Lessons from a customer experience transformation

We’ve all been the recipient of poor customer service. Maybe we can’t get the information or we require in one phone call to an organization – instead it takes multiple phone calls and growing frustration. Maybe we get different information every time we interact with an organization. Maybe it takes an unacceptably long time to get something done or get something approved that we need.

Usually that poor service actually has nothing to do with the individual attitude or effort of the person delivering it to us. Instead, we’re been the victim of poor processes.

The person that you’re dealing with might not have the right information to do their job properly; it’s kept silo’ed in different IT systems or spread out in both digital and paper forms. Different departments might operate differently because they’re run as separate business units and nobody has thought about what it would be like for a customer interacting with both departments. Or a process might be particularly inefficient because "that’s just the way things work around here" and nobody’s bothered to question whether there might be a better way.

Sound familiar?

But that appears to be changing.

A PEX Network survey undertaken earlier this year with approximately 60 senior and C-level business executives found that over 60% view "ensuring customer focus throughout the organization" as one of their top three priorities over the course of the next year (see chart below). Meanwhile, nearly 40% of business executives view process excellence as a way of improving customer satisfaction. (See full report: Trends and Success Factors in Business Process Excellence 2014).

Survey of C-Level Executives: What are your top 3 priorities in the year ahead? PEX Network survey, July/August 2013 (Click to enlarge)

In highly competitive industries, especially ones where a product or service has become highly commoditized there are two main ways that companies can compete: cost and customer experience.

In telecommunications, for instance, there used to be greater variability in the network service of each provider. Customers might choose one provider over another because of a preferred geographical coverage. However, in today’s market those differences have been largely erased and customers can get largely the same service from every provider. This leaves telecommunications providers to battle it out on the basis of price or customer experience.

And do you really want customers that are only shopping around for the best price? The belief that customers are only interested in price can inspire a race to the bottom.

Companies like Apple are a good counterpoint. They have inspired such fervent devotion among its customers that not only are they willing to pay higher prices for its products, but they’ll even submit to inconveniences such as queuing outside stores for the latest release of an "i-related" gizmo.

Financial services is another example of an industry where the product and services have become largely commoditized and many financial services institutions appear to be investing in improving the customer experience.

During PEX Network’s BPM Open House online event, OpenText’s Michelle Dufty shared how PSCU, one of the largest credit union services organizations in the United States, transformed their customer experience through better processes and the application of technology.

The organization, which provides traditional and online financial services to over 680 credit unions, had a very manual and paper-based process for handling service requests from credit unions. This meant that it was very difficult to track the overall process and also keep the individual process steps progressing. Service delivery suffered as a result.

The company implement OpenText’s Assure platform, a solution that handles request management, incident management and case management. In the first phase of the project, the roll out focused on creating a single platform for Credit union’s to log on and submit requests and for PSCU staff to respond to those requests.

It sounds quite simple, but the result was nearly a 100% increase in customer satisfaction and through put and nearly $300K in savings of paper and ink alone.

Michelle Dufty shared some of the key lessons learned from the deployment. Here are four of the best:

#1: Engage the business early on

This holds true for any process improvement initiative. The people who are closest to the process and the customer are the ones who will have the best idea about the problems and possible solutions. Solicit their ideas and feedback early on and continuously throughout the process and technology change initiative. On-going communication is critical to the success of the initiative. It might take longer up front to engage the business in coming up with solutions but it will help in ensuring the changes are adopted and sustained once the changes are put in place.

#2: Build the right team

The team should ideally be composed of people with complementary skillsets and have involvement from the business, process and IT.

#3: Develop a BPM Roadmap

Rome wasn’t built in a day. You’d be insane to try and tackle everything all at once but you also don’t want to have a BPM program that just "sorta happens." Go for the quick wins early on but have a clear idea of the bigger picture and where you’ll want to go next.

#4: Plan to re-plan: Be flexible

As you get into your deployment, things will happen. You might identify new opportunities that you hadn’t seen at the beginning. Don’t be so locked into your plans that you can’t take advantage of these new opportunities. As the British economist John Maynard Keynes is cited as saying: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"

Interested in hearing more case studies and finding out more about what BPM technology can do for your organization? Case studies and demonstrations continue today at PEX Network’s BPM Open House. Log in online from 11 am Eastern to watch these free presentations designed to give you new ideas on what some of the latest BPM technologies can do for you.