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TECH TALK: An Entrepreneurs Attributes: Problem Solving Focusing on Cause

November 21st, 2003 · No Comments

The better part of an entrepreneurs day is about solving problems especially in the early stages of a venture. Many things will go wrong; there are various challenges which need to be tackled. At these times, it is important to get to the root of the problem focus on what are the key causes, rather than just looking at some aspects of the issue and trying to fix the ones that are easy. When it comes to problem solving, one must not make the mistake of trying to go for the low-hanging fruit.

Identifying the causes of what is going wrong is very important. What one sees are the effects. What is needed to trace back the lineage to the roots, and identify those key issues which cause the problem at hand.

Let me give a current problem that I face and go through the problem solving process. In my company, we face an issue of support for our customers. Some customers are unhappy because they have to hold for a long time when they call, others are not too thrilled about having to explain the problem every time they call in the event that there is a new person who they are communicating with. If one just looks at these issues, then the obvious solutions would be to add more support staff and get the staff to document the problem faced by the customer when they call. But the issues are a lot more complex.

The real reason that customers have to hold when they call is because there are too many calls coming. As we analysed the calls, we realised that many-a-time, we were being asked to tackle issues which are not even directly related to the solution that we had sold the customer. This was because we were offering unlimited and free support (as part of the package), so it was quite simple for the customer staff member to just call us and have us troubleshoot rather than taking the trouble to think and do it locally. So, perhaps, the right way to approach the solution is to limit the number of free calls with the solution that we sell. Once the customer realizes that there is a maximum number of free calls, then there will more caution exercised in the calls made to our office, thus automatically reducing the number of calls that the support staff have to handle.

To tackle the other problem, one way to look at it is to get the support engineers to document the problem. When I talked with them, their answer was that it is hard to make notes and attempt to solve the problem at the same time. So why didnt they do it after the call? No time! This was because more often than not, the next call was given to them as soon as one ended. So, the solution is probably to separate the problem-taking and problem-solving, where the problem-takers make detailed notes in their discussion with the customer, but do not actually solve the problem. This could be complemented with an online problem-solving guide which helps the customer try and resolve the problem without calling our support staff (especially if the customer knows there are only a limited number of free calls).

Thus, the solutions which are immediately obvious may not always be the best ones it helps to understand the core issues and then work on resolving them. By focusing on a few core issues, more often than not, one will find that most of the effects of the problem will vanish.

Next Week: An Entrepreneurs Attributes (continued)

TECH TALK An Entrepreneurs Attributes+T

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