29 posts categorized "Customer Experience"

November 14, 2012

A Guide to Running Process Improvement Workshops

I run a lot of workshops these days – I find that they are the most efficient way of getting to the heart of processes and improving them. I’ve seen people spend months doing depth interviews with staff only to have projects shut down before they’ve even get near to identifying improvements. That’s tragic and very avoidable. What can be accomplished in a well structured workshop can eliminate weeks or even months of unnecessary activity. Here’s how to get it right.

Before You Start

Don’t waste time planning too much. Against my will I was once made to write a 25 page document on how to run some workshops – it delayed the project by 3 months. Workshops aren’t complicated so don’t make them so. Create a spreadsheet with all your workshops, times, rooms booked and attendees. That’s all you need – don’t overbake the cake.

Pick your workshop room carefully. Find the biggest room with the longest walls – you’ll need them!

Identify all staff involved with the
It’s really important to get a cross section of staff that are involved end-to-end (that’s the customer experience of the process). You want staff that do the actual work – not managers or

Create a slide pack to guide you through the workshop. It will help you focus on the key stages and will avoid you missing anything and looking like a plumb.

Buy materials. You’ll need lots of 3M super stickies and a big roll of good quality brown paper, some blu-tak and some market pens. A whiteboard and whiteboard pens can also be handy.

Pick the right attendees. It may sound warm and fuzzy to ask the business who they want to attend but chances are they’ll send you people who aren’t busy rather than the staff you really want. What you want are people who know the process but who want to make things better.

Explain to staff what process you are looking at and what you want to achieve. It will make them feel more comfortable. Let them know they’ll be needed as early as possible.

Have a spreadsheet ready to capture the process details and a scribe there to capture them. Your job is to focus on facilitation not typing!

The Day Before

Set up the room by sticking up 3 sheets of brown paper as long as you can along the wall.

Set up chairs so that they all face the brown paper rather than behind desks. This helps to make the session less formal and more interactive. Ensure that your projector screen is set up in a manner which makes it easy for them to pivot around and see.

DO NOT put any processes up on the wall! This limits their thinking!

On the day

Set the scene by talking about the scope of the process. Identify what outcomes the process has (from a customer point of view).

Identify the current process. Give each person a pack of sticky notes and individually ask them to write down their own interpretation of the process (no collaboration!) Merge all the individual processes together to create one agreed end-to-end process.

Probe, ask questions, identify missing tasks until you are comfortable that everything has been identified. Check that nothing has been missed. Get the scribe to document all the steps in the process. Gather task timings so that you can calculate cost per process before and after.

Tear it to shreds – encourage them to question everything and to rework the process with the focus on eliminating activities. If it can’t be eliminated, improve it. Get the scribe to document all potential improvements in an action plan. Coax, cajole, prod, suggest – but never tell them what they should do.

Take plenty of breaks, have a laugh, give them plenty of sugar, make jokes, do a silly dance – push them beyond their current scope of thinking – for that way the land of process innovation



June 25, 2012

Download My Free eBook - The Best of The Process Ninja 2008-2012

I'm delighted to announce that I have created an eBook of my best blog posts from the past 4 years.

It's a handly little PDF (3.2Mb) that you can read anywhere.

Simply click here to enter a few short details and to download.

I hope you enjoy it.



February 23, 2012

The Importance of Process in Everything Businesses Do (Video)


This video on the PEX Network is the best video I've ever seen that encapsulates the importance of process.

It's a must watch.

Tell your friends, tell the world, the process revolution is here...


February 04, 2012

Putting the Super in Supermarket Processes

I was fortunate to be asked to contribute to an article in the Herald Sun late last year entitled "
Express too slow? Try the slow queue to speed things up"

I enjoy looking at retail processes but still surprised that Australia lags so far behind the rest of the world.



May 31, 2011

Linking Process, Procedures & Business Requirements to Successful Customer Outcomes - a Business Analyst Guide

"Go out to the business and gather their requirements!"

How many times do we hear this said? 

When I hear this being it immediately fills me with dread; images of men in suits wandering through dark forests without maps, looking for mushrooms...needles in haystacks and the like (you get the idea...)

What generally happens in these situations is that business analysts go away and do just that - gather requirements - what the business thinks they want. Typically what this results in is a giant rambling document written in a pseudo business / IT speak that the business say they can't read and the IT guys say isn't detailed enough for them to build from. So the BA goes away and creates a functional spec which the IT guys love, but by this point in time it has morphed so far from what the business want, they have a heart attack when they see the final product!

"That's not what we wanted!" they say!

"But that's what you told us!" say the BA's and IT guys!

It doesn't have to be this hard. Here's how you do it:

1. Define the successful customer outcome(s)

What is it that the customer really needs? What does the business need to do to meet those needs?

2. Define the process scope

Establish what the process actually is from the customer's perspective - current state (if a current state exists!). Don't take the business's word for it - their interpretation of what a process is may be radically different to yours. Document the process at a high level (e.g. SIPOC) - confirm with the business. Tick in box from business? 

3. Define the current process

Proceed to document the process at a task level. Don't waste too much time on the as-is if you are going to change the process! Photos of sticky notes on a wall is sufficient. Tick in box from business?

4. Improve the process / define new process

List all the tasks in the current process and eliminate or improve tasks focussing on the outcomes required. If a new process, sticky note the tasks required to achieve the outcomes required with the minimal amount of activities. Don't just consider "sunny day processes" where everything goes right - consider everything that can go wrong! Look at the paths from every business rule in your process! Consider all process permutations!

5. Link Process Tasks to Procedural Steps

For each task, create procedural steps - how and why each process step is done rather than what is done. This can be done very simply in a spreadsheet ( For example my Process Ninja Workbook that utilises the CEM Method). What's more, you can then spit it into a procedural document for your staff to use for training and day-to-day operational procedures.

6. Link Procedural Detail to Business Requirements

The procedural detail helps to create a granular level of detail that greatly benefits the creation of specific requirements.  It forces the analyst to think of all possible permutations and options - it forces them to think in the context of the real world, not a gobbledegook business requirements document.

7. Link Business requirements to test scenarios

Use procedural detail and business requirements together to develop test scenarios and use cases - IT can then use these for their unit testing then they can be re-used for user testing. Easy.

8. Build it. Iteratively.

Presuming that there is actually an IT solution involved (and let's face it, there usually is), it's best to adopt an iterative (agile) approach where there are short development cycles with high business involvement. I have seen too many waterfall development disasters in my time.

So in eight steps a Business or Process Analyst can create complete traceability from the customer outcomes to the delivery.

It's not really that hard, but isn't it amazing that so many people can make it seem that way?



May 25, 2011

Whitepaper: Customer Experience Management & Continuous Improvement Program

My buddy David Mottershead aka The Customer Experience Coach has written a short whitepaper entitled "Customer Experience Management & Continuous Improvement Program" 

For those of you looking for some further clarification on Customer Experience Management and the CEM Method, it's well worth a read.



May 16, 2011

Process Black Holes

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:

  1. The process becomes like a pass the parcel game where the passing never stops. It goes round and round passing the piece of work between multiple teams utilising company time and money until the customer gives up (and takes their business elsewhere) or...
  2. The process becomes like a magicians act - POOF! It's gone. Unresolved, uncontactable, unknown - except to your customers - who are building up into a frenzy of discontent. "They're USELESS!" you hear customers say - and they are right. My recent experience with AAMI is a classic example of this.

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?

  1. Understand where breakpoints exist (visibility of process)
  2. Eliminate or improve them (redesign functional teams, automate where possible)
  3. Align processes to the customer (eliminate unnecessary activities)
  4. Measure process failure - where are the pain points?
  5. Continually improve - track successes, cost savings and improvement for the customer

Listen to your customers. Listen to your employees. Close those black holes.



May 03, 2011

CEM Method - An Introduction to Customer Centric Process Design

I was recently asked to put together a 1 page document to provide a brief explanation of the CEM Method (Customer Experience Management Method).

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.



April 19, 2011

Manual Vs Automated Processes - Finding The Magic

A comment by Nimbus CEO Ian Gotts on my last blog "A Coffee Procedure" struck a chord with me:

"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:

  • Do I need to automate the task, or the links between the tasks?
  • Will automation negatively impact the customer outcome?
  • Should I be telling or guiding the user?

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.



April 14, 2011

Self Service Portals - How to Get it Right or How to Get it Wrong

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:

  • The company saves money by reducing reliance on staff
  • The customer feels more "in control"
  • The customer does not have to wait in queues

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:


There are also helpful links which will take me to some of the most common tasks.

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:

There is adrop-down which gives me four options:

  1. Move house (how often does anyone do this?)
  2. View my usage
  3. Change service ownership
  4. View my bills

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.