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Process Excellence and Customer Satisfaction: Can Disruptors Have Both? Focusing on process excellence is essential to performance, but it also has the potential to shift the central vision of a company away from the customer. Read how you can simultaneously achieve process excellence and customer satisfaction.

By Gero Decker

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Google, Tesla, YouTube and Beyond Meat: what do these innovative companies have in common? They all originated as market "disruptors' - a term coined in 1995 by an American academic. Clayton Christensen described "disruptive innovation' as a service, product or process that displaced existing market leaders, eventually overtaking them at the forefront of their respective sectors. Twenty-five years on and "disruptors' have become synonymous with startups offering creative answers to social, environmental, technological and political problems, or put simply: peoples' needs.

Finding creative, customer-centric solutions to day-to-day challenges are at the heart of disruptive innovation. Naturally, however, growing a business goes hand-in-hand with operational challenges and subsequent growing pains - things like regulation and compliance; balancing the books; scaling sustainably and finding the most efficient processes are all inevitable logistic obstacles.

A company that is operationally sound typically has efficient and effective processes that deliver consistent results, otherwise known as "process excellence'. This means when a business taps into something that works, it can repeatedly achieve a successful outcome.

Focusing on process excellence is essential to performance, but it also has the potential to shift the central vision of a company away from the customer. In some cases, this leads to negative customer experiences and dissatisfaction. Strategically balancing time and resources between customer-experience and process excellence is a challenge, but whether you're a team of 20 or 20,000, it is possible for disruptors to master both.

Here are five tips to simultaneously achieve process excellence and customer satisfaction:

1. Know your processes

Process mapping is not as technical as it sounds - it can be done through a software solution or even on paper - and applies across a broad process landscape. For example, onboarding, customer interactions and even how a business aligns executive strategy with its operations can be mapped. Although, there are some key factors to keep in mind when process mapping to ensure the most efficient and optimal version of the process is recorded. These include:

  • Consulting the right people running the process to collect their feedback on how it can be improved
  • Checking the supporting documents necessary for the successful completion of end-to-end processes
  • Using all of the information collected to optimise the version already in place under control of the process owner.

Without a detailed understanding of how your business runs, you will be unable to identify true opportunities for improvement, and thus opportunities to impress your customers.

2. Maintain your processes

Regularly reviewing and updating your processes is crucial to ongoing success - when a customer encounters an issue, more often than not it's a result of existing business processes that have been interrupted or gone wrong. To make matters worse, if your response time is delayed because you are unaware of the error, the outdated function can have a domino-effect on other processes while impacting more and more customers as you work to find the root of the problem.

This "set and forget' mindset will lead to information becoming out-of-date, meaning your business is susceptible to bottlenecks; tasks performed incorrectly; non-compliance or others errors that negatively impact the customer. It's imperative to keep processes up-to-date, not only for the ease of everyday operations, but for customer satisfaction too.

3. Understand your customer

The customer journey is an essential tool in understanding how your customer interacts with your product, service, or offering - without it, your business is flying blind. However, it is important to remember that journey modeling is critical across all personas, not just the customer. This includes patients, citizens, employees, and the end-user.

If all journeys are labeled "customer,' then global organizations could be losing advantage by breaking the connection to crucial personas. With this, the journey allows disruptors an outside-in view of how real people connect with its business processes, giving them a competitive advantage to create seamless, user-friendly interactions.

The journey unlocks insights through a digitally-designed overview of various touchpoints, meaning your business has the flexibility to fine-tune these touchpoints as the needs of the customer changes. Anticipating the future needs and questions of your customers will give you a headstart in finding solutions to unforeseen problems, meaning you can address bumps in the road almost before they happen!

4. Standardise information

As mentioned earlier, a side effect of growing a business is a lack of organisational structure - this can become evident in information ownership and the processes through which information is shared, leading to communication bottlenecks and distorted, or lack of shared knowledge.

When information is exchanged across functions with varying formats - misinterpretation breeds. Miscommunication leads to a lack of efficiency and heightens the risk of providing the wrong information to customers - a surefire way to damage customer satisfaction.

It's an age-old saying, but communication is key. Providing employees a clear and focused vision through standardised information equips every worker with the tools they need to do their job effectively. A knowledge repository is an excellent way to ensure all communications are updated and streamlined in terms of accessibility and format, improving communication efficiency and making it easier to grow your team when the time comes.

5. Automate tasks

As your business grows bigger, the customer demand for your offering will too. While this is an exciting stage, it also comes with an increased risk of damaging customer satisfaction through trial and error of new business processes for a larger scale.

Things like losing information between different working environments, or even non-process challenges such as a critical team member being sick can leave your business vulnerable to delays, which in turn, damage customer satisfaction.

Automating key tasks eliminates this risk by reducing the number of repetitive, time-consuming, error-prone and potentially costly manual behaviours within a process. Before implementing automation, remember it's a journey - not a quick fix. Processes require scrutinous optimisation before the automation stage, or you will just end up doing the wrong thing faster.

Gero Decker

Co-founder and CEO, Signavio

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