Just Enough Process Please

Ian Gotts

As consumers we are getting far more sensitive to inconsistency of customer service. We easily spot a process that is not joined up. Particularly when different departments or even different companies are responsible for the end to end process.

If you want to experience it at its worst, try subscribing to a a new TV, internet and phone package and throw in the fact that it is a new house with no existing phone line. Our experience with Britain's leading supplier was that it took 12 weeks and 15 visits. In fact whenever I talk about poor customer service this particluar company is normally the first company mentioned. But they rely on second party for the ‘last mile’ for the phone and internet. And that second party is probably the second company mentioned for awful customer service.

In fact my TV experience highlights SO MANY issues with customer service it will get its own article a little later. But for now I want to focus on the question "How much process is required for good customer service?"

Many of you process professionals would say – "As much as possible." Think through every situation, get it clearly documented, rolled-out so that every customer service agent can access it quickly and easily. That will drive up compliance, customer service consistency, reduce errors, enable lower cost staff, and ultimately drive up customer satisfaction.

But there is a disadvantage with this approach. It is impossible to anticipate every circumstance, unless you have a very simple business. By process mapping the vast majority of situations (user cases) and then dumbing down your support staff you do not have the intellectual horsepower to be able to handle the non-standard situations. And there are many of these.

Combine this with regulatory compliance or customer security requirements and you get into some fairly ridiculous situations. Comedian Andy Parsons describes one such situation on a recent episode of the Now Show. You can listen to the file here but make sure that you are somewhere you can laugh out loud.

In truth most companies have too little process, not too much. You only have to navigate through the automated call routing system to realize that it was never planned or tested thinking about how it was going to be used.

I promised that every column would have an actionable item. This column implores you to think about the balance of clearly defined process and the experience and autonomy of customer support staff. If in doubt err on the side of MORE process and MORE senior people.

Do the processes in your company need updating, or is it time to implement some new ones? Effective business process management is key for any company especially in the current economic climate. Join us with Will Barrett: Senior Operations OfficerBank, of Tennessee in PEX network’s upcoming free online BPM open house event to find out how to fix, update and implement BPM.