By Barbara Jones, Small Business Automation

 

When the documentation chickens come home to roost they bring weeping and wailing with them.  No small business owner wants to bother with documentation until things go wrong with an angry client.  If you can’t find anything in writing to prove the client misunderstands or is just wrong, you are going to lose the argument – and some money too.  Here are a couple of scenarios that probably sound familiar:

A sales rep leaves and calls start coming in from clients left hanging

The wrong product is delivered and there is no paper trail

You cannot control scope creep with a client because it was a handshake deal – there is literally nothing in writing.

 

Nothing about the way your business documents client interactions will change until the money lost is big enough to hurt enough.  The options are not all easy. They take more than a couple of days’ worth of concentrated effort, whether you are a sole proprietor or have a dozen staff members.  The business needs:

  • Active managing
  • A list of specific good documentation practices to start using
  • A strategic plan for implementing those good practices
  • Genuine, straightforward communication from you about change
  • Real, consistent long-term follow-through

If you see this documentation disaster as a call to step up to the next level of business ownership you will change your ways.  You will start learning, and asking for help with, how to manage a business.  You will develop a list of documentation practices you need to implement.  You will work with a strategic plan for introducing documentation practices to your staff.  You will force yourself to learn follow-through.  Your business and your staff will grow, even if you lose a couple of staffers.

A good CRM (Client Relationship Management) software can help more than you think.  I always recommend Infusionsoft, but that’s because I am a Certified Partner.  The right software makes it possible to standardize many forms of documentation that come up in everyday client interactions. It gives you a place to record that things like emails with contracts attached, phone calls, voice messages, face-to-face meetings all happened. Everything related to a client is together, stored digitally, and easy to call up when needed – like when the angry client calls.  Or when the sales rep leaves and the orphaned client calls.

The software that makes documentation easy does not have the capacity to explain itself.  It is like having a basket full of puzzles pieces but no image of the finished puzzle.  That is why part of the documentation strategic plan is documenting the documentation practices – try saying that three times fast.  If you document the documentation practices in an accessible way you don’t have to train, or find someone to train, every new hire yourself.  Membership site software like Memberium (again, I am a Certified Partner) is ideal for creating a reliable, easy-to-access-with-any-device location staff can go to for training.  So much better than asking five people how to do it and getting five different answers.

It is not easy to choose implementing good documentation practices for your business.  Preventing disaster is not as exciting as the sickening rush of excitement disaster brings, and it is hard work.  I promise you the success and growth your business will experience will be the best kind of exciting.   Documentation may be boring, but you will find success is not boring at all.