About peterwhibley

Software Product Manager, Product Marketing Manager based in Belfast.

Jose Mourinho – Football, BPM and Case Management

Like a solar eclipse it’s not often one of my hobbies and work align but a terrific blog post recently on the coaching methods of Jose Mourinho did just that.

For readers outside Europe or unfamiliar with football/soccer Jose Mourinho is pretty much the most successful club manager working in Europe today having won league titles with teams in Portugal, England, Italy and Spain and the European Champions League 2 times.  Witty, charismatic, controversial, Mourinho is equally at home on the front or back pages of newspapers and is pretty much a publicity generating machine.

The Special One

The Special One

From a football point of view he’s also quite strange in that he never had a top flight playing career. Mourinho instead arrived in professional football management, at a young age, via a career path that included spells as an internal assistant and coach and not via the old boy’s ex-professional footballer network. As a result it’s not a surprise Mourinho’s coaching methods are slightly different from his peers who entered management through the more traditional route.

Mourinho’s coaching focuses on replicating specific situations within training so that when they occur within a match situation the players instinctively know how to respond. Nothing new here you may think. The key point however is the objective of these exercises is not to produce a robotic, inflexible playing style but instead to improve player decision making. By locking routine game situations into procedural memory or the subconscious the mind of the player is clearer when unexpected situations occur within the game.

Mourinho’s method, as defined by Corriere della Sera columnist Sandro Modeo, is instead structured but open, robust but plastic.

Sound familiar? Well it should if you are familiar with BPM and Case Management.

In the same way that Mourinho locks specific game situations into a player’s procedural memory BPM and Case Management applications automate routine or predictable processes. By automating routine processes BPM and Case Management applications not only reduce execution costs but free knowledge workers to focus on where they can add most value. Like Mourinho the objective of Case Management is not to deliver robotic inflexible business processes and employees but to deliver processes and employees that have the flexibility to adapt in response to a unique or unplanned situation.

Whether we are talking about nature, business or football the ability to adapt is what separates the best from the rest. It’s much easier to adapt when we are not distracted by other tasks. So while he may not be familiar with BPM or Case Management Jose Mourinho is certainly using the same principles.

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho

 

Politics – the 3rd Wave of Social Media?

Growing up, a recurring joke in our house was mum and dad’s inability to use our video recorder. I still remember the excitement of the top loading VHS arriving in the house and, as was the case with any new gadget, it was left to the kids to work it out. My brother took charge of the manual; I took care of the cabling and TV hook up. For the most part this arrangement worked fine. We had some great times with that machine. There were times however when we had forgotten to program the video and an urgent call home to get the football recorded was met with at best a recording of Brookside or at worst complete bemusement.

The same technology generational separation occurs regularly and is happening today with social media. Nowhere is this more apparent than in politics.

A few years back we saw the impact of social media on President Obama’s election victory but it would appear that social media for most established political parties remains an anathema. The success of Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement in this week’s Italian parliamentary elections off the back of social media campaign however shows what’s possible. Previously political movements and parties were formed by like-minded individuals, locally connected. Now local connections are no longer necessary. We can find like-minded individuals anywhere.

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A meteor shower in Russia is on our screens within minutes. I live in Ireland yet I talk face to face with colleagues in the U.S. on a daily basis. Horses from Romania are in my evening meal. We are connected as families, employees and businesses across countries and continents as never before.   While technology has made the world smaller, more connected it has also made our lives more susceptible to a wider spectrum of influences.

So it seems strange to me that while our personal and working lives are increasingly influenced by global factors our political structures remain organized on a national basis. Global warming and the financial meltdown show the powerlessness of national governments and nationally organized political parties. It’s only a matter of time before the establishment of continental and international political parties enabled by social media. In recent years we have seen tentative moves in this direction through the Green Party and the Occupy movement. Social media has been central to the national political changes in the Middle East.

The use of social media has experienced a number of waves, from its initial use in our personal lives to maintain bonds with distributed family and friends to its use in a business context to flatten organization hierarchies and remove business siloes.  Politics represents the third and potentially most disruptive wave with national boundaries proving to be irrelevant. Depending on your view point politics and social media is a match made in heaven or hell. Politics is about conversations and social networks take conversations to a hyper level.

It’s often said that social media has made customers more empowered than ever. Not only can a single customer refuse to do business with you they can also destroy your reputation in minutes through amplification of their issue on social media. This empowerment is extending to constituents as well.

The web and social media is borderless.  Politics will soon be borderless too.

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Is BPM now a Tactical Play?

Is the future for BPM strategic or tactical? A recent client engagement has thrown into focus a debate that is beginning to emerge about the future of BPM. To give you some background, the client is looking for an expense management solution and is having an internal debate on whether to choose a prebuilt, off-the-shelf application or whether to build their own in house solution using a BPM suite. The accounting department, who will use the solution, are recommending purchase of the pre-built application, emphasizing speed of deployment and lower cost as their key motivating factors. The IT department, who hold the budget, are recommending acquisition of a BPM suite, motivated by the classic BPM reasons of process flexibility and extensibility into other departmental processes. The accounting department is thus looking for a quick tactical play; the IT department is looking at a longer term strategic play.

Is BPM Tactical?

Is BPM Tactical?

BPM has for a long time been regarded as a strategic play. It’s often said that successful BPM projects require both cultural and strategic change within organizations. Establishment of BPM centers of excellence, back office integration and the optimization of processes that cut across multiple departments all require that the organization and its employees are in sync and are willing to review established practices. But all of this takes time, effort and significant cost, creating barriers for widespread BPM adoption, putting the BPM suite out of reach for many smaller businesses.

Increasingly however BPM will be viewed as a tactical rather than strategic play. For example Forrester believe the smart process applications market will be a $35Bn market by 2015 and Gartner expect the business process as a service (BPaaS) market to have grown to $84.2Bn in 2012. While the figures may be so big as to be almost meaningless and a significant proportion of this market will not be BPM opportunities what is clear is that the market for on demand process applications is significant and growing rapidly.

In our personal lives we expect to download an app and begin using it in minutes and with no training. Increasingly we are expecting the same user experience in business. Today this is most apparent in the increased trend towards BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and BYOS (Bring Your Own Software) and the exponential adoption of generic SaaS applications like SalesForce.com. It was inevitable that business process applications would follow this path.

Process On Demand

Process On Demand

The growing demand for pre-built business process applications is a challenge and an opportunity for BPM vendors. A challenge because any organization with process expertize in a specific market segment can now quite easily set themselves up as a business process outsourcer (BPO). An opportunity because ultimately prebuilt business process applications extend the market for process optimization from medium and large organizations to smaller organizations for whom the cost of a BPM application, development, training etc. is prohibitive.

While the classic strategic reasons for deploying BPM suites will remain, increasingly organizations will deploy process solutions for shorter term tactical reasons. In this tactical scenario the role for BPM will be as a cloud based, on demand, process delivery engine. The future for BPM is tactical.

BPM and the Internet of Things

For a while I associated the term “internet of things” (IOT) with some pretty depressing applications such as fridges that automatically order food or televisions that recommend what to watch based on previous viewing behavior thus trapping owners in death spiral of both eating and watching rubbish. In the past year or so IOT appears to have left its teenage years behind and begun to develop some maturity..

From insurance to medicine IOT applications are starting to spring up and deliver some significant benefits to users. For example in car telematics devices which monitor driver behavior and adjust the insurance premiums accordingly are becoming widely adopted, especially as a way of reducing premiums for young drivers. Some telematics providers include an accident service with the black box device alerting the insurer in the event of a collision.

In medicine we are seeing perhaps the most rapid adoption of IOT from smart pill bottles that can alert patients and can notify care providers if the bottle isn’t opened to heart monitors that allow health providers to continually monitor a patient’s heart rate, transmitting data to remote application where it can be interpreted by a doctor or consultant.

So how does all this apply to BPM? Fundamentally all of these smart devices are capturing data, whether it’s about themselves or their users. What’s the point of capturing all this data on whether granny has taken her pills, your driving performance or your personal health if it still takes ages for someone to find, analyze and route the data to the right person. As we can see from the telematics use case what is necessary is for the IOT device to trigger processes.

This is where BPM and the delivery of IOT process solutions come in. Just like with enterprise social networks the BPM tool has the potential to turbo charge IOT adoption. By taking the captured data and applying it directly to processes we can significantly enhance the value of IOT devices. What if the data from the heart monitor automatically triggered a new medical case or doctor’s appointment once a certain threshold was exceeded? What if the pill bottle alerted a carer or next of kin? Could we soon reach a point where an ambulance arrives to pick you up before you knew you were ill?

In reality IOT process solutions will be a mash up of multiple technologies from BPM and Case Management to Business Intelligence and Data Analytics delivered by multiple horizontal and vertical solution providers depending on their area of process expertise.

Once regarded as a back office application BPM is now firmly established in the front office through integration with CRM and ERP and increasingly through the delivery of mobile process applications BPM has also started to invade the customer realm. IOT integration simply represents the next phase in this journey.

Alert me when I’ve drunk too much!

Forrester v Gartner and the Future of BPM

Long regarded as the software equivalent of the offside rule in football, BPM might just be starting to get interesting. At long last there appears to be some debate happening in the BPM world with a gap emerging between analyst firms Forrester and Gartner on how they see the future of BPM (and Case Management).

First of all Gartner applied the paddles to the BPM corpse earlier this year with the announcement of their iBPMs (intelligent Business Process Management suite). They state that a iBPMs suite has all the features of today’s BPMS complemented with more advanced technologies like advanced analytics, business intelligence, social media and mobile applications. iBPMS use cases will integrate more analytics, social and mobile capabilities into processes making them more intelligent.

Confusingly though Gartner describe iBPMs as a new usage scenario, stating that it should not be compared with their previous BPMS MQ, yet they go on to state; “Our research indicates that the IBO use case represents the future of BPM tools and is experiencing rapid adoption.”

If Gartner have revived BPM Forrester might just have lobotomized the patient, completely changing its personality and how we will view BPM moving forward.  In contrast to Gartner, Forrester have a leaner, packaged, application vision for BPM and have defined a new process category called Smart Process Applications (SPA). These are packaged process apps that encompass many of the characteristics we associate with case management business processes including collaboration and variability. SPA characteristics include ease of use with the ability to be modified rapidly in response to changing business and market conditions. Crucially they expect the cloud to be the primary delivery infrastructure for SPAs making them easier to deploy, support and continuously improve.

Forrester’s confidence in the SPA market is such that they have put their neck on the block stating that they expect Business Process Management suites to be renamed “smart process platforms”.

So what’s my view? Who’s right Gartner or Forrester?

The cloud and the app. internet, as is the case for many SW applications, is a game changer for BPM. In our personal lives we are used to obtaining SW on demand, with little or no configuration required. We will and increasingly are expecting the same of our business software.

Like the software equivalent of Mr. Creosote Gartner’s iBPMS vision sees BPM moving in a different direction, continuing to expand and devour every new or emerging business trend its path. But is a BPMS really the best place for advanced Business Intelligence, Analytics and Social media capability or is it better to integrate with best practice elsewhere?  By adding all of these capabilities are we not continuing to make BPM more complex? Gartner’s iBPMS is a useful BPMS capability reference but iBPMS fails to address many of the issues holding back the wider adoption of BPM suites.

Gartner View of BPM

             Gartner View of BPM

Business process on demand, whether we call it BPaaS or SPA is the future of BPM.  BPM suites will continue to play an important role but increasingly as a cloud based engine for the delivery of on demand pre-built process applications rather than as an on premise application.

BPM in the cloud and BPaaS/SPA transform the business case for BPM applications extending the target market to small and medium sized organizations.  Increasingly organizations will look to these pre-built, good enough, on demand process applications rather than deploy and design their own in house processes. As a result I think Forrester’s leaner SPA vision rather than Gartner’s bloated iBPMS view represents the real future of BPM.

Forrester View of BPM

                                                              Forrester View of BPM

 

Does Customer Experience Exist?

I had the great misfortune of visiting the UNIQLO clothing store in Paris a couple of weekends ago. Dragged into the store by my other half on a Saturday afternoon what greeted me was pretty much man hell. The store was stuffed to the gills with shoppers. The aisles were too narrow. Lines for the changing rooms wound around the store and queues for the tills were about 20 deep. People were having sex just to make more room. (Ok I made this bit up.) Even my wife, who could shop for Ireland, gave up after a few minutes and suggested we leave.  Rather than simply walk out it felt like we were guided to the exit by human peristaltic movement and defecated from the store. On any customer experience metric this failed big time. Yet the store was packed?

This experience also reminded me of a recent article about Richard X. Bove, a noted bank analyst, who pulled his money out of Wells Fargo Bank because of poor customer experience and went on to trash the bank via social media. The very same Richard X. Bove however in his capacity as a banking analyst said, “I am struck by the fact that the service is so bad, and yet the company is so good”. The bank retained a strong financial status in sharp contrast to the poor customer experience it was providing. Bove continued to recommend the bank as a safe investment to his clients despite the fact that Bove himself would not keep his own money in that bank as a customer.

So here we have two examples of businesses where customer experience stinks yet both businesses are thriving. We could easily come up with others. We are told by customer experience evangelists that businesses must make every customer interaction count. That customer experience lip service just doesn’t cut it anymore. The examples above appear to reject this theory.

There are a number of ways we could try and interpret this. Is customer experience just another victim of the recession as more and more consumers are becoming more and more price conscious? Does price alone explain why Uniqlo is packed to the rafters?

Is customer experience simply irrelevant in some markets for example financial services? The Richard X Bove example above can be easily explained by the focus of many banks on their investment rather than retail arms. Why would Wells Fargo invest in an improved retail banking customer experience when it will have little impact on their bottom line?

Finally and more controversially does customer experience even exist? Are we not talking about process excellence here? UNIQLO for example focus on process execution as their key differentiator;

UNIQLO has established a SPA (Specialty store retailer of Private label Apparel) business model encompassing all stages of the business–from design and production to final sale. By continuously refining this SPA model, UNIQLO successfully differentiates itself from the competition by developing unique products.

Apple and Amazon are often cited as customer experience leaders but both also excel in process execution and supply chain excellence.

Many organizations are doing perfectly well without focusing on customer experience. So does customer experience even exist? Is customer experience really just process excellence?

Will Customer Experience be the Tipping Point for Case Management?

“A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.” 

Alvy Singer – Annie Hall

Sometimes I feel this way about case management. Has it failed to move forward? Have we got a dead shark on our hands?  We’ve navel gazed for too long over dynamic and adaptive, unstructured v structured, knowledge workers and case workers. From a marketing point of view it’s all been a bit of a disaster. So what needs to be done to drive more interest case management? Is customer experience management a potential opportunity?

A 2011 Bloomberg Business week survey revealed that “delivering a great customer experience” has become the new imperative: 80% of the companies polled rated customer experience as a top strategic objective. Like case management, customer experience management has also suffered from over analysis.

The potential for case management in a customer service context has been understood for a while. CRM vendors have realized that it’s impossible to predict every customer scenario and have integrated case management applications with their CRM applications to improve how organizations handle unpredictable customer service processes. Customer experience management represents the next step and potentially a tipping point for case management.

In my opinion no other business application has the potential to transform customer experience in the same way that case management can. In a previous post on customer experience I said that customer experience requires just 2 things; fix processes and empower employees. This is the precisely the sweet spot for case management.

The time has come for case management to move forward, to step out from the shadows and hitch a lift on the customer experience bandwagon. Then, to use another movie quote, no one will put case management in the corner.

Next Week: Gamification – “Badges? We ain’t got no badges!We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinking badges!”

Can Process Improvement Eliminate Showrooming?

Showrooming is a relatively new phenomenon where a customer uses a bricks and mortar store to test and evaluate a product before buying it cheaper online. You’ve probably done it yourself. It can’t be long before, like a shoplifter, we see people thrown out of a store for using their smartphone to compare prices. It may already have happened.

The high street is suffering the double whammy of both the recession and the rise of ecommerce. While ultimately I think legislation will be necessary to protect bricks and mortar stores from their web based competitors the high street can begin the fight back by improving its business processes.

Retailers worried about showrooming can fight back but to do this they need to be clear on how they differentiate themselves from their online competitors. Many people for example will pay a small premium to get a product immediately rather than having to wait a few days for delivery. What this means is bricks and mortar stores must focus on their supply chain business processes. In addition the high street stores can offer customer post sale support, product training and immediate warranty replacement or returns that are more difficult do online. Again this requires a focus on post-sale business process.

It would be naïve however to ignore pricing. The recession has raised the importance of price to high levels and most people showroom to do a rapid price comparison between the price in store and the price they can get the same product online. Again this is an opportunity for business process improvement. Bricks and mortar stores can do price comparison as well.

Many high street stores are wedded to out of date, expensive to produce, catalogues of products whose prices are probably uncompetitive as soon as they are printed. There is no reason why bricks and mortar stores cannot automatically monitor competitor pricing and update point of sale prices in real time or produce a mobile app, with pricing that changes in real time, instead of a product catalogue.

Retailers are correctly looking to customer experience as a life raft for the high street yet incorrectly see customer experience in terms of gimmicks such as offering customers free wifi or a coffee shop without addressing their core business processes and the reasons why customers shop online.

When a customer enters a store the business has already done the hard part by getting the customer interested enough to get off the sofa and to visit their store. Improved business processes give them a better chance of converting that visitor into a customer and getting them to put away their smartphones.

Social Marketing – You’ve been framed!

Like a You’ve Been Framed clip of a dancing granny whose had too much sherry and falls into the Christmas tree or watching your uncle trying a bit of hip hop at a family wedding this week’s attempt by UK supermarket chain Waitrose to “get social” was both hilarious and deeply worrying at the same time.

Waitrose this week challenged shoppers to “finish the sentence: ‘I shop at Waitrose because …’ #WaitroseReasons“. It backfired spectacularly as Twitter users piled in to ridicule the brand for its posh image.

The failure to understand social media is not restricted to Waitrose though.  Marketing departments globally have been guilty of failing to understand social media. Using for example Linkedin groups to promote your brand is like breaking wind in a tent and many organizations are abandoning their Facebook marketing strategies due to mixed results.

Social networks take conversations to a hyper level. The key word is conversations. Conversations are not about broadcasting marketing messages via social media channels nor are they about scanning or listening to social media networks for your company name. Conversations involve participants both talking and listening, not broadcasting and monitoring. Using social networks as a marketing channel is doomed to failure. As we have seen with Waitrose failure to understand social media can harm your brand and make you look completely out of touch.

Customer Experience in !ONLY! 2 Steps

Technology analysts and consultants don’t like to keep things simple. It’s obvious really since simple isn’t good for business. It’s much better to provide things like decision matrices, toolkits, 10 step programs and maturity assessments than to provide clear and concise opinions or recommendations.

So it is with Forrester’s recent customer experience book “Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business”. The authors recommend a set of six practices for organizations that want to deliver high-quality customer experience namely: strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture. While I agree that these are all important considerations if I was a business owner looking to quickly begin the transformation of customer experience and was told by an analyst that I had to carry out Design, Measurement and Governance, oh and while you’re at it change your culture as well I’d immediately think this is going to be too complex and costly. When it comes to customer experience are we over complicating things?

So it is with a little trepidation that I’m going to stick my neck out and say that rather than 6 practices or a tool kit or a matrix there are two, yes only two, steps to improving Customer Experience. These are:

1. Fix Broken Processes.

Customer experience is often defined as how customers perceive their interactions with your company. The key word here is interactions. Each one of these interactions is a business process. Many of Customer Experience leaders just execute their business processes properly. I don’t enjoy shopping on Amazon or visiting Tesco but I return because they deliver their services efficiently.

  • Take the customer journey and ask yourself is this process working fine or does it need fixed, could it be simpler? Then move on to next process. Simplify business processes where possible. Ensure consistency of approach across multiple channels.
  • Automate business processes where appropriate in order to free up your employees to focus on the customer and where they add most value.

This brings me to my second step.

2. Empower your employees

It is impossible to predict and to define a process for every customer scenario. Customers are unpredictable. This is where you need your employees to fill the gaps your processes can’t reach. But they can’t fill the gaps unless they are permitted to do so.

Does your employee really need approval to provide compensation for poor customer service? Does he or she need approval to match the offer of a competitor? Do your employees have all the customer information they need to make a decision?

We know customers hate having to talk to multiple agents, rude or inexperienced staff and being kept on hold. They love professionalism and getting issues resolved at the first point of contact.  You won’t achieve any of this if your employees aren’t empowered. Your employees are the face of your organization, do you really want that face to be a demotivated, inflexible, rude one?

So how do we start to empower employees?

  • Devolve as much of the non-strategic decision making from the center of the organization to the periphery and to your customer facing employees. For example customer compensation decisions, renewal decisions, process changes can all be carried out at the edge of the organization.
  • Address customer data siloes. Ensure agents whether on the phone on in the retail outlet have access to all of the customer data to enable them to make more informed decisions.
  • Don’t tie agents to processes or fixed scripts.
  • Automate mundane or repetitive tasks to free agents to focus on process exceptions and unique, unpredictable customer problems.

So forget about six step customer experience plans, maturity assessments and decision matrices. If you want to start on a customer experience improvement journey the best bet is to do it one process at a time.

Is Customer Experience Really Business Process Excellence?

Customer Experience is a strange term for companies that basically execute their processes properly. The word “Experience” gives the impression that you enjoy using the product or service yet in our day to day lives we engage with the majority of businesses on a transactional basis. We are looking for efficiency and delivery rather than enjoyment. Failure to understand this has led many organizations down the wrong path of trying to deliver customer experience rather than what they should be focusing on, process excellence.

In part the cult of Customer Experience has been driven by lifestyle brands such as Apple, Disney, Nike brands we enjoy using because they are associated with leisure experiences. For the majority of businesses I engage with on a regular basis; banks, retail outlets, dentists, utilities all I want from them is efficiency and delivery on their commitments. Nothing more. I certainly don’t want my bank to start giving me discounted hotel bookings (they do), my ISP to give me tickets to the football (they did) or my dentist to give neck rubs (not yet).

Is it possible to have a customer experience at the dentist or with the company you’ve hired to unblock your drains? I go to the dentist to have a problem with my teeth fixed and I’ll return if they do their job properly and efficiently. Same goes for my bank. At the moment my own bank in the UK is so dysfunctional I’m impressed if they can switch the lights on in the morning. I’m currently in the process of switching bank because they failed in basic service delivery not because they failed to deliver an experience.

When I change banks I don’t want an experience with my new bank either. In fact considering the state of my account the less interaction with my bank the better. I don’t need coffee or some faux joviality from the agent when I’m in the bank. Like the dentist I want them to execute their processes as painlessly as possible.

In many cases I think that companies that are defined as leaders in Customer Experience really deliver Business Process Excellence. I’m not denying that Customer Experience doesn’t exist. Yes there are brands and companies that deliver process excellence and who are enjoyable to do business with but these tend to be lifestyle brands. For many businesses struggling to handle the double whammy caused by web retail and the recession and being seduced by Customer Experience I say forget about it. Focus on your business processes first.

Customer Experience – Do we really need more Governance?

A recent Forrester post on customer experience grabbed my attention. Governance: The Key to Customer experience management.

Do we really need more governance within organizations? Will more governance really transform customer experience?

A few nights ago I was at a restaurant with some friends and the waiter spilled drinks over three of our party. On receipt of the bill, we (half) jokingly asked the waiter if we’d be getting compensation for his error. The waiter said that he was unable to give us a discount or a free round of drinks as the manager wasn’t working that evening.

Governance is key to many business critical business processes and especially business processes requiring compliance to specific industry standards or legislation. As we have seen in the example above governance however can have a detrimental impact on customer experience. Governance locks employees into fixed, inflexible business processes which from a customer point of view can deliver a terrible experience.

Governance may help deliver consistency of service but what if that service isn’t very good to start with? What happens if we quickly need to change the process? Governance then acts as a roadblock or at least delays the ability of the business to perform a rapid change to procedures. Customer experience governance simply adds another management layer for the customer service representative to navigate in search for an answer.

It may seem naïve but surely every customer facing employee should perform their own customer experience governance. We may not be able to define it but we all know what good customer experience is. After all we are all customers. As employees do we really need more layers of management within our organizations telling us what good customer experience is?

From a customer experience point of view the solution should not be more governance, instead the business objective should be to devolve as many decisions as possible to your customer facing employees. Let your employees do their own customer experience governance.

Customer Experience – Using employees to fill the gaps processes can’t reach

Customer Experience is often defined as the aggregate of all of the interactions a customer has with your brand. From a business process improvement perspective the key word in this definition is “interactions”, that customer experience is determined over multiple interactions between the customer and the organization.

At some point in their interactions with your organization the customer will engage directly with an employee. Whether it’s face to face at a retail outlet, in a restaurant or via a service desk customer experience improvement projects must consider the needs of the employee.

In many cases however these customer facing employees at the service desk, at the checkout or employed as wait staff are your lowest paid employees. Yet these employees are the public face of your organization and have a disproportionate impact on the perceived customer experience. In addition the repetitive, inflexible and low paid nature of many of these roles means that they are characterized by poor staff morale and high employee turnover.

While BPM and process improvement technologies can go a long way towards delivering a consistent customer experience across the multiple customer touch points they can only go so far. It’s impossible to predict every potential customer interaction and automate it. At some point you rely on your employees to fill the gaps that your business processes can’t reach. Thus if your customer experience improvement project is to be successful one of the key objectives must be to empower and enhance the role of the customer facing employee.  This then becomes an opportunity for Case Management.

Case Management applications support your customer facing employees who fill the gaps your processes can’t reach. By devolving power and decision making authority from the center of the organization to your customer facing teams you can eliminate process gaps, manage unpredictability and through empowerment address staff morale, motivation and turnover.

Employees play a key customer experience role

Do we now have a Legal Definition for Social Networking?

As I said in a previous post social networks are about enabling conversations. Social networks take conversations to a hyper level.

It seems that the law, at least in the UK agrees with me. Following the successful appeal by Paul Chambers in the Twitter Joke trial last week the judges provided this definition of twitter

 “‘Tweets’ include expressions of opinion, assertions of fact, gossip, jokes (bad ones as well as good ones), descriptions of what the user is or has been doing, or where he has been, or intends to go. Effectively it may communicate any information at all that the user wishes to send, and for some users, at any rate, it represents no more and no less than conversation without speech.”

Conversations involve both talking and listening, not broadcasting. Without understanding the conversational aspect of social media its use within the enterprise for marketing purposes or to improve business processes is doomed to fail.

Banks; Service so Bad it’s Good

I know it’s open season on banks at the moment and writing a blog post on how bad banks are at customer service is like taking sweets from a baby. It’s definitely not the most original topic but hey I can’t help it and I’ll explain why later.

Two banking related problems stumbled into view this week.

First of all this week the RBS in the UK suffered a SW upgrade fault that caused problems for millions of their customers. Thousands of customers failed to have money transferred into or out of their accounts leading to significant problems. Now we all know every company makes mistakes, what differentiates leading customer service organizations however is how they respond when problems occur.

So how did RBs respond? Well here’s one example where they left a customer stranded at a Spanish airport for 4 days and wouldn’t increase his credit limit to allow him to proceed with his holiday plans.

It’s not as though this problem was completely unexpected either. They had a similar glitch last year as well.

The second banking event of the week concerns the ongoing problems I’m having with my own bank. In my white paper on how organizations can use Case Management to transform ustomer service I describe how last year it took them over 3 months to process a name change on my account. This year it’s taken them 4 months to process my car loan application. Some of the classic customer service issues I experienced were:

  • Repeatedly having to submit proof of identity information.
  • Failing to update me on the status of my application.
  • Failure to meet any SLAs.
  • Having to interact with multiple poorly connected departments
  • Failure to have any coherent complaints management process

Both these events are clear examples of poor customer service processes. In the first case an inability to quickly adapt business process in response to unpredictable events and in the second an inability to manage processes that cross multiple departments and involve multiple participants.

So I hear you say, well if the service is so bad with your bank why don’t you leave? To explain why I don’t leave I’m going to quote Alvy Singer. Alvy Singer is the hero from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall movie and towards the end of the movie he uses a joke to explain why he keeps putting himself through the wringer of his bad relationship with Annie.

Alvy Singer [narrating] this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us… need the eggs. 

I guess I’m the customer service equivalent of Alvy singer. I need my bank because I need their eggs. I need them to continue to show me how bad customer service can be and give me the motivation to try and improve things.Their service is so bad that it’s good.

 

Case Management and Customer Loyalty

What do customers hate most about bad customer service? Well according to this survey by ClickFox a few common things get customer’s blood boiling. The top three were:

  1. 42% hate having to speak with multiple agents and start over every time
  2. 17% hate being kept on hold or not getting what I need on the first try
  3. 14% dislike rude or inexperienced representatives

Let’s address each of these issues in turn, understand why they occur and how the issues could be addressed.

  1. Multiple Agents and having to start every time. In the perfect scenario the customer would only have to speak to one agent who would be able to completely understand their problem and resolve it at the first point of contact. In reality this isn’t possible. For example in many larger organizations with multiple product lines or services the first line of service exist to triage the problem or to resolve the most common problems. Resolution at the first point of contact  in many organizations would not be possible without a great deal of training. Whether we like it or not the issue of multiple agents is here to stay. The big opportunity for service providers is to better manage the frustration of the hand off and eliminate the customer having to start afresh with each new agent. What if we could deploy a customer service solution that could manage the end to end process, orchestrate multiple employees and integrate with multiple line of business applications and eliminate having to restart the process with every new service agent?
  2. On hold. Ok everyone hates being put on hold. In reality when put on hold the agent is probably frantically switching between poorly connected business applications to retrieve the customer information. What if the customer service representative had a 360 degree view of their customer?  What if the customer  service agent had rapid access, via their desktop web portal to customer information where ever it resides in the organization?
  3. Rude or inexperienced representatives. I found it interesting that rudeness and inexperience were tied together in this response. I’m of a firm belief that customer service rudeness and inexperience are closely related. In many occasions what the customer feels is rude service is in reality an employee tied by his or her employer to inflexible business processes. The employee has no authority or empowerment to use their initiative to resolve the customer issue. This lack of empowerment leads to high staff dissatisfaction, high employee turnover and ultimately inexperienced representatives.  What if the agent was able to go off script, to modify their process if necessary in flight or choose alternative paths or approaches to resolve the customer problem? Would this empowerment higher employee satisfaction, lower staff turnover and eliminate the perception of rudeness and inexperience.

The three customer problems outlined above are all classic reasons for deploying a Case Management solution. The objective of case management applications include the integration of multiple line of business applications, the delivery of a 360 degree customer view and employee empowerment. Management of many customer service interactions is done today using CRM applications that quickly run out of steam when asked to manage anything more than a simple workflow and don’t adequately address the top three issues above. When we integrate CRM with a Case Management business application however we have the opportunity to address these customer problems and begin to transform how customer service is delivered.

Unsourcing – The Future of Customer Service?

Why bother outsourcing customer support when you can get your customers to do it for you. I’ve been watching the success of giffgaff with interest for a while. For those not familiar with giffgaff it is a UK mobile service provider where customers participate in the company’s business operations, specifically Marketing, Sales and Customer service.

As well as via the Giff Gaff community web page Facebook and Twitter provide additional channels for customer support. Support is provided socially, by fellow customers rather than using Giff Gaff employees.

This trend of setting up online communities to deliver peer to peer customer support has been dubbed “Unsourcing” and is not limited to Giff Gaff. The obvious reason for many organizations choosing to unsource is cost. Gartner estimates that using communities to solve support issues can reduce costs by up to 50%.

However viewing unsourcing as an opportunity to reduce customer support risks repetition of the same problems that have beset organizations who have chosen outsource their customer service to emerging economies, most importantly creating a disconnect between the organization and its customers. Simply viewing customer service as a cost center rather than for example an opportunity for differentiation and as a source of new product ideas is doomed to fail.

Unsourcing has a number of benefits. It allows Gen Y customers to interact with organizations via the social channels with which they are most familiar and to engage with fellow customers who share a common interest. In addition it creates a bond between an organization and its most important customers.

Unsourcing will become a key aspect of the customer service mix rather than a panacea. Organizations will still need to ensure that their customers aren’t left high and dry should they not get the right answer. If it’s a complaint they will need to ensure it is addressed as quickly as possible. They must monitor the channels to detect emerging trends, product problems or new product opportunities. In other words they will still need to tie the social or unsourced customer to business processes.

Social BPM – Reducing the Cultural Obstacles to Process Improvement

As BPM folk we are well aware that one of the major obstacles to BPM success is cultural. Most organizations are functionally orientated, organized on a vertical department basis; R&D, Manufacture, Customer Support, Marketing, IT, Finance, Sales and HR. Many business processes like warranty repair, complaint handling and order fulfillment however cut horizontally across many departments. As staff report to their individual department leaders naturally this is where their loyalty and commitment lies. Business process owners, if they exist, thus have the responsibility for the success of their process but none of the authority to ensure it is delivered.

A cultural as well as IT change is required if successful business process improvement is to be achieved. Organizations must begin to view the organization from a process rather than a departmental perspective.  Staff must perform the mental shift to realize that the department is there to support the process and understand that the business is in effect is the sum of its individual processes.

Outside of complete reorganization, businesses make regular attempts to facilitate this mental change. From goal setting to team building organizations attempt to forge stronger bonds between departments in order to improve process performance. In many cases despite initial good intentions to foster improved cross departmental bonds over time departments drift back to the norm.

This represents the big opportunity for Social BPM. Many commentators view Social BPM from the context of collaborative process design or the ability to trigger processes from social media events. While interesting use cases the major opportunity for Social BPM lies in its ability to support business process improvement initiatives by fostering closer alignment of the organization along process lines. Enhanced collaboration between departments facilitated by enterprise social networks help to blur the lines between departments, building trust and supporting the rapid sharing of ideas and problems. While organizations remain in their department structures enterprise social networks will help to improve interdepartmental collaboration ultimately improving process performance and the likelihood of process improvement success.

Social BPM thus represents an opportunity to eliminate one of the key barriers to success for many BPM projects, organization culture. Social BPM will allow organizations to deliver not only process change but mental change at the same time.

Is the 360 Degree Customer View Still Valid?

In a nutshell the 360 degree customer view is the ability to provide your service agents with all of the information they need to make a decision. At a basic level this means presenting the agent with all of the data relevant to the case on which they are working, as well as historical data on the customer e.g. previous incidents, other account information, purchase history. Multiple business applications and customer databases mean that even today for many organizations a basic 360 degree customer view, showing current and historical customer data, has been difficult to achieve.

In order to make the best decision on behalf of the customer and their organization agents need more than just historical and current customer information they also need future projections for the customer for example their estimated lifetime value and their potential to churn. Agents also need to be aware of current organization business targets as well as real time competitive information to for example validate customer claims about a competitive offer. Thus the 360 degree customer view is evolving extending beyond current and historical customer data to encompass future customer predictions, an organization perspective as well as competitive information.

As Data Analytics, CRM, BPM and Case Management applications begin to coalesce we will see new attempts to deliver the 360 customer view. CRM applications will continue to be used to manage the customer data and are today being be extended using BPM applications to automate and remove the mundane customer processes from the agent workload and Case Management applications to allow agents to handle complex customer cases and integrate with multiple data repositories. Add analytics tools that deliver predictions about future customer behaviour and real time data on your competitors and we begin to see how the service desk of the future will look.

The 360 degree customer view remains a valid if poorly executed concept.  With CRM, BPM, Case Management and Data Analytics we might however be on the verge of reaching the holy grail.

The Ideal Customer Service Agent

The Cloud – Transforming the Business Case for BPM

Despite rumours of its demise, or at the very least it’s description as a doddery old man who’s gotten lost after accidentally wandering out of the old folks home, there might be life in the old BPM dog yet. Like the movie Cocoon where a bunch of old folks are rejuvenated by alien visitors, the cloud has the potential to regenerate BPM.

The cloud is an opportunity to transform the business case for BPM and process improvement. Today many BPM applications are largely the preserve of large and multinational enterprises. BPM SaaS/PaaS presents the opportunity to extend the market reach of BPM applications into the SME market. Low start off costs and the ability to only pay for what you need with the reassurance of elasticity and scalability on demand has the potential to transform the business case for BPM for many organizations. The availability of on demand, pre-built process solutions delivered via cloud based BPM platforms takes this a step further giving SMEs the opportunity access to process solutions and industry best practice that they would have been unable to develop in house.

BPM in the cloud creates a business process outsourcing (BPO) opportunity for organizations with a specific area of process expertise. Organisations with specific domain expertise in for example financial services, healthcare or legal services can now not only deploy cloud based process solutions within their own enterprises but rapidly enter the BPO market and resell their intellectual property (IP) through the development of BPaaS (Business Process as a Service) process applications.

Deployment of business process solutions is de-risked through the ability to carry out rapid prototyping and testing of BPM solutions in the cloud. For organizations still developing their cloud strategy business process solutions can be incubated in the cloud before bringing on premise.

Most BPM vendors offer applications across a variety of mobile devices and form factors. Cloud computing extends the mobile capabilities of BPM suites through access to cloud based storage and processing and delivers process access via web browsers on any device, anywhere.

While it’s been slow to develop the cloud is a major opportunity for BPM. BPM SaaS/PaaS is an opportunity to strip away, the sometimes self-inflicted, barriers to entry for process improvement, to stimulate much broader adoption of BPM technologies and to engage with a whole new audience.