July 17, 2013

Free Whitepaper: How To Build a Compelling Case for Business Process Improvement

Often, the hardest part of bringing business process improvement (BPI) to life in an organization is in building a compelling case to get the initiative up and running.

In this paper I provide a structured approach to building a compelling case for business process improvement (BPI) that will get staff at all levels of the organization involved and motivated to make the change a success.

It is intended to be used as a practical guide for Process Analysts, Change Managers and Business Architects to get buy-in to a programme of organizational change.

In summary the whitepaper details:

  • Why you need a compelling case
  • A nine step pathway to ensuring business process improvement initiatives obtain the necessary commitment to ensure success.

Please click here to download.



July 01, 2013

Free Whitepaper: Business Process & The Customer Experience - A Quick Start Guide


My latest whitepaper is available for download from the Orbus website.

In this white paper, I introduce the fundamentals of how business process and the customer experience work together. It is intended as a practical guide for Business Analysts or managers to quickly understand the concepts of customer experience management, and how to improve business processes using ‘outside-in’ thinking.

The paper considers the difference between the customer experience and the process, why a customer experience approach is critical and how to improve the Customer Experience Management using the Customer Experience Management (CEM) Method.

Click here to download (registration required).



May 30, 2013

Improving The Customer Experience - A Chat With Gartner's Ed Thompson

Ed Thompson

I had the luck of getting a 1 hour one on one with Ed Thompson  at the Gartner BPM Summit in Sydney. Ed works for Gartner and is a world expert in Customer Experience.

I spoke to him about what I do, my passion for customer experience and what I try to do for my clients. In return I received some great tips on improving the customer experience.

Here are my notes from the session:

Customer Satisfaction Measurement

Most companies are moving away from long CSAT surveys and are typically using NPS (Net Promoter score) - . However the latest trend is to use Customer Effort Score (CES) – which measures the amount of effort a customer has to put into a particular interaction with the company (customers don’t like effort!)

Process Improvement Implementation

He recommended process improvement efforts are undertaken in 6 month sprints – if it takes longer than that you’ve lost momentum and you’ll lose the enthusiasm of the business

We should describe our processes the way a customer would – for example a customer would never call a process “provisioning”, to them it’s “getting the service”.

Getting high level engagement

To maintain an ongoing focus on the customer experience he recommended getting 20 minutes at least once a quarter to talk to the senior managers / exec of the organisation. These sessions would not be focussed on stats (everyone gets bored of stats) but focussed on real life examples of where companies the had particularly bad customer experiences and what they are doing to fix them. This is a bit of a shock and awe tactic but it really helps to bring things to life for those that are disconnected from the front line. He suggested using call recordings, mystery shop videos or even bringing in customers to talk about their experiences.

Ed also suggested getting everyone at the senior level from the CEO down to do a “back to the frontline” day – a bit like undercover boss except, err, not undercover so that they can really reconnect with what the frontline troops have to deal with.

Customer Experience Days

He also suggested that companies have a “customer experience day” where anyone from the company who is involved with customer experience should get together to discuss how they can help each other and co-ordinate ideas.

Customer Complaints and Compliments

It’s important to really take control of the feedback process – the ability for customers to provide feedback should be there as quickly as possible after the interaction. This is particularly the case with compliments. People fester on complaints and will tend to lodge a complaint up to twice as long on average compared to a customer leaving a compliment. So the lesson is – you snooze, you miss out on compliments.

He also recommended having an option to ask permission to use the customer’s compliments so that these can be used e.g. in a twitter feed, facebook wall or any other marketing.

He also mentioned that the top 5% of organisations with the highest customer engagement were those that gave feedback to customers on the customer’s feedback. 35% don’t give feedback to
the customer but will use the feedback to improve the organisation. 60% of companies will ignore the customer feedback and do nothing with it.

Building a Customer Community

One of the key things he recommended is to build an online community. i.e. forums that customers can join and discuss the companies products and services, etc. This provides an extra channel of contact. It helps to deflect some of the contact via other channels and doesn’t require a huge amount of staff involvement once enthusiastic members get on board (generally the 1% contribute 90% of content).

Staff would act as moderators and step in if a question remains unanswered after a few hours. It’s success is dependent upon a recognition scheme of some sort where they would be rewarded with points / stars / guru status, etc for contributing. e.g. companies could invite the top 10 contributors to a dinner or awards day on behalf of the company.

Ed recommended checking out Lithium which is the software that many organisations use for social customer experience.

Those organisations that do adopt a multichannel approach have increased levels of loyalty and profitability.

Social Media

Obviously Ed recommended companies getting on facebook and twitter ASAP if they aren’t there already and he mentioned that it’s a good way to engage facebook followers with quirky / weird / interesting novelty topics. One example that he has seen being popular is showcasing people with collections of old bank piggybanks. This apparently appeals to older customers!

Facebook is also an excellent place to showcase charity / socially responsible activities.

Ed also stressed the importance of undertaking continual social media monitoring using software such as Radian6 so that companies can be aware of what everyone is saying about them on whatever social media they are using. He even mentioned that some companies publish live feeds from Radian 6 to show what people are talking about at that instant.


Ed mentioned that apps are critical and can greatly boost an organisation if done correctly.

He also said it’s essential to  have separate apps for separate products / services as this way you can track number of downloads (usefulness) and feedback (useability) – otherwise you get a mish mash of feedback and no indication of why they downloaded the app.

A shining example

Ed mentioned USAA as a good example of a company that has engaged customers (I should say members because it is a membership based organisation) and has paid great attention to the customer experience. They have an astonishing average of 6.5 products per member - have a look at their community focus and you'll understand why they've been so successful.



May 24, 2013

Social BPM: The Watercooler Just Got Cooler

I never quite got social BPM. "It's like facebook but for corporations" the BPMS marketing departments screamed! "It will change the way we do business" they cried!

The success of social media is primarily that it's fun and easy. We get a laugh out of sharing our catbearding photos (well I do...) and having innane conversations with people on the other side of the world that we haven't seen for years. It's an escape from the day-to-day humrum. So what is social BPM given that it's focus IS the day-to-day humrum?

At the Gartner BPM summit last week I met Edward Hughes from Appian. Edward was kind enough to take the time to show me the Appian app on his iPhone and explain social BPM to me. Then it struck me: social BPM is the new watercooler. All those little conversations we have in passing, all those chats in the corridor or at drinks after work - they give us those snippets of information about "what people are up to". The same is the case with social BPM. "I'm working on project X" someone might say "Oh I didn't know you were working on project X!" someone else might say - "maybe we can collaborate?"

So the social BPM interface is like all those little watercooler conversations, except it's much, much cooler and the exposure is far greater. There are plusses and minus to that, but if the social BPM conversations can be encouraged and made a habit by employees the ability to communicate and collaborate will be worth it's weight in gold...or at least water...



May 16, 2013

The Straw Point: How Process Can Win or Lose Customers

In every process we have customer interaction points - how well we manage these "moments of truth" with our customers influences their levels of loyalty towards the firm. Loyal customers spend more and are more likely to recommend the firm to friends or collegues so making customers more loyal should be a major focus - and to do this we need to look at process from a customer experience perspective. How should we do this?

When we look at processes we must take an outside-in view. The process does not start and end at the front door of the organisation. Take, for example, my recent experience with travelling with virgin on holiday. The flight is a small part of the customer experience - it's up to organisations to influence and manage as much of the process as they can outside of their traditional view of the process.

Managing moments of truth is critical. Each interaction with a customer has a different level of impact on customer dissatisfaction and consequently loyalty. Example: for the last couple of years I have been ordering my groceries through Woolworths online and in the last couple of years woolworths online have made a mistake with every single order I have received. Usually it's only a couple of items which is a minor dissatisfaction and not enough to make me either switch to a competitor or to trudge to the supermarket myself. However, minor dissatisfactions have a cumulative effect which can break a relationship with the firm.

Conversely, positive moments of truth can help to reduce the dissatisfaction that builds up. After I complained and said I was going to stop ordering with them Woolworths gave me a credit and refunded my delivery fee - which like pouring water on a fire, died it down for some time until the next event to trigger dissatisfaction...which wasn't far off...

I then received a delivery where all of the frozen foods were missing. I contacted Woolworths and received a cut and paste email saying that they'd refund the missing items - this only inflamed my dissatisfaction before a couple of weeks later I received none of my fruit and veg (half of the order). Cue the straw point.

The straw point is the final incident of dissatisfaction that leads to the termination of the relationship with the company - it is "the straw that breaks the camels back". All loyalty is broken. For me the straw point was when I called the Woolworths call centre 10 minutes after receiving my delivery to see if my fruit and veg was in the truck and I received a message saying that "due to unforseen circumstances the call centre is now closed". After which I sent the following terse email:

"Hi - please refund the items marked with a cross which we did not receive. You will note this includes all of the fruit and veg. I called your call centre but you are strangely closed.

We will be shopping with Coles online from this point forward (if only you cared about losing a customer!)"

I did receive a response the next day - yet another cut and paste saying that the missing items would be refunded. And I was right, they didn't care to lose me as a customer - a family of 6 who spend in the region of $20k a year in their supermarket.

So what lessons can organisations learn to avoid the straw point?

  1. Look at the process from the outside-in - look at the customer experience
  2. Identify all of your customer interaction points in the process
  3. Identify the dissatisfaction impact level in the event that the interaction goes wrong
  4. Reduce the number of customer interaction points to reduce the probability of things going wrong
  5. Optimise the customer interaction points that are left - focus on reducing the customer's level of effort.

We are all customers, so do unto them as you would expect yourself.



P.S. My first shop with Coles online was last week - and I am pleased to advise that not a single item was missing.

May 09, 2013

If a Process Isn't Documented - Does it Exist?

At one of my clients we have two deliveries of fruit a week. When I started working with them I was told to "help myself to one piece of fruit a day". However, when chatting about my love of the daily dose of fruit one of the staff members exclaimed "you're only supposed to take one piece of fruit per delivery!" - to which another staff member popped up and said "No, I was told one piece of fruit per day!". My response was pretty typical of a process consultant: "Show me the process or it doesn't exist!"

This may sound like a trivial discussion, but there's an important point to be made: if it isn't documented in some manner there is no official record of the process. There are no rules and no-one can be held accountable. Who is to say what the process is? Who is to say what is right or wrong?

When we have gaps in documentation (and by that I mean many ways of having the process documented - either in softcopy, in a content management system or in a BPMS for example) we create grey areas and we create inconsistency. Grey areas aren't always bad - after all employees do some of their best work when they are given freedom within boundaries, but inconsistency of process can lead to chaos and a highly negative customer experience. 

We also allow incorrect behaviour to continue...whether it's the skinny girl who only eats two apples a week or the fat Scottish guy in the corner that eats 5 fruits a week - there's no saying who's right or wrong unless it's there in black and white.



April 29, 2013

Free Whitepaper: A Practical Guide to Planning & Running Process Improvement Workshops

My latest whitepaper is available for download from the Orbus website.

In this guide I detail a step-by-step approach to planning and running effective process improvement workshops. It is intended as a guide for Business/Process Analysts to ensure workshops are run in a practical manner which will rapidly take the organization to an improved future state.

The guide includes:

  • Why organizations should utilize process improvement workshops
  • Common mistakes in planning and running workshops
  • Key activities required to plan effective workshops
  • A practical approach to facilitating effective workshops

Click here to download (registration required).



April 16, 2013

Process Glue - Explaining the Benefits of a BPMS

With so many different software products available today it's often a hard ask to fully explain the benefits of a particular piece of software. But this is where a BPMS (business process management system) is truely unique.

Whilst many pieces of software try to package themselves up to service a particular need - an ERP for example fitting the bill for many support processes - a BPMS succeeds because it doesn't wedge itself into a box. BPMS tools focus on having the fluidity to design processes the way the business needs them without compromise. But more than that they are built to expect that change will happen, and as a result are designed to have flexible and adaptive business rules that can be altered faster than regular "off the shelf" systems.

Another strenth of BPMS is their ability to interface and pass data to and from disparate systems. It's often hideously expensive to replace legacy systems - so why do so when you can wrap a BPMS around the system as an integration layer? It adds the functionality, without the pain.

I like to think of a BPMS as process glue. Organisations will always have manual processes and disparate systems. These are the areas where work slips through the cracks, where time is lost, where customers are forgotten. A BPMS helps glue the process together. It provides process visibility, it stops the errors, it speeds the process up, it kills manual work, it provides meaningful data, it gives the customers what they need...(if the process is optimised first!)

In my experience the best approach is to optimise the process then implement a BPMS. Benefits can be staggering if you do it properly - not just in efficiency savings, but in aligning the process with the customer need...

Look forward to the vision you need to make real - find all the pieces, remove what you don't need, arrange them in order and glue the process together!



P.S. Please share your experiences of implementing a BPMS to improve your organisation's processes...

April 04, 2013

Is ERP a Ready Made Meal in the Supermarket of Process?

There's still a great appetite for ERP tools despite the fact that they've been around for quite some time. To me an ERP system is like a ready made meal - packaged, pre-processed and on the outside quite a nice idea. The idea behind ERP is that you have a bunch of processes that support key organisational capabilities built into an integrated software system. It's a fix, but it doesn't fix everything - there are always processes that need to be changed and gaps that need to be filled.

A BPMS on the other hand is like picking your ingredients and making a meal - it's more time consuming and costly, but ultimately you get something that is a lot more satisfying. Some BPMS have ready made modules that mimic ERP systems but in my experience they aren't quite there yet.

Ultimately, like a ready-made meal - you buy an ERP system it and it may not be quite as tasty as you expect. You might have to add a bit of salt or some sauce. But going back to the factory to ask them to change the recipe is somewhat expensive!

I don't think ready meals are the answer, and I don't think cooking from scratch is the answer either. I think the future lies in BPMS having libraries of standard, re-usable processes that can be picked up and altered to suit the organisation - but I still see organisations spending huge amounts of effort building processes from scratch. I believe the lines between ERP and BPMS will blur to the point where ERP will cease to exist as a concept.

The future is still cooking from scratch, but the ingredients will be all prepared for you - simply season to taste.



March 21, 2013

Pain on the Plane Again - Why Air Travel is Still The Worst Customer Experience


You may remember my post Pains, Planes & Automobiles from 2009 where I lambasted the customer experience of Air Travel. Three years on is it any better?

I book online and it's a breeze, but I do notice that they now charge per item of baggage. This actually suits us as with 4 young children we don't need to pay for six items of luggage - so I book 4 which cuts the price down. We get up to 23kg per item of luggage. Our toddler is free but he has to sit on a lap. I suggest to my wife that should be her, which earns me a look that could turn milk.

Well since 2009, Sydney Airport hasn't moved - nor has a much discussed 2nd Sydney Airport been built. This means that we still have to make the 15km drive to the airport on the other side of Sydney. Doesn't sound far, does it? But this is Sydney we are talking about - with it's hideous traffic and 3rd world road network). We are so terrified that we'll get stuck in traffic we set off 3 hours before our flight. That's a domestic flight where we have to be there 45 mins prior to the flight departure time.

One improvement is that I book the parking online this time - and it's considerably cheaper for twice the duration

I take a different route from 3 years ago - it costs me more but we arrive at the airport in plenty of time (thanks to my GPS and my e-tag which speeds me through the toll roads). I drop off the wife and kids at the front door and go to long-term parking. Somehow I manage to drive past the entrance to the parking and have to double back. That annoys me as I was looking for a road sign which I couldn't see - but I later notice that the car park (named "Blue Emu") is festooned with giant banners of Blue Emus all over it so I blame my "man vision" for that one. The car park has been improved by the addition of animal names so you can remember where you have parked. I park in section C - "Craig the Koala" so I can't possibly forget where I have to return 2 weeks later. I can't help but think that it should be "Craig the Crocodile", but "crocodile" is hard to fit on a sign...

So far so good and I am whisked away from the bus stop to the airport within 5 minutes so I am back with my waiting hoard in just 15 minutes.

We have already checked in and picked our seats and as we are 2 hours early the bag drop queue is only 5 minutes long. This time we can take our baby buggy to the gate (last time we couldn't) but the bad news is that despite us having 2 tiny cases and one medium sized case our large case is over 23kg's and we are charged $40. Previously Virgin would simply add up the luggage total and divide by the number of bags - not so, anymore. Any bag over 23kg's is charged an excess. I ask the check-in lady if this has changed recently and she says it changed about a year ago. Nice of them to make that obvious. I'm seriously pissed off. Customer experience dissatisfaction #1.

So with time to kill we grab a coffee and some breakfast. The airport chiche of bad, overpriced food unfortunately still holds true. Customer experience dissatisfaction #2.

After breakfast we make our way to the gate - when we arrive there are no seats left so we have to stand. I don't really mind as there is a large space where our kids can run around in circles annoying other passengers, but I feel sorry for others who stand looking at screens with thousand yard stares, waiting for the golden moment when "boarding" appears. Customer experience dissatisfaction #3.

We board the plane and hand our buggy over - all is good and we take our seats. I'm impressed that the aircraft is new and that all of the seats have entertainment devices which have games, TV and movies. The kids are very excited by this. Big. Improvement. Pity none of the headsets work properly so we sit with buzzing in our ears for 5 hours. Customer experience dissatisfaction #4.

Drinks arrive fairly promptly after take-off, but as the tray tables slope downwards my son's drink slides off the table and into my lap. Nothing like having a giant orange juice stain to make you look like a seasoned traveller. I ask the steward why the tray tables slope and he says that "people keep leaning on them". Funny that, people actually using the tray tables. Food arrives a short time later and the quality is reasonable but I have to hold my son's food tray while he eats as it keeps sliding off the table. This is not fun when you consider how long children can take to eat food.  Customer experience dissatisfaction #5.

After 5 hours of swapping a squirming, tired toddler between our laps we finally arrive at our destination. We pick up our suitcases and buggy promptly (marvelling at how tiny and pleasant Perth airport is). I do have to pay $4 for a trolley to take me the 200m across the road to the car rental pickup, however. I am old enough to still remember the porters who would cheerfully collect your luggage at Glasgow airport and take it to check-in for you in the 1970's. For Free!Customer experience dissatisfaction #6.

I follow the instructions on the hire car company email to go to the meeting point and to call the number to arrange to meet the rep. I am told on the phone where the car is and given a code to collect the key inside the glove box (there is no rep!). I like this system but it could have been improved if they'd have emailed or sent me an SMS of the details. The instructions could have been updated thereby eliminating a breakpoint and requiring minimal human intervention (reduced cost for the hire car company). I collect the car and all is good except that they haven't marked any of the damage on the report form. It looks like the car has been used for dodgem practice so I spend 10 minutes writing down the 300 dents and scratches. I also find it strange that they provide cash to pay for the car park. As they've dropped off the car too early I have to pay more for the car park than the cash they have left. Customer experience dissatisfaction #7.

We have a great two week holiday but the real pain starts on the return leg. I receive a handy email advising that I can check-in 48 hours prior - even using their new mobile service! So I try to check in via my iphone and receive and error. I try on an ipad and a PC and still receive an error. Check in at the airport it tells me. I check my mother in via mobile with no problem. I must be special. Customer experience dissatisfaction #8.

I call Virgin customer service. I can't understand the girl as she's speaking pigeon English and have to ask her to slow down. She tells me she doesn't know why I can't check in. I tell her I don't care as long as she can check me in. She says she can't check me in but she can reserve seats for me. Yes, that's right. She can't check me in. Customer experience dissatisfaction #9. I decide that I'll check us in at the web kiosk at the airport then use the bag drop.

1 day prior to our flight I receive both an email and a text to say that our flight is delayed (I don't mind as it means extra sleep!) I appreciate the notification.

We arrive at the airport, drop the car off (following the easy instructions), pay for another trolley (urgh!) and make our way inside. As I had feared the check-in queue was hideous so I made my way to the kiosk to check in. Ahhh...the kiosk - so devoid of the inadequacies of inert customer service staff.


"Check-in for this flight has closed" it tells me. Noooooooooooooo. It appears that the virgin system hasn't accounted for the flight change so has closed the check-in an hour earler than it needed to. Either that or the flight is on time and check-in really is closed. Now I'm in a panic. Customer experience dissatisfaction #10.

I join the hideous queue which take 20 minutes to get through to us being checked in. Customer experience dissatisfaction #11. But we do check in - with no excesses this time due to careful packing.

We are late so rush to the gate (which now looks like some sort of war zone) with people queueing everywhere. Customer experience dissatisfaction #12. We board and pass our buggy to a helpful virgin member of staff who says "I'll take care of that for you".

We have an uneventful flight other than the usual sloping trays and spilling drinks. The kids are well behaved apart from our toddler who persists in throwing himself in front of the drinks trolley like a lemming. The staff smile politely. I was delighted to see that they changed the headphones to a new brand - unfortunately they no longer fit in children's ears so my three kids have to hold the earplugs in their ears the entire 5 hour flight. Cue whingeathon. Customer experience dissatisfaction #13

We land and depart to the horror that is Sydney Airport on a Saturday afternoon. We pick up our bags - well we try to - one of them isn't there. We wait, and wait. Suspiciously there is a bag with a similar tag as ours hypnotically doing laps of the carousel until it is the only one left. The painful realisation that some numbnut has taken our bag slowly sinks in. I panic knowing that the suitcase contains my twin boys' favourite stuffed animals, which they love more than me. I rush to the virgin bagage desk only to find my wife there reporting that our buggy is also lost not having turned up at excess baggage. Customer experience dissatisfaction #14.

We wait 1 hour until a rugby shirt wearing Mr Potato head lookalike turns up with our case. My eyes glaze over as he tells me his reasons for picking up a case which is neither the same make, brand, size, shape or colour. Apology accepted, now please leave me alone as I want to die having been at baggage collection for an hour and a half with 4 grumpy, hungry children fighting over a stale cookie scraped from the bottom of my wife's handbag. It still seems strange to me that anyone can walk up and take a bag full of thousands of dollars worth of goods so easily. Customer experience dissatisfaction #15.

Our buggy is still lost and the virgin staff tell us "we have tons of them - we can give you another one if you like". Nice to know they are so regularly lost! She wheels out what looks like a brand new super deluxe buggy which we dash out of the airport with before someone finds it. Bonus. It almost makes up for the pain.

Finally I go to the car park - well I try but I can't find the bus stop. I hunt up and down. There are plenty of signs but none of them have a "you are here" dot on them so it's impossible to know where I am. I see the bus sailing past. I want to cry! I eventually find a security guard who points me in the right direction.  Customer experience dissatisfaction #16.

There is no pick up at the terminal so we have to walk hundreds of metres to a pick-up area before I finally get on the bus and return to pick them up.

9 hours of travel (only 4 of which were on a plane) and we are finally home.

It's good that we had 3 years between flights - it allowed us time to forget what was and still is a hideous customer experience from start to finish.