Tag Archives: business 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.

Why Don’t Companies Base Head Count on Meeting Customer Requirements?

 

I just read two news articles this morning of the type that make me gnash my teeth and shake my head. Both involved Fortune companies planned to cut staff by the thousands based on bad financial results. Say what? To these companies, I ask, “Why were you carrying so much excess staff you could do without?”

Most service companies carry double-digit percentage excess staff. Likewise for product companies in their back and front office settings. How do I know? Process redesign, streamlining in particular, plays a primary role in helping clients meet and exceed customer requirements. And we constantly find excess staffing over-distributing decision-making authority, leading to employee disempowerment and creating excess bureaucracy, both of which drive customers nuts. Today’s customers want to deal with well-trained, empowered employees and as few of them as possible – and on the web an increasing percentage wants to research and order commodity goods without any personal contact.

So how does head count typically change after streamlining? By a negative 15% to 20%, in our experience. But rather than streamlining, most organizations throw people at problems, and the more they add the less efficient and effective work becomes. So instead of streamlining to create a win-win for both company and customers, they create lose-lose by overstaffing.

Why do they do this?

How Much Does Corporate Design Fight Customer-Centricity?

Historically, virtually all corporate entities have been designed from production/service delivery out (inside-out). And a few unlucky companies have been designed from accounting out (upside-down).  In either case, when companies try to redesign strategy and process from the customer in (outside-in), they run smack up against their organizational structures.

Inside-out and upside-down companies are aligned and managed around functions. Customer-centric (outside-in) companies are aligned and managed around customers. Unfortunately for customer-centricity, companies can’t get from A to B by throwing a switch. The journey is rough and risky, which is a core reason why most customer-centric companies either started that way or transitioned before they were fully formed.

Based on my experience, the alignment change issue stops more companies in their path to customer-centricity than even lack of executive leadership. Do you agree?

If you’d like to do a deeper dive on this topic here’s a new white paper (parts of which will be folded into the book).

http://www.h-ym.com/articles/Alignment.pdf

Book Research

Before asking leading questions (and using your answers), I should share that I’ve started a new book exploring the inherent conflict of interest between buyers and sellers and how it should influence customer-centricity and CEM. The working title is “I am Buyer. You Are Seller. That’s the Problem,” and I plan to solicit input using Linkedin, CustomerThink and my blog. If I want to quote someone directly, I’ll ask first.

First leading question: Is designing customer strategies and enabling process to suit “average” customers (customer models) consistent with customer-centricity and CEM – or should sellers be designing “process-on-demand” (term from my Linkedin colleague, Bob Starinsky) that accommodates each customer individually?

Are We Witnessing the “Half-Life” of Customer-Centricity?

The optimist in me says, “Probably not.” The realist in me suspects we are, for several reasons.

-Customers were initially grateful that many companies appeared to be searching for comity. However, buyers now appear to be moving through this phase, which I call “play nice.” Now they’re seeing through the many insincere seller efforts to look and sound more customer-centric and becoming more cynical and mistrustful of sellers than ever. Hence, an increasing percentage is no longer “playing nice.”
-Influenced not only by transacting business over the web but by not seeing the “what’s in it for them” from forming relationships with sellers, many buyers are trying to minimize contact with sellers, preferring efficiency over spending time interacting with sellers.
-The more latitude sellers give buyers to “have it their way,” the more idiosyncratic customer behavior becomes – to the point where finding common approaches to satisfying varied customer preferences is becoming very difficult. “Process-on-demand” (term coined by my colleague Bob Starinsky) is beginning to replace customer best practices.

I’ve gone into much more detail in a new white paper, titled, “After Customer-Centricity Comes…?” http://tinyurl.com/9huk63k

 

Please know in advance that I’ve “trampled over” a number of customer-centricity’s sacred cows, and even more of marketing’s. But please don’t shoot the messenger :-).

Layoffs – Where’s the Learning Curve?

One touchy subject inevitably arises when we design customer-centric process. And I hate to see it happen.

Redesigning process from the customer inwards produces an ancillary “benefit,” which to many execs becomes their short-term ROI justification. While new process designs are adding new value to customers, they’re also streamlining the organization, which can dramatically reduce front and back office FTE requirements, raising the specter of layoffs.

While we always consul clients to first consider using temporary functionless staff for special projects, then reabsorbing them to create “no hire growth,” some layoffs inevitably occur. One of our clients, post process redesign, eliminated 600 front office positions, and our process reworking contributed to the eventual closing of multiple plants. Worse yet, overall demand in their industry was declining, leading to very slow growth.

Two things really bug me about this situation. First, too many companies practice “boom or bust” staffing. They lurch from overstaff to understaffing, because they don’t have a clue how to avoid either excess. Second, necessary layoffs often cut people but not their functions or positions. Process streamlining should reduce functions and positions and does not target specific workers. And in neither case are they learning anything from experience. They just keep repeating their destructive practices.

Not a pleasant topic at all, but I just read an excellent post an excellent post by Ron Ashkenas (co-author of “The GE Workout”) that spot on addresses both things that bug me. If the subject’s relevant, I strongly suggest reading it (link below).

http://tinyurl.com/c329on8

Do Buyers Owe Sellers Anything?


How many times in your career have you heard, “Hey, we’re doing blah blah blah for customers. Can’t they cut us some slack? They can if they choose, but most customers choose not to show any consideration to sellers. After all, precious few sellers have shown any consideration for them.

So what’s all the babbling about buyer-seller “relationships?” How often do emotions overcome economics and convenience when buyers choose sellers? Rarely, I maintain. Steely-eyed customers evaluate every transaction, subconsciously at least, on all but the simplest exchanges of value. And no matter how many times a seller has done it right, supposedly building up a relationship, don’t screw it up this time seller or you’re toast.

Besides, customers don’t go out on dates. They’re too wary of seller motives.

So let’s pack up all the customer relationship fuzzies into a large trunk and sink it. The whole point for sellers today is doing everything right every time – and don’t depend on past performance to pull you through. Sellers need to keep their steely eyes on performance and be as intolerant of miscues as buyers are.

Any differing opinions?

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?

Squishing a Round Process Foot into a Square Technology Boot…Not!

While I don’t want to sound like a process guy forever ragging on software companies, here we go again. After completing an enterprise process redesign; identifying explicit technology enablement requirements; conducting a search to find the best application fit (we will have to integrate two systems), we selected Company X, which assured us they would tailor their implementation to what we’ve already done and where we are.

Baloney (or is it bologna). Sales transitions the job over to the implementation team, and then we receive a cookie-cutter implementation plan that starts with (get this) 4 days of meetings with me and my client’s management team to redesign our process to suit the software. Wow! Breathtaking arrogance! Then we meet resistance when we ask for a “sandbox” so client managers and I (haven’t implemented this one before) can start identifying what functionality we’ll use and what we’ll hide – plus familiarize ourselves with the interface and start pulling together the data they’ll need to configure the system our way. Hey, why do we need that. They’ll show us how we’ll use their system, after they straighten out our process.

They’re now starting to catch on, but it’s truly hard for them to comprehend how our process, designed before we met them, should drive their technology. Foreign concept, totally. Sometimes I have to pinch myself and remember we’re still living in the past. Before customers started taking over buyer-seller relationships. And before we realized process has to drive technology, not the other way round.

 

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Can an Organization Shift from Company-Centric to Customer-Centric Without Redesigning Process?

Rephrasing the question, how far will customer-centric attitude and desire to help customers take an organization?

In my mind, not very far. Yes, process is my practice focal point, but I don’t believe I’m being biased. After every customer relationship audit, I come up with change recommendations that can be categorized as: “behavioral;” “process-based;” “process plus technology” based. The latter two categories almost always dominate the list.

What do you think?

Please click through to our site for more about building customer-centric organizations.