In a complex world filled with technology, complicated systems, and ever-increasing speed, top level companies and high performing people rely on checklists to minimize errors and increase quality. Learn how you can too.Sign Up to Watch
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-Let's say a week later, same conversation, OK. A week later, you've already had this one conversation. Now, we're onto conversation number two. Sorry, I left the checklist in my car.
-Well, Clay, I tell you what. Why don't you go get in your car, and drive someplace, and take your checklist out, and go get a new job with it. No, I mean, at some point you have to understand--
-At what point would that have to happen, though? At what point, if I was your man secretary, and I have to know this because people will watch this.
ZOELLNER: OK. I gotta get serious now.
-I'm just saying, there's a lot of people who are watching this. They are saying, I hired an assistant, and they didn't check the voicemail once. I asked them. They didn't check it again. And so, the owner's either left to kind of give up hope and say, well, no one will ever do their job. Or, I mean, what do we say, now, that second time? What do you do? At what point do you say it's gone too far?
-It's an excellent question. And I get that asked probably about as much as anything.
-And I look at everybody that asks me that question and I say, you know what you're going to do? You're going to put up with as long as you want to put up with that.
-So if I feel like it's too bad of an issue, I'll probably just, out of resourcefulness, find somebody else?
-And for the business owner that never just draws a line in the sand and makes that move, they're just stuck with what they're stuck with?
-Yeah. I'm telling you. I mean, obviously they have a high tolerance for them to be able to put up with it. They have a high tolerance for having an employee that doesn't do what they want them to do. There's a lot of people out there that put up with it. God bless them. I mean, it's kind of one of those things where-- but then, there's also a lot of people complaining about why their business isn't growing, and why aren't they making more money, and what's wrong with it. And I'm kind of going, maybe you've gotten too lackadaisical in the things that you're putting up with from your own employees.
People, you are paying money and trying to employ to help you build your business, you know. So I mean, the thing about it is, if you did everything great, and you forgot on your second time to check voicemails in the course of the day, I mean, yeah, you probably have a little bit of grace or a little bit of-- but if you had a lot of other things you weren't doing well, either, on the checklist, if you had a lot of other things you weren't doing for me that I told you to do, then I would probably have less grace with you. You'd be replaced sooner.
-So in all your businesses, these active companies that you have, I mean, you're seeing thousands of customers a day, it sounds like there is a checklist for every position. Or if there's not, I mean, there's at least--
-Categories and positions, yes. I mean, yes. So, yes.
-OK. And because I've had the opportunity to work with business owners all over the country, I can confidently say that almost every business owner I've ever met with does not have a checklist for every position. And I would also confidently say that the number one reason the businesses are failing is not because of a bad idea or bad marketing. It usually has to do with poor execution, poor delivering on those things.
So I'm going to read you a Michael Gerber quote, here, that's this huge, huge quote, here. He says, "Just think. What would you do if you honestly believed that you were going to create 10,000 stores, 10,000 offices, 10,000 shops, 10,000 orchards, or 10,000 of whatever it is you set out to do. 10,000 times! My goodness. Where would you begin?" And to me, it sounds like with checklists.
-Yeah. Well, you've got to build the first one. In order to build the first one, then you want to replicate it. In order to replicate it, then you have to have it in a box. And that box is the checklist. That box is the things that are reproducible, the things that I can sit down with an employee and say, here's what you're responsible for, here's what I want to do. I've spelled out for you.
Here's what you say when you answer the phone, here's what you say before you leave for the night. Here's what you do. And if you're going to do that 10,000 times, you'd better get your head wrapped around. Otherwise, you're not going to remember what it is every time you open a store.
-If I am watching the website right now, and I have 20 employees, and I have no checklists at all. And I'm now going, OK, I know I need to do this. I'm doing it. I mean, man, I am-- bam! Let's go. Do you recommend-- I mean, you just say it's not going to be perfect, but just start from--
-Absolutely. Start with the big stuff. And you can kind of get it as detailed as you need to get it for. And I always go back and kind of check that list every now and then. And you know, especially when you're bringing in new employees. That's probably a really good time. Because then you pull all those out, so to speak.
And you're going through them, and you're freshening them up. And you're looking at them and you're saying, OK, that has no relevance now, take that off the list. Or, actually that is now some other department that's doing that, so that's off of your list. So, you're always constantly doing it. But you've got to start somewhere.
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-It probably sounds like almost minutia to harp on this, but I want to make you some real examples, so people watching this can really get it. Your auto auction here, you have a restroom. I've been here 3 times, I'm sorry, 4 times, I've been here four times. And each time I've come here, the restrooms are clean.
DR. ROBERT ZOELLNER: Yes.
-This is not the case in most restrooms across America.
DR. ROBERT ZOELLNER: Yeah.
-And so with the checklist, how does that work? Do I turn it into my manager every day, if I'm the person who cleans the bathroom? I clean the bathroom, I turn it into my manager every day, or how do you do that? Because it's always clean here, and I'm going this guy's a guru of cleaning bathrooms, or-- I mean, what is your system here, how to use the checklist for these things?
-Well, I have a lady that's in charge-- I have a-- on sale day, we have busier days here than others. And so on the actual sale day, she checks it on a more frequent basis, but other than that, it's a couple three times a day that they go in, and actually physically do a physical inspection of the bathroom to make sure that all the toiletries, that all the soaps, all that's full. That the floors actually cleaned--
-Just checking it off.
-Check it off.
-Toilet paper, boom, make sure the backup boom. Also to make sure that the actual-- I don't want to get into too much detail, but to make sure that the physical areas are actually clean, flushed, clean, wiped down sanitized, floor cleaned, walls, trash emptied. There's maybe 10, 12 things.
Now you say, now, who double checks that? Well, she has a supervisor, she has an office manager, that then will spot check or randomly check. And then on sale day, when we have a lot of people here and it's much busier, and that goes to instead of two or three times a day, that goes to every 30 minutes.
-To an hour.
-Colin Powell talks about the importance of holding people accountable, and essentially when Colin Powell served in our military, he had somebody who held him accountable. And he talks about how basically if you don't piss somebody off by noon, you're probably not holding people accountable.
-That's a good-- could be, I mean--
-I mean there's a little bit though, there's an inherent-- just a little bit of-- not necessarily you don't have to be mean about it-- but there's a little bit of accountability and a little bit of confrontation just embedded in the fact that you're going to be relentless about following up about your bathroom being cleaned every day, right? I mean, there's a little bit of--
-There is, it's kind of built in, but that's why management is not-- if it was easy to be manager, we'd all do it. And the thing about it is getting people to do things that they don't necessarily want to do or do well, is a challenge sometimes. And people, as a general rule of thumb, their work ethics need to be improved upon. I guess that's probably a good way to put that.
And so that's what management's about. Oftentimes, the guy that ends up being the manager was the guy that could-- he was the one that-- like for example, in my labs at my optometric offices, the guy that makes the glasses the fastest, he moves up to shift manager. Then pretty soon he's the guy that is now the lab manager. And pretty soon he's a store manager, and pretty soon-- so you just kind of move up this list, with not necessarily the right tools a mindset to be one.
They may be a good worker, but not a good delegator, good checker of other people. So there's a little bit of that confrontation of you know, hey, I want to be friendly, but I want to make sure it gets done.
-OK, so the guy on the other side of this camera, who has a business, he doesn't have a checklist for his bathroom. Every day he talks about how his bathrooms are dirty. What do you say to that guy, the non-checklist bathroom guy?
-Get a checklist. I mean, the thing about it is that right now if I were to walk into your business, and said well, who's responsible for doing it? If I lined up all your employees, and said which one of you are responsible for doing it? And let's say someone did raise their hand, and say OK, how often are you supposed to do it? I don't know. What are you supposed to do when you go in there? Clean it.
I mean, these are things-- this is why you're set up to fail. If you don't give them specifics to do it, because in your mind it is common sense, we talked about earlier. In your mind, it makes sense, and in your mind you go in and you do it, because you take pride in it because it is your business. It's not their business, they're an employee. They're worried about what someone said on Facebook last night, they're worried about if their boyfriend's going to ask then out to dinner this weekend.
I mean, they've got other things on their mind. Yours is in there to make sure your business is being as productive and successful and growing as much as possible. And so no one's going to care as much as you do, so write it down. Write it down for them, and then help encourage them to follow through with it.
And if they won't follow through with it, find someone who will. And that's how you fix a dirty bathroom.
-And I will say this, I mean this, because I think somebody watching this is saying, this is not possible in every scenario. And I'm going to just keep pushing back, and for some reason, this is the most exciting topic in the world to me. But I want to share this, because I mean it.
Steve Martin, the great comedian, Steve Martin, the great playwright, Steve Martin. He talks about in his book "Born Standing Up" how he went out there and he performed his routine, and he says joke one was funny, joke two was funny, joke three was not funny, joke four was funny, joke five was funny. Note to self, gets offstage, crosses it off, not going to say that joke anymore. Replaces it with joke three, joke three's replaced, joke 3b, oh that was a good one, joke four, not so good.
And he built a checklist for his routine. And if you watch a gifted comedian, it's the same routine over and over. Why am I talking about this? Because I had to convince men-- you understand, with my wedding entertainment company, I found out after meeting with the guy who was running QuickTrip at the time, Mr Chet Cadieux, that it's best to hire people for attitude, not for skill. And so I literally hired people, and I made it a prerequisite that you could have never DJed before.
And I could teach 45 men to be funny every Saturday, who had no comedic experience and no experience playing music. And I even had the employees come in, and I said, hey, if you have no-- if you've never heard of music before, you're actually kind of guy I want. Because as a wedding DJ, I don't want you playing your biases, I want you to play what that bride wants. And so I made these checklists-- I'm not kidding, you and I, in like an hour and a half, you could be DJing your way to success.
Because if someone says, could you play some country, you just open up that page, and there's a checklist of country songs that are the most popular that work. And what announcement to say, literally the words to say, were right thereby. And it became so funny and so freeing when you could teach people to be funny.
-When you could actually teach-- I used to think, well you can't teach people to be funny. Oh, but you can.
-Oh, but you can.
-Now we're going to hop in here. We'll get a little deep. The Harvard Business School where they did not let me into that school. I could I get in.
-So the Harvard Business School, there's a book written by a Heskett Sasser and I want to say it's a Slesenger. But this book was introduced to me by a guy named Doug Fierce who used to be the CFO of a big oil and gas company. And here's the quote from the book The Service Profit Chain. "Being nice to people is just 20% of providing good customer service. The important thing is designing systems that allow you to do the job right the first time. All the smiles in the world aren't going to help if your product or service is not what the customer wants."
DR. ROBERT ZOELLNER: Amen.
CLAY CLARK: So now I want to know who inspects the checklists in your businesses? Is it somebody who is committed to being the best friend of every employee? Is at the person who is committed to never having a confrontation? Is it the likes to fight guy or is it somebody who cares about people, but they're kind of, tell me what personality you put on top of this checklist to hold people accountable. What kind of person do you want there?
-Well, I mean, you want your, and it's really the managers and supervisors, depends on the different level of the checklist. But your supervisor and your manager is a little bit of a mixture of all that. I mean, it's a challenging thing to work next to someone all day and to kind of work with them to be somewhat of a co-worker, yet also be their boss. And then also be in charge of on your checklist is their checklists so to speak.
But you have to have somebody on there that's not afraid to get in there and to do what they need to do, because that's on their checklist. And you want someone that's nice, but you also want someone that's thorough. You want someone that's attention to detail. And you want someone that's going to be your advocate. You want someone that's going to be your bulldog if you will. you don't want someone that's going to be your policeman.
I mean, to be a police officer has got to be a difficult job. But you need them. And you need that mind set of listen, I can be kind, I can be nice, but I'm going to be thorough, and I'm going to be firm and this is how we're going to get it done.
-And the police example is perfect, because I got pulled over the other day. And I don't have any moving violations for a few years now. I didn't get one. Usually I go in my suit and they think I'm a good guy. And I'm nice to them.
-And you smile.
-And I smile.
-That's 20% of it, right?
-I get pulled over, though. And the officer, and I respect him and, again, I'm glad he does this, and I totally get it. But his least priority is to care whether I like him. But he says, "Sir, did you not notice there was a dump truck over here on the side, and we were waiting for traffic to go through? I had my lights on. You drove around to me." It was a one way. You'll go this way or this. It's not like one of those passing lanes. It was just a hard line. So you could only go this way or this way.
DR. ROBERT ZOELLNER: Right.
-And I went ahead and went into oncoming traffic in the Hummer around the car. And I just kept on going. And then I saw another car that was stopping, so I went around the shoulder. And I did a figure eight making good time. And the guy pulls me over. Woo ooh. "Sir, driver's license." Right? and he's not making eye contact. He's got glasses on, sunglasses. And you can tell he's not, he's looking into my soul. He's just intense.
"Sir." So I said, "Well, I--" "Sir." So he gets the stuff, he comes back. "Sir, are you aware that you broke this law? Do you have any idea why I pulled you?" He's just intense. And then he takes his glasses off. And he smiles. And it's someone who I did their wedding. And it's the husband. And he's like, "Stop doing that stuff. Why would you make me?"
And so he let off the manager face for just a second. And he was like, "Why would you? Just stop." And he was funny, because he has to be stern, because he's in character and he's not looking. He's got his sunglasses on. He's just looking down and he looks at me and he puts two and two, he pulls my license and he realizes that it's me. He tells his wife. He's like, "What is this guy's deal?"
But, again, he could not. If he would have said, "Sir, is it now a good time to pull you over? How you doing, sir?" I'd be like, "I'm in a hurry." "Is it OK? Is now a good time? I don't know if you're aware of the law." If he would have been meek, he would have lost. But instead, he put me in my place. I'm thinking I don't want to get shot, don't want to go to jail, don't want to get a ticket. So I'm just going to do that.
But you have to assert yourself. You're like the referee, right?
-Absolutely. You're the most amazing part of that whole story that I find hard to believe. Well, I've driven with you. And the idea that you don't have any moving violations for two years--
-No, I don't.
---is crazy. I mean--
-We need to make sure when we edit this, we insert the footage of my recent Hummer escapades.
-Oh my goodness. I tell you, if you're driving this guy it's like, oh, lord, how do not die? How do you ever get to where you're going?
-No, I got to say this, though. I'm just telling you. I'm a red light runner.
-Oh, that's the least of the issues. That's like so far down the check list of things you do wrong in a car.
-That right there. That right there's like a spear to my soul of truth. Is just proof. That's awesome. OK.
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