It was the winter of our business discontent, a season so full of challenges and struggles that the regular bumps along the road to running a successful business and providing amazing customer service suddenly seemed to merge into a veritable sinkhole of bad luck, bad timing, and, lets not forget, bad weather; a black abyss that, if nothing else, threatened to swallow my sanity whole.
But that’s the truly interesting thing about running a small business though, you just never know what tomorrow will bring; all you can do is plan carefully, expecting the worst but hoping for the best. Of course, borrowing once more from Steinbeck, even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
It seemed we started off the New Year already behind, much of that having to do with the fallout from the ice storm and the number of systems that were down and didn’t come back up in December. While everyone was busy making New Years resolutions and watching the calendar flip to 2014, we were scurrying around trying to resolve these lingering systems issues.
Of course as I mentioned last month, you just never know when these sorts of disasters are going to strike, so in that regard we need to be extra vigilant to ensure that our own back-up and restore procedures are working properly, and of equal importance, that our client’s back-up routines are in proper order. I think I have had at least one phone call per day since early January dealing with disaster recovery and continuity planning!
Now the ice storm alone can’t be blamed for our tough start to the year here at Digitcom, but it certainly was one of many factors that have made business operations challenging in recent months.
In fact, while we wrestled with this lingering systems issues our office was hit with a flu bug in early January that spread to all but two of our inside staff, mounting sick days that seemed to spring leaks in our operations that we struggled to plug. Add to that the regular course of vacation, staff needing time off for personal reasons, a very busy technical scheduled filled with an increased number of installations, and, for some reason, an increase in call volume in the first three weeks of February that exceeded our previous busy period by over 50 percent, and needless to say, Digitcom was stretched to its breaking point.
By the third week in February I was overwhelmed with business and operational issues and, I’ll admit, Digitcom’s sterling track record of customer service was lamentably in jeopardy. Our normal response time for closing service tickets is less than one day on average, but by the third week in February we were closer to 5 business days! Luckily we hired Scott, our new Director of Operations in mid January. Scott is now handling day to day operations, and seems to be getting things back in order. More importantly for me, it’s allowed me to spend more time on strategic issues … as they say, spend more time on the business rather than in the business.
Further, we have also hired more staff: Gavin started with Digitcom in mid-February, filling Kyle’s previous role doing pre-installation programming, while Kyle has been promoted to project technical coordinator. We also hired another inside technical support rep, Tony, who has over 15 years of telecom and 2 years of Avaya IP office experience.
Now you may be wondering why I’m writing this email, as it certainly isn’t the sort of self-aggrandizing hot air that one often reads in corporate updates. The reasons are simple: First, some of our clients have noticed and complained that Digitcom’s service levels were not at expected and otherwise normal levels over the last few months (February in particular), and, second, as a small business owner it helps to be forthright and honest with my valued customers, sharing some of the issues we face in running a small business. Not to make excuses, of course, but to explain the situation and to demonstrate how we have learned from our mistakes as we move forward towards serving you better.
The road to business success has never been easy! I have over 23 years of experience running Digitcom and I can assure you that it’s a constant battle. You can never be complacent, both in business operations and in guiding that business towards a successful future. Here at Digitcom we have always stayed true to two guiding principles, core values, if you will, that define who we are: 1) Provide amazing customer service; this is the most important thing we can do as a business, and 2) Always innovate, both internally in the way operations are processed, and externally with the technology we bring to market. And it is with these two guiding principles that we managed to make our way through the last couple of months.
Does your business know what its core values are?
Understanding who we are, what our core values are, and what we stand for in the market is always top of mind. I drive the business around these two core values, and know that when things go right, or conversely, when things are going wrong, I need to focus first and foremost on these values to get the business back on course. We have put a number of new operational initiatives in place in January and February that have helped streamline the way things are done, and we hired a few staff and corrected a number of internal issues that have helped us get our service levels back on track.
Over the last month we, the Digitcom team, made tremendous progress toward getting things back to where they should be, and having traversed this difficult path will make us that much more prepared to meet the challenges of the future. We are ready for tomorrow and look forward with enthusiasm for whatever comes next.