Process Problems Upset Customers AND Hurt Profitability
Process is the 3rd P in the 3P Profit Formula I discuss in the book PeopleShock: The Path to Profits When Customers Rule, and it is one of the biggest areas where organizations fall down on customer experience. (The first two Ps are Promise and People.)
I mean, really, why should we have to repeat our bank card number to the service rep after we’ve already keyed it into our phone?
Why should we get different information each time we call?
Why should the rep need to get approval from his manager to give a refund when the problem was clearly caused at their end?
So for those of you who haven’t read the book yet, in today’s podcast I read from Chapter 15, about how to spot the important process problems and do customer journey mapping.
Chapter 15: Identifying Process Problems
(excerpt from PeopleShock: The Path to Profits When Customers Rule, by Tema Frank, ©2016)
I’ve been podcasting since 2012 — first the Frank Online Marketing Show, and now the Frank Reactions podcast on customer experience (http://frankreactions.com/show). If you are not familiar with podcasts, they are like radio shows, but aired on the Internet and over services like iTunes.
For someone like me, who grew up admiring the great in-depth interviewers of my youth, like Dick Cavett, Peter Gzowski and Oriana Fallaci, it’s a thrill to be able to join them in my own small way. The frustration, however, is that second-last word: small. Podcast listening is growing, but slowly. I believe that process problems are the big barrier to mass use.
We all know how to turn on a radio. Even my kids, digital natives though they are, could figure that out pretty easily. But “turning on” a podcast is more complicated. Assuming you know what podcasts are (and many still don’t), it is not obvious where you find them. And once you do, how do you play them? Are you going to be dinged for data charges? How do you share them?
If you ever listen to podcasts you’ll hear the podcaster’s plea, where we beg our listeners to go to iTunes and review our podcast. But few people do, because there’s no easy way to do it from where you are listening.
Customer Journey Mapping
The questions I just asked are the beginnings of a customer journey map. The way to figure out how your processes can be improved is to start with mapping, from the customer’s point of view. This is a key step in improving customer experiences.
The journey starts before prospects contact you. Walk through the steps from the time someone realizes they may need your type of service or product, right through to contacting you and then buying and using the product or service.
Given the rate of technological change, customer journey mapping is also something you have to re-do periodically, because customer expectations are constantly being reset. In the early days of podcasting you had to be (or be friends with) a geek to figure out how to find and listen to podcasts. Then Apple started listing podcasts in iTunes, which made it easier for podcasts to be discovered. Then, just as people got used to that, Apple took them out of iTunes and set up a dedicated podcasting app. On the positive side, this would presumably make it easier for people to find and manage podcasts. But on the negative side, it meant that they wouldn’t naturally be found by people who didn’t already know about podcasts.
Any time you are considering changing something you offer — or even an internal process — think through what impact that will have on the people who will be touched by that change, either directly or indirectly.
Step 1: Understand Your Prospect’s or Customer’s Motivations
Ideally you have time and budget to do good customer research.
- What problem does your offering solve for them?
- How aware are they of the problem, need or desire?
- How are they solving it now?
- If they are already customers of yours, how satisfied are they with your product or service?
- What about it frustrates them?
- What would they like to see added on or done differently?
The best type of research normally involves being a fly on the wall, observing customers as they go about their lives, seeing what they do, how they do it, and how your products or services fit into that. This is called ethnographic research. It can be expensive, since it usually involves a lot of time for both the observations and the analysis. But even just sending your own staff out to observe, or, at a minimum, conducting in-depth interviews with users or prospects, will at least get you heading down the right path. Another option that can sometimes work is asking your users to use their mobile devices to videotape how they use and react to your product or service.
Large organizations can dig into big data to get clues as to where there may be problems or opportunities, looking for details about how different types of people use their products or services, where or when they stop using them, what sorts of customer comments or complaints have come in, and how their company’s offerings differ from those of more successful competitors. But data alone is not going to provide the full answer: it must be supplemented by qualitative research to get at the why behind the what customers are doing.
Step 2: Flowchart the Steps
Now that you understand what they want to do, and have seen how they usually do it, translate that knowledge into a flowchart. Here’s an example.
When you look at that long list of steps, is it any wonder that podcast listening still represents only 1.7 percent of all the audio consumed?
As you go through the steps, be sure to note the Dead Ends and Pain Points. Later you’ll look back at those spots and start thinking about ways to eliminate them.
Step 3: First Cut at Setting Priorities
When you map your customers’ journeys, you’ll invariably find many pain points. (If you don’t, you probably haven’t done it right.) Let’s be realistic: you can’t fix them all, at least not all at once. So you must set priorities. There are several ways to approach this.
When setting priorities, think about:
- How big a pain is it for the target customers?
- How likely is it that this pain will drive them into the arms of a competitor?
- How difficult will it likely be to fix, in terms of time, money, technology and internal support?
Start with the easy wins. Find something that will make a significant number of customers or prospects happier, but that is mostly within your control and can be done quickly. Once you show some wins, it will be much easier to get buy-in for bigger changes.
Warning: you should not be guessing about what will make your customers happier.
Do you remember the decision to buy your first home (or first car or other major purchase)? I remember panicking when I signed those purchase and mortgage forms, committing myself to debts with more zeros behind them than I could imagine ever earning.
When Kelly Harper, Director of Customer Experience Learning at BMO Financial Group, spoke to staff about how they could improve customer experience, an obvious win seemed to be simplifying the complex, long mortgage application forms.
But what BMO’s customer research actually showed was that the bank’s customer experience war ends long before the form stage. What customers really wanted was evidence that the lender understood their goals and lifestyle, and was helping them understand what they were getting themselves into with home ownership.
When I bought that first home, the amount the bank proposed we could have as a mortgage was way beyond what my husband and I felt comfortable affording. We knew there would be plenty of other expenses that came with owning a home, and we also knew that at some point one of us might want to sacrifice earnings to spend time with the babies we hoped to raise in that home. Having a lender who asked us about our plans, discussed the real costs of owning a home and helped us set a comfortable limit would have made the experience memorable in a positive way.
Internal Process Mapping
Customer journey mapping is a type of process mapping, but equally important is taking a close look at your internal processes. This brings us back to Toyota’s Five Whys approach we discussed in Chapter 14. Process mapping helps you figure out what is going on inside your organization to create those pains for your customers and prospects.
Had you simply started with internal process mapping, though, you would have missed many of the key pain points from a customer’s perspective. As BMO’s Harper put it, “we think of it as lending, but to a customer it is borrowing.” Very different points of view.
There are several approaches to process mapping. One that I find helpful shows the customer and internal perspectives at the same time. Start with a customer pain point you want to resolve. Then flowchart both what happens on the customer side and inside your organization.
From there the book goes on to show how to map what you’ve learned about the customer’s pain points to your internal processes to identify the process problems.