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Ken Keller: Essential questions worth asking

Brain food for business owners

Posted: September 7, 2010 8:19 p.m.
Updated: September 8, 2010 4:55 a.m.

The following is the second installment of a two-part column, that first published in The Signal on Sept.1.
Part one advised that the person at the top of a company or department is responsible for establishing the objectives for the company or organization.

Part two addresses 30 questions that should be asked of managers to keep departments and employees focused, moving forward toward set objectives. If the answer is not known before it is asked, it is acceptable because that opens the topic to a discussion that needs to take place. 

These questions should be addressed to the managers in the sales, marketing and operations/production departments, those responsible for delivering the product or service to the customers.
1. Is every employee empowered to solve customer problems?

2. When was the last time our lowest-level employee met with a customer?

3. When was the last time the highest-level employee met with a customer?

4. Do we have new products in the pipeline to provide continuous revenue growth?

5. If we don’t have new products coming on board, what are we doing about it?

6. Is our market growing or shrinking?

7. Can anyone name all the ways we promote our organization today?

8. Do we have a website?

9. How often is our website updated?

10. What is our customer-retention plan?

11. Do we have an account-management plan in place?

12. How much do we want to grow our organization in the next year?

13. Five years from now, how big will we be?

14. What are our biggest marketing and sales problem we are facing right now?

15. What is being done about them?

16. How long does it take to respond to a customer problem?

17. How long does it take for us to return telephone calls from customers?

18. How soon do we respond to customer e-mails?

19. If a potential customer calls us for information, do we send it?

20. How long does the customer wait for us to send the promised information?

These questions should be asked of those in administration, accounting, quality-control, finance, delivery, service, customer-service, sales and marketing departments.
21. Do we have a written credit and collections policy in place?

22. Are our internal departments ever referred to as “sales prevention?”

23. Do our staff people go the extra step when taking care of customers?

24. Do our human resources people screen people in or out?

25. Are we trying to change people, or help them become more of who they already are?

26. Do our internal people meet regularly with our external people?

27. What are we doing to knock down the barriers between departments?

28. Do all departments have goals in harmony with each other?

29. Does each department have a mission statement?

30. How soon are requests for information from a customer supplied?

Why ask these questions? The answers reveal how much the owner and the employees need to learn and what they need to do improve the performance of the operation for the benefit of clients.

Ken Keller is president of Renaissance Executive Forums, helping top executives make better decisions through informed peer perspective, resulting in better top and bottom-line results. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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