For those of you looking for some further clarification on Customer Experience Management and the CEM Method, it's well worth a read.
For those of you looking for some further clarification on Customer Experience Management and the CEM Method, it's well worth a read.
We've all experienced them. Customers loathe them. Companies don't realise they exist. They suck good sentiment out of your customers and suck money out of your company coffers. I call them "Process Black Holes".
Process black holes are where a process blackspot occurs where one of two things happens:
Process black holes exist because companies don't understand their processes, don't have visibility and dare I say it "management" of their processes. They are more prevalent in organisations where there are processes that cross more functions (hence more breakpoints) - more opportunities for the process to fail.
So what can we do to rid our organisations of Process Black Holes?
Listen to your customers. Listen to your employees. Close those black holes.
This is my attempt at it - I hope it provides a handly intro for those of us out there trying to provide some clarity on what the CEM Method does and why it's different.
"Great looking coffee. So you have described a process. One you want repeated accurately, one that would benefit from certain steps have photos or videos, but one you cannot automate.
That is why Nimbus Control exists. 80% of corporate processes are like this.
So to those who say BPM=automation, now I'd say its time to wake and smell the coffee"
In our rush to automate business process its sometimes easy to forget that work revolves around those funny things called "people". There seems to be a tendency to make the assumption that almost anything can be automated - but it can't. If we look at the complexity of everyday work and the decision making involved (never minding the social interaction glue that makes the business world revolve), automation is just a small part of making process work.
I believe that good process automates where possible as long as there is no negative impact to the customer experience. To me, process is the mechanism that links tasks together - it then guides the worker to complete the tasks in the best manner possible.
Process isn't all about software, it's about putting practices in place that enable the outcomes we want for our customers. Think about the millions of small businesses that do not have the luxury of software tools - they can still benefit from robust processes and procedures (I know because my cafe did!)
So when you become consumed by your quest to automate every process and every task you see, stop for a moment and consider:
There is a happy medium between manual and automated tasks in every business, and if you get that balance right that's when the magic starts to happen.
Maybe I'm just weird, or maybe it's my age, or maybe it's because I'm a man, but if there is the option of avoiding human interaction with a customer service person I will take that option every time.
It's more than likely due to my lack of patience with badly design IVR systems that send me around in loops then put me through to a queue which keeps me on hold for 20 minutes or my lack of faith in company contact forms and email addresses which disappear into black holes. But give me a self service customer portal and I'll be as happy as Larry - if it's done right.
Self service is all the rage - who would have thought 30 years ago we'd be checking into airlines ourselves? 50 years ago no-one thought we'd be pumping our own petrol! But today we are "outsourcing to the customer" whatever we can - and it makes sense:
Of course the company foots the bill for the development of the customer portal, but if done right customer portals can be a huge money saver whilst simultaneously improving the customer's experience (the moment of truth). But on the flip-side, if done badly, customer portals can generate more harm than good, generating increased calls from angry customers and damaging the company's image.
Here's a couple of examples of good and bad customer portals:
The Good - Alphera
Alphera is the finance arm of BMW so you'd expect that their portal would be as good as their cars - and it is! Here's why:
Easy login with well designed screen:
Upon login there is a well designed screen with everything in one place. From here I can press on any of the large buttons to access the information I require:
What sets the Alphera website above others is the ability to update information i.e. rather than being a static portal. I can update my personal details, bank details and set up payment reminders. I have access to every piece of information I require and if my details change there is no need to contact the company by any other means. I have total control.
On the contrary, let's have a look at what I call the "lipstick on the pig portal" - the kind of half-baked portal the world can do wiothout:
The Bad - Optus
After I login I see a screen with my different services:
Numbers 1&3 direct me to download a form that I need to complete and post - hardly an online portal!
Number 2 links to another screen where I have to look at services individually (not in one). I click on my broadband service and I get a blank page with an error message. Lovely.
So what can I do? I can view my bills in PDF format and I can view usage on one of my services. View being the operative word: I can't update anything, can't change or cancel my service or buy any additional services. In short I have a limited, static service - lipstick on the pig. My only option if I want to do anything requiring some form of update is to call that hideous IVR and sit in a queue for 20 minutes (because I know Optus don't respond to emails or contact forms!) And at the end of my contract...I take my business elsewhere...
With customer portals we have a huge opportunity to improve the customer experience and to save money - they can even be revenue producing if done properly. But if you don't take the time (and let's be honest, money) required to get it right you may as well not bother.
When I was a student one of my favourite pastimes was browsing through CD shops. I would spend many a spare hour doing so. Fast forward 15 years and CD shops are now almost complete a relic of a former age. But despite the fact that they're gone I don't miss them at all.
I now buy all my music via itunes and I can sit in the comfort of my own home, browsing my ipad, listening to samples of the music then purchasing and downloading the music instantly. The outcome of the process essentially remains the same over 15 years - buy music. But the process itself has become simpler, faster and more enjoyable. Technology has acted as an enabler, but this also required some customer centric thinking to get the mix right.
Soon we'll see the demise of bookshops (iPads and kindles will take care of that), Retail & Rental DVD shops (itunes and netflix will cream that) as well as post offices (dwindling postage numbers & prepaid options will kill them). And I won't miss those either. Sure we might all end up couch potatoes that don't have any need to move, but it will also free up all that wasted time traveling to retail stores so that we can do some exercise!
So what are the lessons from a process point of view?
The outcome may remain the same, but if we focus on the customer experience of the process, the customer gets what they really need, not what we think they want - or as Henry Ford once put it...
"If I'd asked people what they wanted they'd have said a faster horse".
As many of you will know I am a big fan of the CEM Method - a structured methodology used to take an outside-in (customer centric) approach to process improvement. It's not the only methodology that I use, however; I use parts of Lean and Six Sigma where I feel they are appropriate and practical. In short I am passionate about CEM Method, but I'm not locked in to it as a method.
Over the past year I have witnessed horrendous, childish bunfights between the CEM Method brigade and the BP Trends contributors - this discussion is a classic example. Yes, I started the fight, I will take credit (or debit) for that, but my point of the discussion was to understand why BP Trends had a closed door policy on outside-in thinking and methods. The door is still closed it appears, and after the review of Harvard Professor Ranjay Gulati's book on Outside-in that door doesn't look like being opened any time soon. I find it ironic that as catalysts for change, some process people find it so difficult to adapt to new ways of thinking and of new methods.
But there IS a problem with outside-in and the CEM Method. It's a closed shop. Rather, it's a shop you can come into, but you'll have to pay. You will find no textbooks explaining the CEM Method. You will find plenty of books talking about outside-in and customer centricity - but as for the method, sorry you can enter the club sir, but you must be a member.
Therein lies the problem. Whilst the BP Group appear to be growing in numbers at a large rate, and consequently the number of "Certified Process Professionals" is also increasing, CEM Method remains a largely unknown commodity. In short, its credibility as a tool in the marketplace is lacking - not because of a lack of results, but simply because it is not well known. As a result of this closed shop there is also a lack of credible analysis of achievements (here I am talking Gartner or Forrester).
So where does this leave the "Certified Process Professionals" and "Certified Process Masters?" In short, frustrated. Frustrated that when we speak to clients they have never heard of the terms or the methods. Frustrated that they can't pick up a book and learn about it. Frustrated that there is no alternative to learning it other than paying thousands of dollars for a course.
Now is the time for the CEM Method to become truely outside-in - and become an open method, available to all.
I recently had a run of bad luck. Not only did I lose my iPod, I dropped my digital camera and broke the lense. Luckily I'm with AAMI Insurance, and luckily I chose to take out their personal valuables cover. This allowed me to claim both items on my insurance.
What followed is a tale of process that will astound you!
I checked online to see if I could lodge an online claim - no such luck. Although AAMI has an online policy manager, there is no portal to submit an online claim. So I call AAMI and I am promptly put through to the claims section. The friendly lady takes the details of my claims. Note the plural - claims. She then advises me that my two claims will be handled by two separate case managers and provides me with their contact details.
Wait a minute - two claims managers - why?
The friendly lady explains that as one is a loss and the other is a damage claim they are under two different policies and this must be handled by two different departments and hence two different claims managers. I bite my tongue. She then asks me to forward proof of purchase for the ipod to one claim manager (via email) and to obtain a quote for repair for the camera claim and send this quote (via e-mail) to the other claim manager. I informed them that it may be a few weeks until I was able to obtain the quote for repair.
A couple of days later I e-mailed the purchase receipt for the ipod to the e-mail address provided and put the camera into the repair shop to obtain a quote for repair. Unfortunately they advised that this would take around 3 weeks.
On the 2nd of August I e-mailed the proof of purchase of my ipod to AAMI for processing of my claim.
About two weeks later I received 2 voicemails on my mobile asking me to call AAMI, then a couple of days later two letters through the post. Strange given that I had sent the details via e-mail and also had advised of the delay in receiving the quote for repair.
On the 3rd of September I received the quote for repair and e-mailed it through to the other claims manager. I heard nothing so on the 16th of September (6 weeks after my initial contact) I called AAMI to ask what was going on.
"We're waiting on your information Mr Reid" said the confused lady.
"But I sent it several weeks ago to the e-mail you provided" I said
"Oh because we are a phone based business we rely on you to call us up to tell us that you've sent the e-mail so we can check for it" said the lady, matter-of-factly.
At this point my head was filled with images of the 1950's - the last time any business on this planet was "phone based". At this point I also went on an irate diatribe about the benefits of process and basic workflow systems to which she replied impotently
"I'm very sorry Mr Reid but I can see your e-mail now, I'll just process that repair and we will send you the money".
"Can't you just refund it to the credit card you have on file for me or just process it as a credit on my account?" I said.
"No sorry Mr Reid we have to refund it as cash - can I have your bank details and that will be processed in 5-7 working days..."
So I did, but what about my other claim?
"Oh I'll just transfer you to the other account manager Mr Reid..." said she.
"But can't you just refund that along with the transaction you are about to process?" I said in amazement.
"No Mr Reid, I'm sorry but that's a different type of claim handled by a different area - I have to transfer you to your claim manager". And so she did.
"Hello this is AAMI, how can I help you?"
Cue repeat of previous long winded story. Needless to say she also was a convert to the new revolution in phone based businesses and had also chosen to ignore my e-mail until I called in an irate condition.
"I will process that for you now Mr Reid and someone from the store you bought it from will be contacting you within 5-7 working days" she said.
"What? Can't I just have a cash refund like the other claim I just made?" I spluttered.
"No I'm sorry Mr Reid, this is a different type of claim and we aren't allowed to provide you with cash - it has to be in the form of a voucher for the store you bought it from".
Eventually I was called by the store, was posted a voucher and the rest is history, but think of the pain involved for both sides:
Take the time and cost of two almost identical processes and the manual effort required and multiply this by the thousands of claims processed in a year and you quickly see millions of dollars going down the drain.
But here's how to fix it:
It's really not that hard or that complicated, but some people really have a talent for making it seem that way.
P.S. This is my last post until early 2011 - thanks for listening to me in 2010 and I wish you and your families a fat and happy Christmas and new year (I know mine will be)!!!
Fellow BPM blogger Adam Deane has just posted two articles on his blog discussing outside-in. Whilst I appreciate Adam's attempts to share new knowledge and keep an open mind to new ideas (something that the BP Trends process academic brigade could learn from him) there are some fallacies in his post that need some serious debunking.
Whilst I agree that outside-in is a philosophy, it is more than that and I understand Adam's frustration in not being able to get a hold of "a methodology". The simple fact of the matter is that there are methodologies to outside-in approaches. Most notably the CEM Method. However the CEM method is not entirely open - you have to attend a course to learn it rather than pick up a book and teach yourself - however I believe that this will change over time.
The other myth that needs to be debunked is that outside-in is about improving customer service. Whilst I'm not saying that in certain situations it can't improve customer service, the focus is on successful customer outcomes - delivering what customers really need.
The example that keeps being discussed is that of outside-in organisation Ryanair. Ryanair are regularly pounded in the UK media for their approach to customer service e.g. For recently attempting to charge customers to use toilets. Saying that, Ryanair remain remarkably successful - why is that? Ryanair look at the customer experience and they understand what their customer really needs - and very importantly, what type of customer they actually want flying in their planes - working class man with two kids who likes to drink and gamble. As such Ryanair makes a substantial amount of their revenue by selling booze and by supplying gambling facilities on planes. These revenue streams offset the price of airfares to give others a cheap means of flying. Did you ever imagine that you would receive a flight for free? Well that may happen if airlines such as Ryanair can make enough revenue from other parts of the customer experience.
Adam goes on to say:
"Not all of the organisation’s business processes are customer related. Some are internal processes, some are required by law, and some are interactions with internal systems".
I found this statement to be astonishing. So if an organisation lost all it's customers would those purely internal or "system" processes continue to function? - of course not! A classic example is the employee payroll process. Does it touch the customer? If you think inside-out you'd say no. But the fact of the matter is that the reason that the payroll process is in place is so employees get paid - if they don't get paid they won't work as they'll leave to go elsewhere, and without employees their roles can't be performed and the company cannot function, and if the company cannot function, it cannot serve it's customers with products or services.
If you want to destroy any credibility that you have as a process professional, just keep saying that there are processes that exist in organisations that are not customer related - because it's complete and utter nonsense. I do have to agree, though with Adam's comment regarding regulatory processes - to an extent. Sometimes organizations have to meet regulatory requirements, but I'd also add that these regulatory requirements are often in place to protect customers. With greater customer centricity organizations would be better placed to "do the right thing" and avoid the regulatory overlords - but I do admit that it is something where outside-in is somewhat restricted.
If you are ever in doubt as to why a particular process exists in your organization I'd recommend that you listen to the wise words of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who once said:
"A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so."
I rest my case.
Sometimes it's really hard to be a process guy. Sometimes the doubters and the non-believers get to you. Sometimes it all seems too hard. Then, just when you are about to lose hope, along comes a video like this one to remind you why you love process so much and what it really can achieve...
Craig Reid is known throughout the business world as "The Process Ninja". He is a passionate advocate of business process management.