Does the Customer have a place in the Process?

I have previously written about Finding the End-to-End Customer Perspective, in which I wrote about the scope of the defined Business Process having a big impact on the value proposition for the customer or stakeholder. Another aspect of end-to-end thinking is including the customer inside the Business Process.

Why do we need to include the Customer?

Think of a typical Business Process where a customer is making a request of your organisation, maybe they are filling in an application for credit.

The current (as-is) process is considered inefficient as customer contacts the Accounts department and an Accounting Clerk collects all of the relevant information from the customer and then faxes the customer a nearly completed form to finalise and return. It is decided that implementing a self-service web-site will improve efficiency and save the company several staff years in the Accounting department.

The new (to-be) process is implemented, at the start everything looks good, the customers are able to fill in the form on-line and easily print, sign and send the form in. The form is also easy for the Accounting department to process as the information is already available in the accounting system.

However, the Accounting department is busier than ever, the phone seems to be ringing more and staff morale is down. What happened?

The customer is not part of the process. A key part of this process, getting and completing the customer application form, has been pushed out and is no longer considered part of the process; however customers are taking longer to complete the information required, they often don’t understand what is require and they are ringing up for help to complete the form. Once submitted a high percentage of forms are rejected back to the customer because they are incorrectly completed, causing re-work and unhappy customers.

If the customer part of the process was measured, then it would show that the end-to-end process is now less efficient at achieving its customer driven goals than it was previously. The process design may be more efficient from the Accounting department’s perspective; however that is the wrong way to look at it – unhappy customers and staff is a guaranteed recipe for failure.

Another example of this concept is in Gary Comerford’s e-book, The Perfect Process Project; In Chapter 6 there is a great customer perspective story relating to a call centre. Call centres (ironically they are often called customer service centres) are always a good source for processes examples that do not include the customer!

Finally, Michael zur Muehlen has written a great article on the BPTrends site, Service Processes: The Customer at the Centre.

Can you think of one of your Business Processes that does not include the customer? What difference could you make if it did?

Finding the End to End Customer Perspective

A constant challenge for me is explaining to my colleagues what the difference is between an organisation’s existing processes and this Business Process Management stuff I keep talking about.

I usually start by describing the attributes that change an ordinary process into an effective Business Process. I have added a page to the Executive Guide to BPM on this very topic, see Business Processes Explained.

A key aspect of Business Processes is to have a perspective that stretches across all of the steps that need to be completed to achieve the right successful outcome. All too often functional managers only focus on their part of the process, missing the end-to-end perspective of what really needs to be done.

The perspective chosen can have a dramatic affect on the design of the process, for example:

Scoping the Recruitment Process

A typical recruitment process will concentrate on, and be measured by how efficiently the Human Resources department responds to requests to advertise positions, find and collate candidate responses and finish off the paperwork. I think you would have to visit many organisations before you would find a recruitment Business Process that actually measured how successfully the right candidate was selected.

As a candidate and as a recruiting team lead, I have had far more experiences where the process has been very inefficient (taking much more time that it should), has caused serious concern to candidates and frankly has not selected the most suitable person for the actual role, when they were required. Why do you think this is the case?

Generally this is because the process is not designed and measured, end-to-end. It is the difference between the Human Resources department being responsible for just their bits of the process, compared to being responsible for the end-to-end result; which in my example may be the performance of the successful candidate once they are in the position they were recruited for.

If one executive was held responsible for the performance of all new recruits, then the design of the process, especially in the steps of initial job design and the conduct of the selection panel would be done very differently. No longer would Human Resources blame the business for a defunct process or the other way around!

I could go on with many similar stories, in fact I would bet that you have a story of your own that you could share?  Please do…

A second look at the Customer Perspective will follow in a future post – Does the Customer have a place in our Process?

Where’s the Customer?

How is process demonstrated in Real-Life?  In a good way – a magnificent moment, or more commonly like this…

Last week I had my first “And they call that a process!” moment since I started this blog, it has only taken a few weeks for this to happen.

There I was, minding my own business, doing my daily check of my Post Office Box. One of the contents was a non-descript – window faced envelope. Thinking it was a bill, or boring government mail I did not open it and left it for later processing. (Coincidentally I also dropped into the bank that day to deposit a cheque, something that I don’t do very often – why is this relevant? You will see)

Later that night I opened the letter to find a Remittance Advice and attached cheque for $3.70. It was from the South Australian Government, Motor Registration Office (note that the last time we paid car registration was over 6 months ago).

There was no letter explaining the remittance, the description did not tell me anything, it just said “Other”.

My question for you (especially if you work in a process area at Motor Registration) is, Where is the customer in this process? Why did you send me a cheque for such a small amount, putting me through the effort to bank it and the associated intrigue, definitely reducing the value that I get from your processes?

The unfortunate part is that no-one will probably be very surprised by this example. Do you have a similar story to share?