Improving Customer Experience through Process
Last week’s focus was on learning technology and its role in the customer experience.
It has become very clear here at Allen that without the right internal as well as external processes, all the good intentions and good technology will not work. Any process change (or even a new approach to work), changes management evolution and needs to be undertaken holistically across the whole organization.
Touch bases with your client
Through milestones and customer check-offs during the project, you are constantly checking in with your client to be sure they are satisfied.
This alone, though, isn’t enough. Ideally, you would also have had your client review and approve the proposal and Design Strategy Document (DSD), attend weekly reviews, sign off on media and script, as well as answer the monthly sales check in and yearly reviews with the executive team. Of course, this doesn’t mean you look for problems—just check in to see if you have met expectations and if your client is enjoying the project.
Two Areas to Focus On
There are two important processes to consider when looking at improving customer experience through process: pre-sale and development.
The initial proposal stage is an area where consistency in information and delivery with a dedicated team is important. Instead of making them shorter, these should really be more detailed, longer, and uncover a more in-depth solution. Time used here saves time and money later in the project. Scope time and questions upfront should all be a part of the training consulting process. Also, don’t be afraid to have a process for when something isn’t a good fit; it shows your honesty. Learning to walk away from a deal that you cannot fulfill is an important milestone in your customer experience approach. How does your company accommodate proposal review after it has been submitted? At the extreme end, you may have to walk away from a proposal that has been accepted by the client, if, during review, new information surfaces that throws any acceptable timeline out the window…
Try and be careful not to stick customers in a template for developing a project. Especially right now, when more customers have to do more with less time and people power, consider if your template needs to adapt to their new environment or if it is still a good fit—i.e. what is your process to work out of the process? Brainstorm with the customer on how you can accommodate his/her reality based on a partnership—not just the take it or leave it mentality of some RFP processes.
Many companies go to a rapid prototype immediately before an actual design phase with the design to come later—they show media flashy things not relevant to interest customers, though it gets customers excited. Because they haven’t done any design yet, they then superimpose content on a design that might not be right for that customer.
While this offers an immediate good experience, this also sets up customers for disappointment when the design they thought they were receiving looks awful or doesn’t work with the content they provide.
With kick-offs, try to scope for detail. Be sure to learn enough about the customers to actually present them solutions to what they need—take into consideration the constraints to the learning population. It is one good reason to insist on a design phase.
We have found that in these tough times, on-site training consulting, not virtual kick-offs, have become even more important as project and team constraints on the customer side are harsher.
Skipping a real design phase will not bode well for the overall customer experience.
As part of the development process, you should have weekly status meetings, a dashboard to keep you on time and on budget, as well as check-offs for each milestone in the project. Be prepared to tune your metrics to meet clients’ needs. Through the initial process, you have gotten to know your customers and this will help you determine if they need more reviews, more or less scripted pages, smaller review chunks, etc.
Learn to understand how the strict process can flex or bend—how it goes from science to an art form. A lot of the flexibility comes from looking at the whole approach through the lens that every client is unique. But to create that balance between creativity and process, set quality and expectations at the beginning so a balance is formed. The majority of our customers treasure the time spent on communication and clear expectations and begin to evaluate all their vendors based on our process driven approach.
Ultimately, with good processes and technologies, you minimize the time your clients put in and support the time they MUST put in. Subject Matter Expert (SME) time is cut and customer project managers feel you are making their job easier as you become more of a partner not just a vendor.
So What Does This All Mean?
Any evolution of the customer experience needs to be accommodated:
- Work processes
Culture, technology, process: these are the three areas you should continue to question and challenge how to better, to innovate. Like the legs of a tripod or sections of an equilateral triangle, each part is just as important as its counterpart for it to be complete. And all three create a support system that adds value to the customer experience.
You have to align these three factors to whatever the future holds. Training may be spread through different parts of the company or you may have multiple people contributing that have different agendas and you need to make sure everyone is satisfied.
Many companies have to deal with more unstructured content, more collaborative web 2.0, social media, or training spread across the company in a more informal manner. For further reading on networking and using it in the workforce: http://terrencewing.blogspot.com/2009/12/networking-black-belt-skill.html
Lastly, never forget to show you care about the people, not just the companies, and have your processes, culture, and technology reflect that attitude.
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