The Real Reason Why Increasing Productivity in Professional Services is Such a Challenge

Nowadays, everyone is all about trying to optimize their productivity. In an increasingly fast-paced business world, you can’t afford not to do everything you can to be as productive as possible.

Unfortunately, this is far easier said than done, and it’s a lot hard for some than others – for example, in the service industry. Here’s why.

1. Professional services tend to be labor intensive.

While there’s certainly plenty of aspects besides labor, it’s definitely the crux of professional services – and this makes it pretty difficult to optimize. Unlike trimming excess organizational bloat, or improving communication systems, improving the productivity of labor itself can be an abstract task.

2. Increasing quantity can come at the cost of quality.

It’s especially tricky when you realize that quality and quantity are too often at opposite ends – and this can be disastrous for services. It’s a mistake to think that having more clients necessarily means you’re more productive if it means that the quality of your work is dipping. Service is all about customer experience, and if you’re not giving a good customer experience, they’ll probably be a one-time client.

3. It’s difficult to measure service productivity in a meaningful way

Take, for example, two salesman. One of them services only one customer in the time the other services five. It’s pretty easy to say that the first salesman is unproductive compared to the other – but what if that one customer spent $200 dollars while the five only spent $20 a piece?

What metric do you use to judge productivity in this case? It’s even harder to decide when you account for the many variables in service. Say the second salesman did make more money in sales than the first – but what if that one customer was so flattered by the attention he got that he’ll return tomorrow, while the five others felt they were rushed and won’t return again?

This just shows that services is too nuanced to make sweeping statements on what is and isn’t productive. So what can you do to improve productivity if you can’t apply hard and fast rules and practices?

It’s simple – talk it out. Communication is key in services, so once you stop thinking of productivity as a numbers game and embrace its unique, abstract nature, it becomes far easier to become more productive. Talk with your employees and coworkers on what could make the job easier. Get customer feedback on what they think would make your service better. Productivity is more than just trimming fat – it’s seasoning and cooking to perfection.

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