Effective business processes are essential to providing a positive customer experience in nearly any business. So why do such processes often fall short, and why do companies continually incorporate them if they’re “broken”?
Whatever the reasons – mergers and acquisitions, ineffective technologies, departmental divides – customers don’t really care how a company’s processes go wrong.
How do dysfunctional processes impact a business?
Internal impacts – employees. A fair salary, flex hours, work location, etc. all contribute to employee satisfaction. But employees are impacted far more by job stress and frustration, much of which can be attributed to inefficient organizational workflows and procedures.
Internal impacts – departmental mentality vs. “We’re part of the same team.” This mindset is usually the result of conflicting processes and workflows throughout the organization, and of significant communication gaps within the enterprise.
Customer impacts. A customer’s perception is everything. When service is superior, customers are influenced to do business with a company again and spread a good word to others. When service is unacceptable, however, customers will go elsewhere.
Cost impacts. Obvious or subtle, there is a decided cost to dysfunctional processes in the way they negatively affect revenue opportunities, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, staffing, and even in terms of cash flow or compliance issues.
How do companies attempt to fix problems, and why do they fail?
The only way to resolve process and workflow problems is to address the root cause, which usually falls into one of the following categories:
The “Band-Aid” approach. Don’t worry about what’s causing a problem, just treat the “symptoms.”
The “Patchwork Quilt” approach. Many processes involve multiple departments, and departments often work within their own silos to resolve process issues without considering the impact on other areas.
The “Tunnel Vision” approach. Though the cause of a problem is internal, don’t forget the customer’s point of view.
How and where do we start to fix the issues?
- Establish a cross-sectional team of internal stakeholders, including consultants or other specialists.
- Initiate team-oriented whiteboard sessions to identify key process and workflow issues; include customer feedback.
- Develop a plan to prioritize process issues and a timetable for completion; identify cross-departmental impacts.
- Organize a “fix” team to address each prioritized process/workflow, including front-line employees, persons involved in intersecting processes/workflows, and decision makers who can help work through organizational barriers.
For “fix” team members, it’s critical to follow a defined methodology that allows them to likewise define, document, and address the root causes of a dysfunctional process, identify its organizational impact, analyze options and technologies for an improved process, and implement change.
Where the “right” technology comes in
In conjunction with business processes, automation used to mean eliminating people and “doing more with less.” However, the new thinking behind business process automation is to actually involve the people who perform the tasks within a process – to make them more proficient at what they do and effectively improve work flows.
To that end, communications-based process automation (CBPA) is a new technology approach based on automation practices used in contact centers since the mid-1990s. With CBPA, technologies such as intelligent routing and queuing, presence, recording, and real-time monitoring and tracking make processes more precise and less susceptible to breakdowns. More specifically, companies can:
- Automate processes end-to-end and seamlessly incorporate communications such as e-mail and Web services associated with those processes.
- Enable employees to participate in a business process from any department or office location.
- Predictably and flexibly distribute work to an available employee with the right skills, and with the necessary service levels.
- Visibly track work pipelines via real-time monitoring of process activity.
- Capture and track work, as well as customer dialog, that are part of a business process.
- Continually improve a process using resources within the CBPA application to model, modify and manage the process, and to support additional employees as more processes are automated.
Admittedly, fixing a business process that’s “broken” is a process in itself. With the proper approach to identifying root causes and determining where and how to begin addressing process issues, including using technologies such as CBPA, your business can create a culture of sustainable process improvement. CIS