As any business analyst will tell you, having a decent set of business processes can really help an organisation to excel. When organisations have efficient and effective business processes, supported by the right people, technology and organisational structure, there is the best possible chance of sustained success. This applies to organisations of all sizes, from huge multinational to small or midsize enterprises. Accordingly, many organisations spend time mapping out, analysing and measuring the efficiency of their processes. By building in regular measurement and feedback, it’s possible to improve continuously.
Yet there is danger waiting for the unwary. When thinking about processes, it is extremely easy for our business stakeholders to get blindsided by the “Fire and Forget” fallacy, and end up tweaking and changing processes in a way that might make them worse overall. Let me explain…
Don’t “fire & forget”
When mapping out, analysing or improving processes, often our end-users and stakeholders will immediately want to dive into the detail. They’ll talk about the individual steps that they undertake for a particular task. They might be brimming with ideas for improvement – but there is a danger that the improvements that they bring to us are extremely localised. Each stakeholder might be telling us about only part of a wider, underlying end-to-end process.
In today’s blog post, we break from our usual format to bring you an interview with Debbie Laskey. I really enjoy reading Debbie’s blog, and I recently I was really pleased that I had the chance to catch up with her for a ‘virtual’ chat. I was keen to share the insight I gleaned.
Debbie is a thought leader in marketing, management and leadership with a career spanning a range of interesting and diverse organizations and industries ranging from Disneyland Paris in France to insurance to law and accounting to nonprofits. Currently, Debbie is the marketing director for the Exceptional Children’s Foundation, a 68-year-old nonprofit that provides services for children and adults with developmental disabilities in Los Angeles, California. Since 2002, Debbie has served as a judge for the Web Marketing Association’s annual web award competition, and she’s also been recognized as one of the “Top 100 Branding Experts” to follow on Twitter.
Here’s a summary of our conversation:
So, Debbie, you have a reputation for innovation in all sorts of areas – but one area that I know we are both enthusiastic about is ensuring that organizations provide a great customer experience. It seems so intuitive that providing a great customer experience is a win/win, so why do you think that it is that so many organizations get it wrong?
First, Adrian, thank you very much for inviting me to your blog, it’s an honor. I always learn from your posts and appreciate the different insights from your side of the pond.
Some businesses think creating a great customer experience takes too much time for training and just isn’t worth the ROI, but every day, I become more and more aware of the importance of customer experience marketing in the B2C, B2B, and nonprofit arenas. Maybe, it stems from my experience at Disney, or maybe, it’s because I have a passion for brand marketing. But whatever the case, in today’s social era, one bad experience can lead to disaster for a business, so it’s critical for businesses to train employees on their brand promise and also – and this is just as important – empower employees with the authority to fix every negative situation, and even those situations that top leadership teams haven’t anticipated. As Annette Franz Gleneiki, a friend and one of our customer experience colleagues in Southern California, says, “Empower employees to say yes even before a customer makes a request.”
It feels to me that customers are demanding more and more. In the past, organizations could get away with giving a bad experience – but now, that just seems less and less sustainable. What’s changed?
Thanks to social media, customers are more savvy. They may not use the industry lingo of “Customer Lifetime Value,” but they know the value of a dollar (or a pound), and they know their value to a business. As a result, they have higher expectations. And these expectations revolve around a pleasant experience, whether it’s a visit to a restaurant, a clothing store, a law firm, etc. No business is immune from a customer’s expectations for a positive experience.
Does social media have a role to play in good customer service?
I’d hazard a guess that everyone reading this article has, at some point, tried to sell an idea within an organisation. Perhaps you’ve tried to get a project off the ground, or maybe you’ve tried to convince your peers to stop working on a project that was about to go off the rails. In all organisations we’re likely to need the buy-in and co-operation of others to get things done, so influencing—which we might consider a type of ‘selling’—becomes so important.
Before we try and sell an idea, we’ll often need to go and check whether the evidence and data seem to support our hypothesis – if it doesn’t, perhaps we need to go back to the drawing board. If it does, we can use it to help strengthen our cause. If you have an analytical mind-set, you might find that you spend a lot of time considering the observable facts and data. And after collecting and collating our data, we will package it up to present it back to our stakeholders.
Yet how much time do we spend considering how we’ll present our ideas and data and how we’ll connect with the emotions of our stakeholders? Or, put differently, how many presentations have you attended where the author has bombarded you with slide after slide of dry, dry figures – and you feel your eyes getting heavier and heavier as you reach for your seventeenth strong black coffee just to get through the session…
Decisions are often based on more emotion that we’d like to admit
I was recently boarding a flight, and whilst I was waiting to climb the steps to the aircraft, I happened to look around the runway. I saw, at the edge of the tarmac, what appeared (initially) to be a rather obvious sign. The sign read “Caution Aircraft”. I smiled – and I sensed others around me found the sign entertaining too. In fact, I could hear a couple chuckling behind me – I mean, come on. It’s a runway. It’s obvious that there are going to be planes there. Why on earth would we need a sign to remind us of that?
The couple behind me continued to chuckle about the “obviousness” of the sign as we boarded the plane. As I climbed the steps and boarded, curiosity got the better of me and I looked down from the steps. From this new vantage point, I noticed that the tarmac was buzzing with activity. Not only were there planes, but there were trucks carrying fuel, buggies carrying luggage, food delivery vans and more. When planes landed, these support vehicles rushed over to get them ready for the next flight. Many of these support vehicles seemed to come onto the tarmac around where the sign was located, so presumably the sign was a ‘reminder’ for vehicles that were entering an active part of the runway. With this in mind, perhaps the sign was reminding them of something that might seem obvious from some vantage points – but something that is crucially important. The sign only looked obvious from our perspective because we were looking from the tarmac outwards. If you were driving onto the tarmac from a support road, it might not be clear where the road finishes and the airfield begins. What’s blindingly obvious from one perspective might not be intuitive or “obvious” at all from other perspectives.