Category Archives: Service process

Bad Process. Bad Customer Service. Common Practice

Yesterday Bank of America put me through a very unpleasant but very common experience. Their ebanking center tried to pay my BofA card account out of a long-closed checking account. The payment was not made; they didn’t notify me of the problem; then I got a late notice and fee. Happens all too often – no big deal. But when I called to find out what happened and straighten things out, I reached a contact center just out of civilization’s reach. The agent tried persuading me I couldn’t enter my online account using the credentials I’ve used before, and I never could have. She was absolutely clueless. So I demanded a supervisor, got one, identified the problem, reversed the fee, etc., etc.

BofA’s problem is endemic. Companies hire raw, poorly trained front line agents who can’t resolve issues a high percentage of the time, either leaving customers angry or having to reroute them to a supervisor – and the companies believe they’re saving money. Any rudimentary process map showing frequencies and costs would blow their “belief” right out the window. Too bad Microsoft couldn’t patent this process, because then others wouldn’t be able to repeat it. But it’s like “monkey-see, monkey-do” out there (my apologies to any monkeys reading). Microsoft and other big call center players start this practice, and before long it’s standard fare.

Where are these companies’ brains? Guess I shouldn’t ask that in a PG blog.

Can Best Buy be Saved?


If Best Buy founder Richard Schulze and his team succeed in their planned hostile takeover (and take-private) of Best Buy, they face a daunting turnaround task. How do they fix this?

My wife’s computer crashed at a horrible time, and she needed to replace it immediately. Reflexively, she went off to Best Buy and returned with a new Dell. Before long, said computer started operating erratically, so back to Best Buy and the Goof Squad it went. And then…

1. Goofy sent it somewhere (Goof Squad central?) to be repaired

2. The repair shop took an extra day testing it after it was “ready”

3. Goofy local kept it for an extra day while he retested it

4. When my good wife picked it up, it wasn’t fixed (they claimed it was a software problem and not their responsibility); plus the microphone was no longer working

5. The thing continued running erratically

6. When the hard drive finally failed completely (see #4), we discovered ourselves we could send it back to Dell directly, despite Best Buy’s representation they provide the warranty service

Seriously, why would they want it back?

Confusing ISO with Process

Can companies with inefficient, even “broken” process successfully go through ISO-certification? Over the years, I’ve encountered a number that have, which answers the question for me. ISO certifies that quality standards are in place, but it’s a poor indicator of how high the standards are and whether they’re the best the company can do. ISO certification also fails to gauge whether process has been designed to optimize customer experience, despite including numerous customer-related standards.

Nevertheless, organizations frequently confuse the two. Any thoughts on why?

Best Buy – Too Much Space or Too Few Customers?

Best Buy just announced a plan to take out 50 stores, 400 HQ jobs and many thousands of store employees. They blame the need to scale down on overbuilding. I blame it on shabby treatment of customers that’s driven buyers out the doors.

Just several years ago many of us were singing the praises of Best Buy and CEO Richard Anderson for taking a customer-eye view of their business – including extensive staff training and upgrading retail floor talent. But then Anderson retired, they hired Brian Dunn as new CEO, and Dunn’s first pronouncements addressed profitability and efficiency, not customers. The writing was on the wall. Back to the old, company-centric business model – which today’s customers aren’t buying, just as they’re not buying Best Buy’s merchandise.

Sure enough, lots of formerly loyal customers, myself included, now use Best buy as a store of last resort. So they’re not lying about being overbuilt. But they aren’t fessing up to the true reason. And so they’ll double down on what they’re doing wrong and morph into “Worst Buy.” It was good shopping with you – while customer-centric thinking lasted.

Can Stressed Workers Put Customers First?

We all know from personal experience how this plays out on the customer front lines. You call Microsoft, Intuit, HP or whatever’s customer support and get someone speaking a barely intelligible version of your language (if you’re lucky). This person is obviously measured on call count, because he keeps pushing to end the call, problem resolved or not. I even had an HP call marked “successfully closed” or some such despite the “tech” unable to even identify my admittedly exotic monitor, never mind know how to rotate the screen 90 degrees back to normal.

But “behind the lines,” including at management levels, I see stress from excess workload, micromanagement enabled by micro-measurement and fear of losing a job keep internal concerns, including self-preservation, ascendant over customer concerns. Work is becoming more and more about pleasing the boss, which is often antithetical to pleasing customers. Our “pressure-cooker” corporate environments are not conducive to putting customers first.

Your thoughts?

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SOFTWARE ALERT: Avoid Microsoft Office 365 (at least for now)

Without the usual new product fanfare, Microsoft has unleashed Office 365 on the public. I suspect underplaying the launch points to Redmond wanting unsuspecting buyers to pay for their beta testing.

Don’t get me wrong. OS365 is a powerful concept for small business people who travel. All your apps in the cloud – but more importantly, you can keep all your files up there in your own, almost no cost SharePoint site. And Outlook can reside up there permanently, preserving the data history you lose when you travel without bulk transfer of Outlook data from desktop to laptop when you leave – and the reverse when you return. Of course, we can use LogMeIn or one of the many remote access tools. But they’re slow – and more importantly to me, they take a bite out of an already small laptop screen. Squint time.O365 would resolve all these issues. Easy traveling. If you could even load it. I got as far as trying to preserve my normal e-mail address while switching. Unfortunately, MS has designed a URL ownership verification system that requires adding some text to your URL record, whatever that is. As a “convenience,” to reach your URL registration manager you must use their utility which takes your URL and finds the registrant, often your ISP. But in my case, it popped up the wrong group. And when I finally found the list of values this utility works from, there wasn’t a single URL manager listed I’ve ever used in my relatively long history of business Internet presence. Plus, there’s no manual override.

To solve this and other problems I’ve already encountered, subscribers are supposed to access some magical O365 community that will provide all the help you’ll need. Unfortunately, I suspect this “community” is a ghost town. No one answers. Not even any acknowledgments of receiving your requests, the way the big boys do it.

Promising app? In theory, you betcha. But for now, looks like O365 will be yet another broken promise from Microsoft.

Are Service & Production Quality Two Sides of the Same Coin? (be careful how you answer)

I suspect most readers will instinctively answer, “No.” Production quality refers to meeting a normative standard with as little deviation as possible. Service quality means meeting customer needs and expectations, which are all over the lot. So they’re not only not two sides of the same coin. But they’re different currencies. They just don’t equate.

But here’s a catch, at least for process professionals. You can’t answer “No” yet still maintain we should use the same process design approaches to achieve both a fixed standard and a highly variable “non-standard” – at least not rationally. But too often traditionally trained production process people, anxious to move into the customer process world, fall into “Maslow’s trap.”

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, than all the world tends to look like a nail”


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It Took Five Techs Four Hours to Network Two Computers: Why does Microsoft allow this to happen, and are they paying a price for it?

My LAN connecting my XP laptop to my Windows 7 workstation was working perfectly. But I had to go mess it up by wiping clean my Laptop hard drive and installing Windows 7. My software all installed more or less smoothly, and I was ready to go – but I couldn’t network. Hey, I couldda crawled under my desktop on my hands and knees every time I left on a trip to plug in my flash drive and sneakernet files, but I’m getting old(er). I couldda used LogMeIn from my destination when I needed something, but Microsoft always does some upgrade or other that shuts down my workstation. LogMeIn goes, “knock, knock.” But no one’s home.

So I did the desperate thing and called MS. Five minutes and problem resolved, right? No, five techs, including two from their network SWAT team, and problem still not resolved. Until the last one, sweating hard, finally fixed it – four hours later. From a customer relations standpoint, total disaster. From a process efficiency standpoint, total disaster. Unusual? Maybe on the outer edge, but well within the range of what MS can (or can’t do).

So what’s the cost to MS – other than throwing away money on decreasingly less-than expensive labor? In terms of Windows and Office, I think none. At least not now. But whenever MS strays outside their monopoly markets, swat. Customers are going to slap them down. I don’t think it’s hurting them now other than wasting labor money. But where I believe it will kill them is doing anything outside of what they do now – and even stuff they currently do outside their bailiwick.

Customer-centricity is irrevocably changing IT. What other disciplines are being reshaped?

Used to be enterprise technology was designed for finance and/or manufacturing first – and all other functions, especially those directly affecting customer experience, as an afterthought. Still today finance and manufacturing technology needs are typically taken more seriously than other functions requirements. But that’s changing.

Increasingly, the business community is viewing technology’s first obligation as enabling and improving process.  When process design starts out at the customer end, rather than deep in the bowels of the company, technology must start there too. Otherwise, process and technology inevitably wind up misaligned. Plus, as it turns out, supporting finance in particular with technology is much less demanding than supporting customer-affecting work. So why would any systems architect let the less demanding functions dominate systems design and decisions? For example, we’re working now with a client that hired us to redesign process and then help select a new ERP system to support process. But they now realize that managing service operations is their major challenge, while they have tons of accounting and finance options. So we’ll design around the application layer.

This customer-driven turn of events turns systems architecture and IT overall on their respective ears. But we would do well to step back and look at other functions to anticipate customer primacy turning them outside-in as well. Your observations?

Between Customer-Centric Business Process & Change Management, Which is the Cart & Which is the Horse?

No doubt about it, customer-centric process design creates work that’s not supported by existing organizational structures. Should organizational design take the lead and define a customer-friendly organizational structure process can work within – or should process design the work first, with organizational design following?

With your answer, you’re changing, perhaps radically changing, organizational outcomes in sales, marketing and customer service. If organizational design goes first, you’re highly likely to wind up organizing around traditional role definitions, although perhaps with some modification. If you let process go first – and process redesign happens from the customer in – you’re much more likely to need significant restructuring to fully enable new work.

To tack on another question, should there be a default choice, barring extenuating circumstances, or is the answer so context-sensitive that each situation bears individual scrutiny.

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