In the Trenches: Minimizing Mistakes

I hate making mistakes. Yet I realize that they’re bound to happen, despite our best efforts to get everything right. So, as Cranky Concierge continues to grow, I need to figure out a way to cut down on errors — albeit not for the reasons you may think.

You might assume that we want to avoid mistakes because of how they affect our rapport with clients, but that’s not really it. I’d say that more than 90 percent of the errors we commit are easily correctable. For example, perhaps the name on a ticket is wrong, or our system wasn’t updated to reflect a flight schedule change. Whenever something like this happens, and it does on occasion, we can fix the problem at no cost to the client or to us. Or, I should say, at no monetary cost.

You see, the problem with mistakes is that they take time to fix — time that we really don’t have to spare. If a name is spelled incorrectly, we may have to call the airline, wait on hold, and hope the matter gets resolved relatively quickly. If we have the wrong client contact information for our flight monitoring service, someone needs to research the right details so that we’re able to get the information to them when they need it. The end result is always that our clients get what they pay for, but we spend a lot of more time delivering on our promises than is necessary. That’s a waste of our resources. We could spend that time assisting other clients or developing new business.

The last time we had an outbreak of mistakes, I established some double-checking procedures to make sure we caught errors before they became problematic. That strategy worked wonders, but it also took us longer to complete tasks.  Still, we don’t have a better option right now. We just have to do it. We just don’t have the bandwidth to devote so much extra time to double-checking every detail.

I’m thinking that the next step here is to incorporate technology. I need to find a way to automate some of our processes, but that endeavor seems time-consuming in itself, and some of the systems we use are hard to develop around.

However, I’m guessing that, unless we create means to keep ourselves in check, errors will become more frequent — and thus a bigger problem — as we continue to grow. So, I’m open to suggestions. What are your thoughts?

About Brett Snyder

Brett is the Founder and President of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. He also writes the consumer air travel blog, The Cranky Flier.
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That's a wide-open question you've got there.  It is always the case that preventing errors takes some sort of effort, and one has to consider the right balance between time taken to prevent errors, versus time taken to correct them after the fact.

As a simple example that everyone has to deal with, consider file saving:  suppose you are creating a huge Excel document that takes a full 60 seconds to save each time you press "Save".  How often should you press the Save button?  Does it matter how flaky your machine is?  If your machine is VERY flaky, how often do you quit out of Excel and copy your backup file to Dropbox or another offline server?

I can't answer these questions for you with specifics as long as we're only dealing in the abstract, but you get the idea.  Perhaps you could purchase a custom-designed database system that costs you $10,000 to develop and takes your employees a few hours to learn to use, and then a few extra seconds each time they enter a piece of data -- but if it saves you sufficient time down the road, maybe it would be just what you are looking for (if so, I'd love to build it for you).

And perhaps instead it's just a matter of hiring more careful employees.  I don't know what sorts of mistakes you're talking about.  Anyone can mis-enter someone's name, but WHY is it happening?  Maybe rather than a new piece of technology, you need an organizational or efficiency expert to examine your business practices.


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