To deliver great customer experiences, firms must orchestrate a complex system of interdependent people, processes and technology.
The combination of these forces is something that Forrester calls the customer experience ecosystem. To fully understand how they deliver customer experiences today and make meaningful improvements going forward, customer experience professionals must map their company’s ecosystem and adopt best practices from the emerging field of service design.
But pushing change across that ecosystem is hard. To address the challenges, many business process leaders are joining forces with their customer experience (CX) colleagues. Ultimately, Forrester believes these two groups need to unite to transform, optimize and continuously improve the outcomes delivered to customers.
Business process improvement groups enhance CX teams with:
- Credibility. Business process improvement methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma have been applied successfully for decades. These data-driven methodologies provide a disciplined approach that plays equally well with both product and services firms. When Vanguard set out to simplify a complex error-prone process that was causing its clients unwelcome angst, it called in process experts from its Center for Excellence. The result was a faster process with fewer errors — and a flood of unsolicited “thank you” notes from clients who raved about the improvement to their experience.
- Scale. Firms that have rolled out business process improvement efforts often have a cadre of trained people embedded across the organization. Tapping into this resource helps customer experience pros extend the reach of their efforts beyond the small teams they typically oversee. From the perspective of business process improvement teams, this is a natural partnership: As their efforts mature, they typically embrace customer experience as a core focus.
- Valuable tools and process. Methodologies in the process improvement toolkit complement those used by customer experience designers. What’s more, typical process improvement approaches like Six Sigma’s DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, implement and control) or Lean’s PDCA (plan, do, check and act) align naturally with common design approaches (see Figure 1).
Figure 1 Customer Experience and Process Improvement Approaches Follow a Similar Flow
But Business Process Fixes Alone Don’t Guarantee Good Experiences
While business process improvements can lead to better experiences by eliminating defects (Six Sigma) or improving efficiency (Lean), these fixes don’t guarantee success. That’s because business process improvement initiatives can:
Neglect the emotional aspect of experiences. Process improvement teams often overlook the importance of emotion when redesigning a customer interaction.
Houston airport spent millions on reducing the total wait time for retrieving bags, a source of many customer complaints. Even though it succeeded in cutting the average wait time in half — down to eight minutes — it didn’t reduce the number of complaints. That’s because customers didn't mind the one minute walk from the gate to the baggage claim area — what bothered them was the seven minutes they spent standing around at the carousel — especially because it was so long, compared with their walk.
Narrowly focus within process silos. Improving the efficiency of a particular process within a business silo might be a wasted effort if that process is part of a larger customer journey that extends across silos — or even across companies.
Business leaders at FedEx set out to reduce the number of missed deliveries: instances where customers aren't home to receive a package. A route cause analysis revealed that the problem often started with poor quality information captured when the consumer ordered a product from a retailer or a manufacturer.
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