Houston Daylighting Completes Multi-Year Small Business Process Improvement Project
It is great to announce that Houston Daylighting has completed a multi-year process improvement project to bring massive efficiency and improvements to better serve all customers. Houston Daylighting, your local Solatube Premier Dealer and Houston’s only Redilight authorized dealer, provides solar and direct powered home-based efficiency and cost-effective beautification systems. Houston Daylighting brings your high end & top-quality daylight & efficiency solutions, straight into your home with minimal hassle or disruption to your life as a homeowner.
The Customer Experience Before Improving the Processes:
Professional Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Measurement:
Doug Franklin is a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Certified Project Management Professional. While he is also Houston Daylighting’s managing partner said, “Houston Daylighting is boosting internal workflow efficiency and key performance indicator results by realigning accountability for all four key areas of the business functions. Now there is a single point of contact for each business function. Using Lean & Six Sigma business process improvement mapping steps we first identified our baseline issues. Then verified through experimentation and long-term testing. Next Houston Daylighting initiated a radical redesign when the testing revealed that there were only three of four critical tasks held separate and accountable.
Unacceptable 47+ Days Between Call & Service:
“The major cause of our biggest gap in the process from lead, through scheduling, to estimating and final installation was that the estimating function was falling between two separate entities within our organization.
“It was basically like two outfielders running for a pop-fly ball and both stopping, letting the ball drop between X% of the time. Our average first-call to invoice times were mind-numbingly
long. Invoices were often underestimated because they were done site-unseen or by young technicians who lacked specialized sales training. Or the conversations became lost and confused in between the office and field, confusing.”
One of the major issues with any process improvement or Six Sigma project is ‘stakeholder buy-in’ to the project. Without full cooperation from those who are going to be working the system oftentimes process improvement projects are doomed to fail from the inside out.
Small Business Growing Pains:
Unfortunately, Houston Daylighting was not immune to those growing pains. During the improvement process, there were a few members of the team who wanted to pursue other goals. One member decided to pursue her goal of becoming a Real Estate agent and is successfully pursuing that path. And then our senior installer, who was a school-trained welder, received an offer from a friend to join his newly opened welding business. Both departed employees appear to be extremely happy in their new positions and Houston Daylighting is grateful for their ongoing success.
The Human Cost of Improvements:
Process improvement projects can oftentimes be extremely painful and can turn confrontation within departments & business functions. That is a major hazard that Houston Daylighting avoided when team members chose to pursue other career paths. There were fewer people involved so it became cleaner when delineating those new business functions.
Doug Franklin commented, “It was sad to see people go. But from a strict process improvement perspective, we had the opportunity to clear the decks and bring on more people in different but more clearly defined business functional areas.
“My biggest regret from the whole process is that during our redesign we lost my father. He was our biggest supporter, primary owner, and partner in the business. We were at the ugly stages of finishing our experimentation and analyzing what needed changing while doing initial testing for our process redesign. My dad, Malcolm, had a heart attack and was suddenly gone. It was a huge shock to all of us, and he will never get to see how far we have come since that horrible day.”
Houston Daylighting has now designed individual and organizational efficiency into every level and position.
Importance of Performance Indicators to Process Improvement:
Doug Franklin, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt & certified Project Management Professional, told us, “Measuring our Key Performance Indicators (KPI) was a critical first step to all of this. We know exactly how many internet clicks we need to drive so many calls and how many of those calls turn into appointments and finally visits to install. Everything was measured and assessed while looking for areas to improve. We even know exactly how many customer follow-up calls are required to add a job calendar!”
Process Improvement Pitfalls:
Doug Franklin continued, “The death knell of any system, not just a process improvement system, is factoring in numbers close to zero! Suddenly that inefficiency becomes very expensive in time, energy, and capital.
“One scary iteration of our process improvement we had outside help, took the advice and made a radical change to our marketing mix. The result was that the office contacts to appointments inched up to, and sometimes exceeded 100% bookings with repeat customers, yet smashed our inbound calls which rapidly choked our system. That experimental change was scrapped as fast as that first crop of KPIs came in! There was simply no room to factor in that great big ‘near-zero’ number into the front of the system. We immediately scrapped that junk change stopped taking outside advice, and went back to a slightly modified original system.”
A Harsh Experience:
After that rough experience, Houston Daylighting decided on an iterative improvement plan focused on customer service and sales growth-based focus. The plan is that each customer interaction is designed to impress and rapidly resolve issues.
Doug Franklin says “This was a hugely important move. We track key performance indicators obsessively to better serve our valued customers. Now every step of interaction is accountable and we have seen productivity & satisfaction levels jump massively.
“In the last few weeks, customers are impressed with the way things are going and rewarded us with a huge number of five-star reviews. That is critical to any business’s success in the modern market. It is satisfying to know that our team has been doing great work. That is not a bench-marked KPI though, just a pleasant side effect!
“Now, not every qualified & unique lead who calls the office jumps onto the schedule for an estimate immediately. That is important to remember! We do have a process of follow-up and a strong emphasis on customer retention and referral programs. In one period at the beginning of the year, we had 38 qualified & unique leads enter the system and ended up scheduling 39 appointments, for an insane phone to the appointment conversion rate of 102.6%!”
Improvement Project Team Buy-In:
Maribel Centeno, Houston Daylighting’s office manager, and customer service director was thrilled with the result. “It was great! I was so happy we got to have such an amazing result! We can do better, and I know we can keep that up! Our KPIs keep climbing and we keep going better and better month after month! Our future looks bright, and I’m having lots of fun being part of it all!
The Best Part of Process Improvement:
Titus Cavel, Houston Daylighting’s senior estimator, added, “It is great getting out, meeting new people, and helping them find solutions for their daylighting and ventilation issues. The results speak for themselves! I have honestly never had a customer who followed recommendations complain that they have an underwhelming result.
Huge Customer Satisfaction Boost:
“We have begun our final process evolution and we’re now focused hugely on follow-up and customer satisfaction. So it’s great to see and talk to people we have recently worked with so happy with what we have done!”
Gerardo Medina, Houston Daylighting’s senior installer, chuckled, shrugged, and said, “Everybody makes my job super easy! By the time I get out there, Maribel has walked people through basic options. Titus has had great talks and we know exactly what is happening with each job, and my work is super easy. I go, do my installation and make sure people are happy with my work. The job’s not hard, I get to do cool things and make people happy. I love it!”
The results show across the board with Houston Daylighting’s crew. Gerardo for example completes 97.5% of his visits the first time, without callbacks or second visits. That reduces wasted time and customer frustration. Gerardo knows exactly what to pack for each job because by the time the work order reaches him everything is measured and ready for installation.
Process Improvement Project Conclusion:
Doug Franklin laughs at the success, smiling and stating, “Houston Daylighting has been so
spectacularly successful with this efficiency and process improvement redesign that things are now running so smoothly it is almost boring! The team is so finely tuned that almost nothing goes wrong later.
“Now the anvil is falling on my head, like I’m Wyle E Coyote, to add to that first number in the equation, and get those phones ringing fast and furious! We are so efficient now that we are gobbling through skylight and ventilation leads so fast it is a shock to the system.
The Neverending KPI Joke’s Punchline – The Next Bottleneck:
“We have found the next bottleneck, and it is in my lane, so I need to get back to work!”