2 Not-So-Secret Ways Business Process Improvements Impact Operations (If You're Ready for Customer Happiness and a Promotion)

11.29.16 By Deb Ferber

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It amazes me every time.

The smile on peoples’ faces when they see the data on how much a process improves and how much money they’re saving. It’s as if they know they’re about to get a promotion.

Business process improvement (BPI) involves observation, consolidation, and measuring progress through data.

Picture this: A specialty grocery store manager needs to order Italian wine. Using her in-house system, she navigates to a wine ordering screen, but has to go into an entirely different application to confirm an order of imported goods. The vendor account – where information on previous orders and fulfillment is stored – is contained in a third system.

How can a simple order activity be so complex?

One reason is that systems are often built separately to fulfill a specific function, without the larger process in mind.

Let's say it will be a particularly good year for organic Chianti, and it’s predicted to sell like 1996 Tickle-Me-Elmos. With such a complex buying system, the manager might miss out on fulfilling the order.

BPM isn’t new, but is worth your attention because of how much your organization changes over time.

  • New technologies are introduced
  • Mergers impact processes
  • Customer demands evolve

You get the most bang for your buck when improving the following two aspects of a customer-facing process. And you will not have to fundamentally change customer programs or service rep training.

 

Improve 1) Speed & 2) Reliability

 

Speed and reliability are a big deal in the minds of, well, anyone who buys anything.

The next time you order from Amazon, time your experience from click to unboxing. Did the package arrive on time, or sooner than you expected? Free shipping and fast delivery are now standard because the pioneers at Zappos (owned by Amazon), as well as FedEx and UPS, figured out that service delivery is an essential component of the customer experience.

The same goes for IT. Imagine an order process that needs to be repeated thousands of times daily, such as filling prescriptions. A large client of ours is a pharmacy benefits management company, who delivers millions of prescriptions to people across the US. There’s little room for error when a missed dosage can affect a person’s health. On the other hand, ordering processes of that magnitude, when consolidated, have a significant impact on customer experiences and the bottom line.

 

Hold the Phone. Actually, Don't Hold the Phone...

 

About a year and a half ago, our team was brought in to improve an ordering process for the aforementioned pharmacy benefits company. The organization knew they could improve both customer service and ordering through BPI.

The ordering process required access different kinds of information, which was separated within the application, itself, or in other systems. To gather the information, customers were sometimes put on hold.

Nobody likes being put on hold.  Whenever you’re talking to somebody on the phone, and they say “please hold while I access that information,” you lose an opportunity to provide better service, and lose time which can be spent filling more orders.

By observing service reps in action, we were able to design and build a faster process. We consolidated steps and developed ways to show necessary information on one screen. Due to the intuitive nature of the changes, additional training requirements were minimal.

  • Speed: a faster ordering process
  • Reliability: more one-on-one customer service

Today, any information that representatives need for ordering is always at their fingertips. Overall, we were able to reduce each call and handle time by approximately 10%.

Imagine, as a customer, getting a real person on the phone faster, and having your issue resolved in less time. Sounds good, right? Most people agree. In fact, customers are willing to spend 13% more with companies they believe provide an excellent experience. 

 

Here’s What You Gain by Improving Customer-Facing Processes:

 

1. Customer satisfaction

When people receive orders faster, and service is simpler, they’re happier. They come back.

 

2. Immediate cost savings

Once a process has been improved, increased speed and reliability lead to cost savings that continue to grow over time.

 

3. Revenue increases

Go ahead. Have your cake and eat it. Your customers like you more, and you can produce at a higher capacity. Now that those lead times are shortened, there’s market share up for grabs.

 

4. Statistical insight

You get a stream of measurable data you can use to make decisions impacting other parts of the business.

 

5. Capacity increases 

Consolidation means you can do more, create more, and grow more with the same amount of resources. This often involves automation.

 

6. You become more agile 

Over time, when processes are ironed out, leadership can easily pivot between different areas of the business, quickly addressing issues as they arise.

 

Service delivery and speed impact both your bottom line and the customer experience. When an IT firm handles your process improvement initiatives, you have both a consultative advisor and a technical partner to execute system enhancements.

 

Oh, and congrats on your future promotion.

 

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