes were a major drain on our resources and took away from our ability to focus on our core promise.

Handling paper, in all of its forms, steals time that could, and should, be spent serving clients. In an effort to regain those resources and lost time, we embarked on a mission to work through every aspect of our business to identify and eliminate our use of paper. A similar analysis of your company’s internal processes could result in achieving newfound efficiencies while spurring you on to even greater innovation.

Innovation as a Continual Goal

Our journey started in May 2005 when I was in Boston, along with other entrepreneurs from around the world, attending a program led by business guru Verne Harnish.

Harnish spoke about what makes a company great. It is not the ability to innovate, but the ability to keep innovating. What is remarkable today quickly becomes tomorrow’s table stakes. Anything you do that qualifies as “groundbreaking” or “unique” will be copied. It’s a guarantee. If what you have come up with is truly remarkable, it won’t be long before that “innovation” becomes the minimum standard that clients expect.

For example, FedEx was the first to introduce overnight shipping in 1973. If you needed something delivered by noon the next day, they were the only show in town. It was a remarkable feat in the 1970s. By the 1990s, table stakes. FedEx would later make another revolutionary leap when it launched the first Web site to offer real-time package status tracking.

Unless you’re innovating, you’re falling behind.

Harnish’s message resonated. I immediately viewed our business in a different light and set out to do everything I could to put us in a position to focus our energy on providing a remarkable experience for our clients. We needed to ensure that innovation at Provident was a continuous process, not just a one-time event. In order to do that we needed to focus as much of our finite resources on the truly important parts of our business, and as little as possible on the back-end administrative tasks that are critical but do not provide a unique or competitive advantage.

I spent my flight home to Vancouver working on a list that had two columns. The left column listed the things I believed our clients valued and would happily pay for. The right column listed everything we were spending time, money and effort on but did not have a direct impact on our clients’ experience. We may have been a small company at the time, but nevertheless the right-hand column was very long.

Building Client Trust

Our clients care about seeing our bright yellow vehicles on the road. They appreciate the peace of mind they get when inter-acting with a response team member on their doorstep within five minutes of tripping their alarm in error.

Clients don’t care about what specific technology we are using. In most cases, they don’t even care what technology we are selling. It’s the service that will accompany the technology that makes the difference for them. Don’t get me wrong, we take our commitment to staying ahead of the technology curve very seriously. If we didn’t, we’d soon be out of business. Top-of-the-line equipment and software are absolute minimums. Yet they do nothing to differentiate us among any of our competitors — at least not in the eyes of our clients.

When a client phones us, they appreciate that we answer their call quickly and we’re not in a rush to hang up. Most of all, our clients care about being able to trust us. Every interaction we have with a client is an opportunity to build their trust and confidence.

In 2005 we were spending far too much time on operational tasks that did not involve any client interaction. Wholesale change was necessary.

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